This Saturday evening, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m., I will celebrate a Requiem Mass for the Unborn at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
I will be joined at the altar by my brother bishops and priests. And I hope that many of you will also be able to join us to remember the lives lost to abortion and to pray for greater respect for life in our day.
The Mass is being held on the vigil of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that created a legal right to abortion in our country.
For nearly 40 years since then, abortion has been the law of our land. The “right to choose” abortion has become an expectation of freedom, something men and women presume — like their right to freedom of speech or freedom of worship.
And often I hear the questions: Why does the Church still bother trying to change people’s hearts and minds on abortion? Wouldn’t our time and resources be better spent on pressing issues such as poverty, social justice and peace?
These are good and sincere questions. For me, the answer is a matter of truth and first principles.
The truth is true whether our society acknowledges it or not. And we always want to make sure we are living in the truth and not living a lie or a delusion.
Slavery was evil even when a majority in this country held that it was good. It was wrong even when the Supreme Court said that it was right. In the 1950s and 1960s, segregation was evil even though Southern lawmakers and governors said it was necessary to prevent greater evils. The lesser evil is still evil.
If our rights are not endowed by God, then they are subject to the random whims of those who hold political power. The strong get to decide what is right and wrong, who has rights and who does not, who gets to live and who does not.
It took far too long, and too many generations and innocent lives were lost, before this nation finally saw the truth about the full humanity and dignity of African Americans. It took a century to abolish slavery and another century after that to put an end to the Jim Crow laws that reduced African Americans to second-class citizens. And we still have more work to do.
But I believe that one day Americans will also come to see the truth about the humanity of the unborn child and the human embryo. It is only a matter of time. May it be years and not decades. But the time will come. Because this is the truth.
And it is not a “religious” truth, and abortion is not just a “Catholic” issue.
Modern biology shows us that human life begins at conception. The embryo does not “become human” somewhere down the line. Within a few weeks in the womb, the embryo has a tiny face and a beating heart. This is a unique, personal human life — distinct from that of the father and mother.
Again, this is the truth of biology, not theology; a truth of science, not religion.
Our country was founded on a great moral truth — that all men and women are created equal and are born with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Roe v. Wade turned this beautiful truth inside out. The Supreme Court, in effect, said that our rights do not come from God but instead are bestowed by government — by courts and legislatures.
But that’s not the truth. And if our rights are not endowed by God, then they are subject to the random whims of those who hold political power. The strong get to decide what is right and wrong, who has rights and who does not, who gets to live and who does not.
So that is why the Church will always remain at the center of this great struggle for the right to life in our time.
The right to life is the foundation of every other right and liberty in our society. Of course, we are always working for justice and peace. But we can never “disconnect” this vital work from our defense of innocent life and human dignity.
As Catholics we worship the God of the living. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus has given his Church a mission and each of us a duty to proclaim his Gospel of life.
We are called to be a voice for those who have no voice. We are called to help our society see that every human life — from conception to natural death — is sacred and precious to God.
So I hope you can join me on Saturday to pray for life.
Let’s keep one another in prayer this week. And let’s pray in a special way for our country.
And let’s ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the living, to help us as we seek to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of our society.