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Statement of the
Catholic Bishops of Nebraska

on the 25th Anniversary

OF

Roe v. Wade

January 22, 1998

Three years ago, in his encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II described how our culture is immersed in a conflict between good and evil, between a "culture of life" and a "culture of death." He spoke of various attacks on human life, but called special attention to a particular "category" of attacks: abortion and euthanasia; attacks which strike at life when it is most frail: in its earliest and its final stages; attacks which not only are no longer considered crimes, but are elevated to "rights"; attacks which take place in, and with complicity of, the very sanctuary of life: the family.

Contrary to claims made by its advocates, legalized abortion has not contributed toward a world of equality, reduced poverty, or more "wanted" children. Instead, child abuse has skyrocketed, women and children comprise the largest and fastest growing poverty group in our country, and more of the responsibility for raising children has shifted to women. Moreover, the spiritual and emotional devastation evidenced in the many women and men seeking healing and reconciliation through post-abortion ministries is staggering.

Predictably, abortion’s destructive tentacles have extended deep into our culture, nurturing a degradation of the miracle of human life in the form of increasingly negative attitudes toward parents with larger families; in the numerous cases of young women or couples killing their newborn children; and in the growing acceptance of so-called euthanasia.

One of the most shocking indications of the encroaching abortion culture is the practice of partial-birth abortion--the brutal destruction of a living child in the very process of being born. Congress twice passed a law to ban this inhuman procedure. Twice President Clinton vetoed it. In 1998, Congress will again attempt to override the President’s veto. The bishops of the United States have asked Catholics throughout the country to again make their voices heard on this important issue by taking part in a nationwide postcard campaign on or around January 25, urging their Senators to override the President’s veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Here in Nebraska, Senator Hagel voted to ban partial-birth abortion; Senator Kerrey voted to keep this practice legal. The postcards we send to Senator Hagel will thank him for voting to stop partial-birth abortion, and urge him to encourage colleagues to do the same. Postcards to Senator Kerrey will urge him to reconsider, and to help override the President’s veto. We encourage all to participate in this important effort.

As we work to counter the culture of death, it is vital to continually reflect on and promote respect for the incomparable worth and sanctity of every human being. Citing Scripture, Pope John Paul states that each human person "is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory (cf. Gn. 1:26-27; Ps. 8:6)...In man there shines forth a reflection of God himself." (Gospel of Life, no. 34) As Christians, we also know that "By his incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being. This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God, who ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (Jn. 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person." (Gospel of Life no. 2)

Our society’s respect for the sanctity of human life is, of course, inextricably linked to its respect for the sacredness of God’s precious gift of human sexuality. Pope Paul VI correctly predicted in his encyclical Humanae Vitae that the widespread acceptance of contraception would result in numerous calamities, including conjugal infidelity, the rapid rise in abortion, the growing acceptance of so-called euthanasia, and the surge in violence against women.

The Church’s teaching on human sexuality, far from being restrictive and unrealistic, promises true freedom, holiness and peace because it comes from He who knows us best: God--the Author of Life. God’s sublime gift of sexuality gives each person the privilege, and its accompanying responsibilities, of cooperating with God in the creation of a human person. But God designed this gift for two necessary and inseparable purposes: to unite in one flesh husband and wife and to be always open to life. We encourage and challenge all Catholics to sincerely accept and live God’s teaching on the truth and meaning of human sexuality.

Our nation stands in judgment now. Are we to be a nation that honors its commitments to the right to life or not? And if not, then for what does our nation stand? Do we want to be a people remembered for our commitment to eliminating people in order to solve our difficult problems, or for our commitment to eliminating difficult problems in order to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters? Do we want to face God on our day of judgment with a record of having been silent when the sacredness of life was attacked or with one of having spoken and acted to defend this precious gift?

As we said in a recent statement with our brother bishops from the United States: "Our condemnation of abortion is accompanied by an unswerving commitment to provide alternative solutions and compassionate care in respect for the dignity of all wounded by its violence." (Light and Shadows: Our Nation 25 Years After Roe v. Wade) In Nebraska, Catholic Social Services, Catholic Charities and 25 other pregnancy-help centers provide material and moral support to mothers and their children, before and after birth. In addition, through the post-abortion ministry of Project Rachel, the Church provides spiritual and emotional hope, healing and reconciliation to anyone affected by abortion. On behalf of the Catholic Church in Nebraska, we offer our strongest support in promoting and enhancing these services.

In the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul challenges us to "work with perseverance and courage so that our time, marked by all too many signs of death, may at last witness the establishment of a new culture of life." It is our prayer that all of us will rise to the challenge and be what we are meant to be: A People of Life.

Elden F. Curtiss, Archbishop of Omaha Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln Lawrence J. McNamara, Bishop of Grand Island

Statements of Other Bishops on Abortion

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