NATIONAL DAY FOR LIFE – FEAST OF THE VISITATION
Homily Preached By
CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O’BRIEN
St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
Thursday 31st May 2007
DAY FOR LIFE 2007
Today’s Gospel follows Our Lady. She has just learned that
she is to be the mother of the messiah and that her cousin Elizabeth is also to
become a mother.
Mary, whose whole future had been transformed in the
Annunciation, is so moved at the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy that she
immediately sets out for the town of Judah. The meeting of the two women is an
event of great joy. What lessons can we learn from that scene?
We see the affirmation of the immense value of life from its
very conception. The redeemer in the womb unites himself with all of humanity.
By becoming incarnate in the womb of Mary, God raises to a new level the
greatness of every human life.
The joy of that meeting holds out to us the message of
delight that should accompany every pregnancy. With every life conceived God
acts directly to create a new and unique human being, a person destined to life
everlasting. Sadly, joy is not always the dominant emotion evoked by news of
pregnancy in the world we live in today.
40th Anniversary of Abortion Act:
Today as we remember the Visitation we mark the “Day for
Life” in Scotland, with a mixture of emotions, celebrating the gift of life but
remembering also the tragic loss of life. Abortion is the theme for this year’s
“Day for Life” which significantly is the 40th anniversary of the passing of the
Abortion Act. In those 40 years the loss of life has been staggering. Around 7
million lives have been ended as a consequence of that one piece of legislation.
Forty years ago we were told that backstreet abortions were
killing women and had to be decriminalised. We were told abortion would only be
used in extreme cases. We were told medical scrutiny would be rigorous. We were
told a pack of lies – lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and
The scale of the killing is beyond our grasp. In Scotland we
kill the equivalent of a classroom full of school children every day.
For many women abortion has become an alternative form of
birth control. The lives of the babies involved are not at risk any more than
the lives of their mothers are threatened by pregnancy. Abortions to save the
life of a woman are almost unheard of. As a society we willfully ignore these
What must we do? – Defend life at its most vulnerable and
We need to build, once again, a society, which joyfully
accepts new life. The abortion industry has impacted massively on the values of
our society as its proponents continue to spread their culture of death. There
is acceptance of a philosophy, which permits the destruction of children in the
haven of their mother’s womb.
We must remain witnesses to the truth and be unambiguous in
defending life in all that we do. I have campaigned on behalf of the developing
world, urging the G8 nations to act in defence of life. I have campaigned
against the indiscriminate killing power of nuclear weapons and in defence of
innocent life. I speak out today in defence of life at its most vulnerable and
It is not easy to turn societies against the natural urge to
protect young life. Yet care and concern for children is still very much alive.
We are gripped with concern when news coverage of a child snatched or harmed
appears on our television screens. We have ached over the disappearance of young
Madeleine McCann in Portugal; together with her parents we know the inestimable
worth of one precious life. Yes life is precious and precious also are those
lives that are snuffed out in darkness hidden from the world.
Let us build up within our society a generation of medical
professionals who are unwilling to cooperate in the slaughter. I call on our
universities and medical schools to teach that all human life deserves
protection. I call on our hospitals to end testing procedures designed only for
targeting and killing the weak and infirm. I call on all politicians to answer
one simple question: will you protect the right to life of all persons in
our society from conception until natural death? And I call on you to hold these
elected representatives to account.
For those unwilling to give this support we must be unwilling
to give our vote. History will judge us on where we stood in this crucial issue.
But there is a judgement more important than history. We shall all stand before
the judgment seat of God.
I urge politicians to have no truck with the evil trade of
abortion. For those at Westminster this means finding means of overthrowing the
legislation, which makes the killing possible. For those at Holyrood that means
refusing to allow our health services to participate in the wanton killing of
the innocent. Peace cannot be built in the shadow of the abortion rooms.
Special call to Catholics:
In making this call, I speak most especially to those who
claim to be Catholic. I ask them to examine their consciences and discern if
they are playing any part in sustaining this social evil. I remind them to avoid
cooperating in the unspeakable crime of abortion and the barrier such
cooperation erects to receiving Holy Communion. As St. Paul warns us “whoever
eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be
guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine
himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
I would be failing as a pastor not to highlight the gravity
of this situation not just to law makers but to anyone: mother; father;
boyfriend; counsellor who in any way leads a mother to abortion.
Conclusion – what we can do:
There is much we can do. We can urge support for legislation
which may not be perfect but improves the situation. Legislation aimed at
reducing abortion limits or bills ensuring that parents be informed if their
children seek an abortion, can be supported as long as it is made clear that one
is in principle against all abortions. Proposals to ensure women contemplating
abortion are given full details about the physical and emotional risks to
themselves and about foetal development should be backed.
We can work to ensure that the more light, which is shone on
this terrible procedure the less acceptable it will be to our society. Signs of
hope are appearing, earlier this month it was reported that many doctors are no
longer willing to cooperate in abortion. They know, better than most, the
humanity of the unborn. We need to support anyone who takes the same line
believing always that truth will eventually triumph.
In returning to the scene of the visitation we see that in
bringing our Lord to the house of Elizabeth, Mary brought great joy, even to
inspiring joy in the unborn John the Baptist. As we carry Christ to the rest of
society may our voices be a cause of joy for the unborn in our society.