Warriors for the Victory of Life
Key Note Address for the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention
April 18, 2009 – St. Thomas Aquinas High School
The Second Annual Gospel of Life Convention co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of
Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph was held this
weekend at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, KS. Following is
Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's Keynote address to pro-life
activists gathered from throughout Missouri and Kansas:
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Thank you for coming together for this second annual Gospel of Life Convention,
co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and the Diocese of
Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is a privilege to welcome you and greet you this
morning. I am grateful for the encouragement of your presence and – as a Bishop
it is my solemn and joyful duty to do all I can to fortify you in your own
But as I speak a word of encouragement today I also want to tell you soberly,
dear friends, “We are at war!”
We are at war
Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new. This war to which I
refer did not begin in just the last several months, although new battles are
underway – and they bring an intensity and urgency to our efforts that may rival
any time in the past.
But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors - members of the
Church on earth – often called the Church Militant. Those who have gone ahead of
us have already completed their earthly battles. Some make up the Church
Triumphant – Saints in heaven who surround and support us still – tremendous
allies in the battle for our eternal salvation; and the Church Suffering (souls
in purgatory who depend on our prayers and meritorious works and suffrages).
But we are the Church on Earth – The Church Militant. We are engaged in a
constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false
truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces
work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s
gift of eternal life.
The ultimate promise of the Gospel
Before I go any further I must proclaim a most important truth – a truth that
we have just been celebrating throughout the last week: Jesus Christ, in His
life, death, and Resurrection, has already won the war: definitively and once
for all. He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in
heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is
now played out in each human heart with a free will to love or not, to be
faithful or to walk away from the life which has been offered as God’s most
Every day the choice is before us: right or wrong; good or bad; the blessing or
the curse; life or death. Our whole life must be oriented toward choosing right,
the good, the blessing; choosing life.
If you and I fail to realize the meaning and finality behind our choices, and
the intensity of the constant warfare that confronts us, it is likely that we
will drop our guard, be easily and repeatedly deceived, and even loose the life
of our eternal soul.
As bishop I have a weighty responsibility to tell you this over and over again.
This obligation is not always easy, and constantly I am tempted to say and do
less, rather than more. Almost everyday I am confronted with the persuasion of
other people who want me to be silent. But – with God’s grace – you and I will
not be silent.
This work of speaking about the spiritual challenges before us is not just the
responsibility of the Bishop. I am not the only one entrusted with the work of
faith, hope and charity. You are baptized into this Church militant. You are
also entrusted with the mission of righteousness. You have the fortification of
the sacraments, and the mandate to love as Jesus loved you. You share in the
apostolic mission and work of the Church.
What can we say about this constant warfare?
Our battle is ultimately a spiritual battle for the eternal salvation of
souls – our own and those of other people. We are not engaged in physical
battles in the same way military soldiers defend with material weapons. We need
not – we must not – initiate violence against other persons to accomplish
something good, even something as significant as the protection of human life.
But it is true that we might have to endure physical suffering to prosper the
victory of Jesus Christ. He carried the Cross. He promised us that – if we were
to follow Him – we also would share the Cross. We must not expect anything less.
When you stand up for what is right – you will be opposed. The temptation will
be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of
soldiers we are.
Who is our enemy in this battle of the Church Militant?
Our enemy is the deceiver, the liar, Satan. Because of his spiritual powers
he can turn the minds and hearts of men. He is our spiritual or supernatural
enemy when he works to tempt us, and he becomes a kind of natural enemy as he
works in the hearts of other people to twist and confound God’s will. In our
human experience people deceived by Satan’s distortions and lies may appear as
our “human enemies.”
But, in his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul makes, for us, a very important
distinction. “Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power,” He tells
them and us. “Put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against
the tactics of the devil.” “For, our struggle,” St. Paul tells us, “is not with
flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the rulers of
this darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Eph 6:10-12).
So let’s be clear: Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under
his power, even without their fully realizing it. When we, in our sinfulness,
put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success;
political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary
spirits who war against God. They want you and me for their prize. When we
forsake God and outwardly reject His law and what we know to be His will, we
make an easy victory for our supernatural enemies. We fall right into their
But what about the so-called human enemies?
