In 1968 I graduated from high school and planned my continuing studies in advancement to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. In that same year, His Holiness Pope Paul VI issued a landmark encyclical titled Humanae Vitae (Human Life). The world, without exaggeration, went crazy in its complete disregard, disobedience and disrespect for every last comma in that encyclical—this included many priests and religious who publicly challenged the Holy Father’s moral authority in presenting such a document. The Church was forever changed by these actions.
Five years later, in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States stepped into the void that was created by public and Catholic indifference to God’s law and ruled on the controversy of abortion, deciding that as a matter of privacy, a woman could legally murder her unborn child and suffer no penalty in civil law. In 1992, the Court determined that women had a constitutional right to an abortion by virtue of the 14th amendment of the Constitution. Moral and religious grounds in the matter of abortion on demand have become even more slim as the “culture of death” slips more deeply into a society that is becoming more and more politically complex and secular.
I was ordained a priest in 1977 and for the past forty years I have witnessed the complexities of political intrigues and nefarious public associations, not to mention a sad descent and unfortunate acceptance of hedonistic moral turpitude; in short, we live in “interesting times.”
Our society itself has made the acceptance of abortion part of what may be considered “the new normal.” With the rise of the sexual revolution and the disregard of the moral authority of the Church—most explicitly in the person of the Pope himself—it has become almost impossible to reestablish a positive moral compass for the society in which we find ourselves today.
While we mark the 44th anniversary of the Day of Shame and another March for Life in Washington, D.C., we must acknowledge that progress is being made—slowly, but surely. A new generation of young people does seem to value the gift of life and is starting to show it publicly.
While this is a positive step forward, we must recognize the fragile setting of the moral compass as a whole. We may be starting to recognize the value of life, but there is so much more of the moral dimension of life that we do not understand, value or accept to be true. Love has been reduced to mere sentiment or sexual pleasure. Marriage is no longer regarded with a foundation of commitment or permanence. Children are no longer considered gifts received by parents whose procreative and generous love for each other has brought them into being and whose commitment to each other will provide for them selflessly.
Time has passed and much has changed in 44 years. I often think that there is so much to do to restore balance and order in the world. There is, however, much to be hopeful for. The Gospel is still being effectively preached; and, it seems that while it may appear that fewer are actually listening, God’s generous heart still beats with love for His own. Grace abounds and God’s message of love for His people will not be silenced! Praise God.