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Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Florida

on the 25th Anniversary of
Roe v. Wade
January 22, 1998

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I give you thanks
that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. --Psalm 139:13-14.


January 22, 1998 will be a day of reflection and prayer for Florida Catholics. On this day, our nation will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton; two Supreme Court decisions by which abortion throughout pregnancy became legal in the United States. These decisions have had tragic consequences for our nation and its people. More than 35 million innocent human lives have been lost -- 1.25 million in Florida alone. Millions of women have been victimized by the deception that abortion was the answer to their troubles. Untold suffering has taken place in families and our society has been marred by a failed social policy that exacerbates the problems it sets out to solve while creating new and even worse social ills. As Catholic Christians, we mourn for those who have died or been hurt because of the evil of abortion. We continue to hope, however, that our society will hear our voice raised on behalf of the unborn and all the victims of abortion. Our ongoing prayer is that our nation can close this dark chapter of its history.

As Catholic Bishops, we are aware of hopeful signs that the moral sense of the majority of the American people will find expression in its laws. Recently millions of Americans have united to express a national consensus against one of the most violent forms of abortion -- the partial-birth abortion. The Congress of the United States passed legislation to ban partial birth abortion. Significantly, the American Medical Association supported this effort. The national trend is toward a declining number of abortions, though sadly, not in Florida.

It is impossible not to notice that pro-abortion forces continue to frustrate the will of the American people. It is clear that a majority of Americans are opposed to abortion being legal under any circumstance. Yet, the President, governors like our own and the courts continue to strike down legitimate attempts to curtail abortion and provide protections to unborn children, to women and to families. As religious leaders in Florida, we are alarmed that our state more than others shows an increase in abortions and a continuing opposition to legitimate protections for the unborn, women and families.

The Catholic Church of Florida has many reasons to be proud of its constant and courageous efforts over these past twenty-five years. With distinction we have defended the rights of the unborn and have taught the gospel message of respect for human life. Our prayer, our prophetic witness and our social service all testify to our continuing commitment to the fundamental dignity of every person and our solidarity with the poor, the weak and those who cannot defend themselves. Our annual pilgrimages on the Feast of the Annunciation have proclaimed the wisdom of our Catholic tradition and of scientific evidence that human life begins at the first moment of conception. Our spiritual and material care for pregnant women who require assistance has shown the depth of our commitment to provide safe and socially effective alternatives to abortion. Project Rachel and other efforts at reconciling those who have had abortions gives witness to our deep desire to heal the tragic and unspoken pain abortion inflicts on women and families. Our work to educate and form our Catholic youth in respect for human life is our way of providing vision for the future. We help our youth to imagine a state and a nation who know better than to turn to violence to solve its social problems. All of those efforts have borne fruit. Our continued faithfulness to them brings us closer to our goal of a society where respect for human life and the fundamental dignity of the human person are enshrined in law.

As Catholic Bishops, we give thanks to God for so many courageous and dedicated people who have worked in the defense of human life in Florida. We think of parish respect life committees, of those who pray frequently for pro-life causes, those who courageously witness to pro-life positions. We are constantly edified by the work of doctors, nurses, hospitals and crises pregnancy centers whose sacrifices provide women in need a real solution to their problems. We are grateful too for all those who provide counseling, prenatal and postnatal care, housing and material support to women in need. In addition, we are thankful for the efforts of Catholic adoption services.

The work we have done, the work that remains has at its core the sacredness of every human life. As John Paul II said on his pastoral visit to the United States:

"Every human person - no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped, or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society - is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival - yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn."

We call upon all Floridians to make January 22, 1998 a day of rededication to the cause of sharing with courage and credibility this vision of respect for human life. In prayer and reflection, we should remember the motivation for our efforts. Let us draw upon the strength of countless generations of parents who have joyfully accepted new life as the miraculous unfolding of God's creative love for us. We ask the Holy Spirit to assist us and bring us renewed courage in our solidarity with the innocent unborn.

As Bishops of the State of Florida, we reach out to our Catholic people and to all people of good will in our state and urge you to:

  • Continue and increase your efforts in support of life, especially of the unborn, the newborn, and of mothers facing difficult pregnancies and burdensome decisions.
  • Bring this message into your families, making them living symbols of the conviction that life is always, always a gift from God.Teach your children to respect human life from conception through natural death. Pray as a family for an end to this evil that destroys the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor.
  • Join in the effort to convince our elected of officials to stand up for life and to bring an end to this destruction of innocent unborn human life, particularly an end to the infanticide of partial birth abortions.
  • And lastly, we urge you to join in the postcard campaign now underway nationwide, a simple and effective way to express to elected officials your insistence on an end to partial birth abortions.


John Clement Favalora
Archbishop of Miami

John J. Snyder
Bishop of St. Augustine

Robert N. Lynch
Bishop of St. Petersburg

Norbert M. Dorsey, CP
Bishop of Orlando

John J. Nevins
Bishop of Venice

John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola/Tallahassee

J. Keith Symons
Bishop of Palm Beach

Agustin A. Roman
Auxiliary Bishop of Miami

Gilberto Fernandez
Auxiliary Bishop of Miami

Thomas G. Wenski
Auxiliary Bishop of Miami

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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