What about the persons who wish to establish a path of living which
contravenes God’s law: promoting abortion; unnatural substitutes for marriage,
and all such distortions of true freedom? Here Jesus is clear: “But I say to
you, love your enemies: and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)
We cannot hate these human enemies, and we must find a way to love them. But we
need not show them any sign of agreement. We pray for them. We do not lie to
them – and we seek that which pertains to their conversion – not to their
worldly comforts, but to their eternal salvation. To ignore their destructive
errors, particularly those that cost the lives of others, is to shirk our
responsibility to attend to their eternal salvation.
There are people who make themselves the public enemies of the Church. They
openly attack belief in Christ, or the Church’s right to exist. Quite honestly
such groups or individuals are less prevalent than they might have been in prior
moments of history. In some ways they are not the most dangerous opponents in
our spiritual warfare, because they show themselves and their intentions more
The more dangerous “human enemies” in our battle are those, who in this age of
pluralism and political propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity
and good will. With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of
advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside
the values and the institutions that stand in their way. They may propose
“tolerance” and seem to have a “live and let live” approach to all human choices
– even if the choice is not to “let live,” but actually to “let die,” or “let
life be destroyed.” These more subtle enemies are of all backgrounds. They may
be atheists or agnostics, or of any religion, including Christian or Catholic.
This dissension in our own ranks should not surprise us because we all
experience some dissension against God’s law of love within our own heart. But
the “battle between believers,” who claim a certain “common ground” with us,
while at the same time, they attack the most fundamental tenets of the Church’s
teachings, or disavow the natural law – this opposition is one of the most
discouraging, confusing, and dangerous.
In my first U.S. Bishops’ Conference meeting – June of 2004 – the bishops passed
what seemed to me to be a compromise statement as a result of our lengthy debate
on politicians and Communion. There we stated that pro-choice leaders (and
specifically, Catholic leaders were mentioned) should not be given public
platforms or honors. As we all know the eminent American Catholic University,
Notre Dame, is poised to bestow such an opportunity and honor on President
Obama, who is, of course, not Catholic. But it doesn’t take another Bishops’
Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and
confusing to many Catholics.
God knows what all motivates such a decision. I suspect that, since Notre Dame
will need a scapegoat for this debacle, and Fr. Jenkins will probably lose his
job, at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something
right instead of something wrong. He ought to disinvite the President, who I
believe would graciously accept the decision. Notre Dame, instead, ought to give
the honorary degree to Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South
Bend, who has supported and tried to guide the University, despite their too
frequent waywardness, faithfully for 25 years.
In my remaining time this morning I want to talk principally about three things:
1) I want to comment briefly on some of the particular battles we face in the
cause of the protection of the life of human beings. 2) I want to reflect on
some of the costs of doing battle; and 3) I will suggest some ways we can
fortify ourselves to go forth in this mission.
First – the battle for Human Life.
The battle we face for the salvation of our souls is the most important one
we face – bar none. Where I spend all eternity; where you spend eternity – in
bliss or in damnation – is important beyond any individual choice I make. But
the individual human choices I make – even one grave choice in which we remain
unrepentant – can determine the direction of my salvation.
To deliberately destroy a human person, and without any justification of
self-defense, is to preempt without an equal and sufficient cause, the right to
life bestowed by God alone. Life is a gift which we have from God, not from man.
This right cannot be taken away by means of a human law. It ought to be
protected and assured by human law.
The constant magnitude of this crime against humanity is staggering. We must
never get used to it. In the United States there are 4000 abortions every day.
Compare that to the tragedy of September 11, or to any other war, or even to the
genocidal Holocaust of six million Jews and many others under the Nazi regime.
The count of abortions over the 36 years, since its legalization in January,
1973, is beyond 50 million human lives. These are just the reported abortions.
There are more. There are many, many more worldwide. But keep reflecting on 4000
killings a day of innocent babies. Recently someone told me the number of
abortions had gone down. I don’t believe it, but if you wish, you can think of
3500 killings a day or even 3000 per day.
