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Life: The social justice issue of our time

By Bishop David L. Ricken
Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, WI

Published in The Compass newspaper October 17, 2008

The recent meltdown in the stock market gives rise to fears for businesses and individual incomes and indeed these are starting to have an impact across the United States and across the world. The greed and deceit of a few seem to be hurting our nation and even the economy of the world.

As we take all of these concerns, as well as many others, to the voting booth, as certainly we should, we must also take a look at the concern for life as we cast our vote for the next president and other public officials.

Pope Benedict XVI shed further light on this matter in his address on March 30 of this year to European politicians:

"As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

  • Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
  • Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
  • The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children."

Since Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973, over 47 million innocent children have died in the womb through abortion. Abortion is no longer just an individual choice. It has reached the level of a societal evil that has already gathered and is massive and preponderant. Such a societal moral evil calls for justice. When it comes to the child in the womb, this is the most defenseless and voiceless of human beings. This is not just about human dignity. This is about the sine qua non of life. Abortion is the social justice issue of our day.

The anti-life forces have duped our sensibilities by dumbing down our language. They are clever and cunning. They use the term "choice." After all, what American would be opposed to the right to make a free choice? What they mean, however, is to be able to make the choice of an abortion. They never use the term, a baby, an infant or a human life. They reify the human life and call it a fetus. They don't call the medical taking of a life for what it is, but they call it a "procedure" hoping to desensitize and assuage people's guilt.

I have heard the confessions of mothers who have had abortions some 10 years, 20 years, even 50 years later. The psychological and spiritual damage to these women who made a decision in the midst of a lot of confusion is something that they carry for the rest of their lives. My hope and prayer is that they can know the healing grace of forgiveness - especially for themselves as Christ certainly does forgive them. But the debris of having made this choice remains a nearly unbearable burden for them.

For this reason, Catholic Charities has a program called "Project Rachel" to extend the healing love of Christ and the compassion of the church to all those whose lives have been affected by abortion.

Some politicians holding political office have tried to say that the Catholic Church has not spoken clearly about abortion or against abortion and its moral gravity. And yet, the Catholic Church's official teaching could not have been clearer about this for centuries.

Some local and national public office holders present themselves as pro-life candidates and then vote consistently pro-choice / pro-abortion. Those Catholics in public office who do so, and those Catholics who choose a pro-choice candidate, only for the fact that he or she is pro-choice, are putting their own souls in great jeopardy.

With the preponderance of the number of lives taken in this country and around the world, I wonder whether people are presuming on the Lord's mercy.

I ask you to pray about this issue very carefully and to make sure that your choice when you enter the voting booth is well considered. Let us join one another in prayer for this entire country that we may be a country that is faithful to God, to the Ten Commandments and to the great commandment of love.

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •