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Fighting for the Least


Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.
Bishop of Scranton

January 15, 2009

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” These words of Our Lord recorded by Saint Matthew are a poignant reminder that we must put our faith into action. As we continue to experience the joy of a new year we are once again reminded of an event that was anything but joyful – the legalization of abortion by the United States Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. On that day, the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters – the unborn – were denied the right to life. Since that day our nation has had blood on its hands as a result of the over 48 million “little murders” that have “legally” taken place through abortion. No other death count from other social injustices comes close to this slaughter of the innocents. As Americans and as American Catholics we cannot stand for such an atrocity and we must use the upcoming anniversary as yet another opportunity to redouble our efforts to protect the unborn. This includes putting aside the false claim that speaking up is a violation of the separation between Church and State. There is nothing in the United States Constitution and the Tax Codes of the Internal Revenue Service that prohibit the Church from speaking out on this issue. Besides, does not our Constitution guarantee the right to life for all its citizens? Even if there was such a prohibition, the Church would still speak out because we must all appear before the judgment seat of God one day.

There are many ways that we can put our faith into action through our defense of life. The first and fundamental way is through prayer. We must pray unceasingly for all those who perform abortions, those who support abortion rights, and especially for women who have aborted a child or a considering abortion. I encourage those who are able to participate in the Annual March for Life in Washington D.C. on January 22, 2009. This march is a beautiful sign of unity as it gathers tens of thousands of people from all religions and backgrounds. It is a strong witness that the fight for the right to life is not just a “Catholic issue.” Those unable to attend the march may also participate in local rallies and prayer services. I also encourage Catholics to become acquainted with the services provided to help women avoid choosing abortion. Awareness of such programs which include Pregnancy Counseling, Birthright, and those offered by Catholic Social Services, St. Joseph’s Center, and the Pennsylvanians for Human Life may one day save a life and keep a woman from the anguish and despair which afflicts many women who have had an abortion. The Church also stands ready to help women suffering from the effects of post-abortion trauma through such programs as Rachel’s Vineyard.

Although we are fighting hard to end abortion, we must focus our efforts in the coming weeks and months to counter the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). The incoming Obama Administration has promised organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which strongly supports abortion rights, that FOCA would be a top priority for them. The fight for life has won some victories over the past few years and the passage of this bill would reverse every single victory. It would also force Catholic hospitals and institutions to perform abortions. This truly would be a violation of the separation between Church and State. I encourage all Catholics to join in the campaign against FOCA. One way you can do this is by signing the postcards that will be distributed in parishes the weekend of Jan. 24-25. The postcards will be sent to the members of Congress who represent our Diocese to let them know just how strongly we feel about this issue.

Although our efforts may at times seem futile, we must never give up the fight. The unborn are counting on us to fight for them. Let us move forward with the assurances that we are fighting for the Lord’s least brothers and sisters. There is no room for lukewarm actions or turning a blind eye. We must all remember that Our Lord also said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”


Sincerely yours in Christ,  

Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, D.D., Hist. E.D.

Bishop of Scranton



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