Thousands of human lives every day: If we keep saying this – first of all – some
people will get very upset with us. They will want us to stop. They may quote
other statistics about the tragedies of poverty and war. We must truly share
their horror at these things too. However, in the end the measure of our society
is in how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. The unifying thread is “the
value of human life and the dignity of the human person.”
4000 abortions each day in the United States. This is the tally of the enemy.
Are we in a war? Absolutely. Are we winning? Are we even battling to win? Or do
we consider this someone else’s war?
We can hardly know how many human embryos have been destroyed in pursuing in
vitro fertilization, and other experimentation, or through abortifacient
contraceptives. Our President has just signed a law providing government funding
– your tax money and mine – for the funding of these human embryonic stem cell
experiments. Are we at war? Absolutely. Are we winning? Missouri lost a valiant
battle to constitutionally outlaw human cloning and human embryonic stem cell
research. We haven’t given up, but it requires a constant effort. We won many
people over through good instruction in the truth. We were outspent 30 to 1.
Assisted Suicide is now legal in Oregon and Washington State. There are more
efforts underway and polls, sadly, show a steady decline in the numbers of
people opposing such referenda. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that matters
concerning the regulation of medicine and other health issues are up to the
states. Several state supreme courts have already ruled that assisted suicide
would not be unconstitutional. Are we at war? Absolutely. Are we winning?
Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that people are losing their sense of
the moral evil of assisted suicide. But we cannot give up.
The fight for life is a constant warfare. Those who vied for the leadership of
our country last November offered Americans a clear choice in this regard. The
President is keeping his promises – one by one. We are getting what we chose. Is
the war over? Never. Is the battle over? We must not give up. Remember: we
already know the final outcome. The battle now is about our readiness to remain
faithful – our readiness to suffer while we peacefully, legally, and prayerfully
seek the victory of life.
We must defend life, but also build
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, on the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II
said that we must oppose the culture of death, and he said we must construct a
civilization of life and love. So, we must defend the right to life, but even
beyond that we must take action for the promotion of what is good. We must build
a civilization that proclaims the Gospel of Life.
Occasionally we still hear an elected official speak of his or her personal
opposition to abortion, while they support the legal right to an abortion. We
should be very clear: Such a person places him or herself completely OUTSIDE the
moral framework, the moral imperative of Evangelium Vitae and other Church
teaching on these issues. They are NEITHER defending human life against the
forces of death, NOR or they taking steps to build a culture of life. They have
abandoned their place in the citizenship of the Church. Quite simply they have
become warriors for death rather than life.
Such a person who makes a public stand – and acts directly – in defense of the
right to kill - endangers their eternal salvation. If you and I support such a
person who has so flatly told us of their intentions to protect a fraudulent
Right to Death, a Right to an Abortion, we make ourselves participants in their
attack on life. We risk our salvation, and we better change. Why? – because
Bishop Finn is going to condemn you? No, I must say what the Church says, but I
will not finally judge any human soul.
I know Catholics in our country are looking to their bishops for leadership in
this. Four out of five letters I receive on these issues urges me to do more,
not less. I was not able to attend the installation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan
in New York this week, but I watched part of the Mass on EWTN. I heard the
homily and saw how well the new Archbishop was received. But there was one place
in the homily that was particularly dramatic. When Archbishop Dolan mentioned
the defense of human life, all St. Patrick Cathedral thundered with spontaneous
applause and rose to its feet. At no other spot in the homily did any such thing
Please note: This is NOT partisan politics on the part of bishops or their
flock. This is zeal for life, pure and powerful. This is care for truth, and
attention to the salvation of souls. It cannot and must not be neglected, even
if it means we might get scolded at times by those who want us to speak less. We
bishops should note it carefully – how our people are starving for more
leadership – more unanimity – more courage in this regard.
Every believer is called to be a warrior for righteousness – a soldier in
support of human life. Are we at War? It is clear we are, and we will each stand
before Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.
Dr. Scott Hahn makes an interesting observation about a well known passage from
Matthew’s Gospel. St. Peter is entrusted with the leadership of the Church; he
is handed the “keys” to the Kingdom. “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail
against it.” (Matt 16:18). Hahn points out that it is not just the work of the
Church to hold strong against the powers of hell. Rather: in the battle, the
Church must beat upon the gates of hell. We must not give up until those sorry
gates fall off their hinges and the victory of Jesus Christ is made full and
complete and final. Bishops are called to teach, lead and sanctify. These are
not defensive postures – but elements of a powerful offensive designed to
promote and extend the Kingdom of God.
It is not enough for us to defend against the assaults of Satan. It is not
enough for us even to defend innocent human life. Of course, if we fail to do
this, we fail in our most urgent task. But by good deeds of love and charity, we
must build this active culture of life that is ready and capable of turning back
hell itself. If we won’t put the abortionist out of business we are pitiable
souls. If we don’t enact laws and work tirelessly to change human hearts so that
life is forever reverenced and protected, we have not fought the good fight
which is our charge as the Church Militant. As warriors we must first beat back
the enemy. But then let us not forget that we are warriors for the victory of
How do we arm ourselves for what is first and foremost a supernatural war?
First: Unless we are living in God’s life we should not go near this battle.
I don’t care if you are the strongest and most brilliant and clever person on
the planet. The devil – as he has shown over and over again – will turn you
inside out. If you are not fortified by the sacraments – frequent confession and
worthy Holy Communion – you cannot succeed in an ultimately supernatural battle.
We must live – no longer ourselves – but Christ in us. Be always in the state of
Pray. Be a prayer warrior. One modern day saint said when you are going out to
try to change someone’s heart determine to make your effort 80 % prayer and 20%
words or actions. Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray
for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father
and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and
allow God to guide you. Pray that you will be a warrior of faithfulness and love
and mercy. Remember that God often chooses the foolish to shame those who are
Use the symbols and instruments of our devotion. Arm yourself with the rosary.
Protect yourself with the scapular or a blessed medal. Ask for a blessing as a
sign of unity in the Church in what we do: unity with the Holy Father, with your
bishop, with your pastor. What I am supposed to do as bishop (teach and lead,
and sanctify) I must, in turn, delegate in proper measure to my pastors. They,
in turn, need you as soldiers.
Don’t worry very much about numbers. If you read the accounts of the Old
Testament battles, over and over again God used a tiny misfit army to overthrow
a legion 1000 times its size. In this way it is so much clearer that God is
fighting the battle. We are only His instruments.
What will happen to us if we take up this war in faithfulness?
Do you really want to know? You will be hated by some powerful people. You
may be rejected by those whose approval you most desire. You will be loved and
supported by some and this will be a wonderful encouragement. You will be
misunderstood by many – and this can be very painful. After you have suffered a
little in your battle, some will tell you that you have done nothing – or that
you have done it the wrong way.
Yes, if you push – others will “push back.” We should always be very careful to
obey the law. But, regardless, some will threaten you with legal action, and law
suits cost money and you may suffer that difficult hardship. In the end, dear
friends, if we err let it be on the side of life. Life! 4000 human lives a day!
What if I suffer greatly trying to change this tragic trajectory – through
prayerful, legal, peaceful means? It is in God’s hands, and you and I are
warriors for the victory of life. The stakes in terms of human life are high.
The stakes in terms of human souls are even higher.
A final word
There is much more we might say, and I know that today’s many presentations
will be of great value to you all. Years ago I first heard Dr. Janet Smith teach
so eloquently about the dangers of contraception: to our souls, on marriages, on
our culture, as a preamble to abortion and as a degrading stain on human love. I
am so pleased she has joined us to teach this truth so much at the foundation of
the sad culture of discarded life and love.
I wish to thank Adrienne Doring and Ron Kelsey who, with much assistance from so
many of you, coordinated this event. To my brother and co-worker Archbishop
Joseph Naumann, whose leadership in pro-life is so well known throughout our
country, I express my thanks and admiration.
May the Peace of the Risen Lord Jesus – the glory of His Easter triumph– the
hope and promise of undying love and the power of Life sustain you all in your
high calling as Warriors for the Victory of life.
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