Defending Life — Living Hope

Once again, we find ourselves in the spectacular month of October—crisp, clean, air, and the hints of Autumn color. My earliest remembrances of October focus on Saint Francis of Assisi. From 1964, when I began my seminary education with the Franciscans at our minor seminary in Crystal Lake, Illinois, October 3-4 were clearly marked out as “high holy days” for me since they were so spiritually and emotionally charged with the celebration of the life and death of Francis. It has stayed that way ever since. October took on some special significance as I started to gather up devotion to beloved Saint Therese of Lisieux (whose hometown and shrine I visited on pilgrimage with many other Wisconsinites last year). Her feast day is October 1 and she is patron saint of the Little Way—the patron saint of Love of God. Another great saint of October is Saint Teresa of Avila—a fiery Carmelite Nun who reformed the Order and wrote seriously about the interior and mystical life. Her feast of October 15 was made even more significant for me because it was the day, in 2007, while living in Rome, that I received notification of Pope Benedict’s call for me to become a bishop. Of course, October 22, is the feast of Pope Saint John Paul the Great, and there is so much of interest and note about him that has had great impact on my life!

In October, however, the Church takes special time to direct our attention to the sanctity and respect of human life. The cause of respect for human life has, of course, taken on enormous proportion over the years since the encyclical, Humanae Vitae of Pope Saint Paul VI, 25 July 1968. The encyclical was the epicenter of the sexual revolution of the sixties and the stillpoint of the disobedience in the Church regarding contraception and the growth of the misunderstanding of abortion as “just another form of birth-control.” The objectification and abuse of women and the ignorance and brutality of men toward them continues to this very day. All of this was, of course, foretold by our prophetic Pope Paul VI and expounded upon by every pope since. The wisdom and spiritual direction of the church has been silenced over the years since 1968 unto our day as men and women battle for “equality.” In 1973, the ultimate ignorance was served in announcing that abortion was legal and was sanctioned by the United States Constitution. Over the years, the “legal” murder of children has continued into the millions. Women’s “reproductive rights” and the “control over their own bodies” have become political platforms and slogans defined by political parties of every stripe. Very few people—religious and non-religious—seem to offer pro-life opinions for the children. It seems as though they are the true remnant of the struggle and the true victims whose “rights” are being trampled! I still find myself reminding people of a bumper sticker I once saw years ago: “It’s easy to be ‘pro-choice’–after you’ve been born.” 

I have been a priest for forty-two years, and I have been Catholic—that is pro-life—every one of those years. I’ve had talks with folks who have had abortions and those who promote them for others. It’s never an easy discussion and it often makes us uncomfortable—people get a little upset with my pro-life belief. Nevertheless, I try to avoid getting entrapped in the politics and sides of the issue. I try to stay clearly on the spiritual side. Too many people have reduced the life issue to a division of political parties and then once they’ve decided if you’re pro-life or not then they determine the political party with which you may be affiliated. God does not belong to a political party.

Abortion, in our society is terrible evil. Our family structures have been incredibly violated and all of society is being damaged. This is a sad reflection on our ability to form authentic and loving relationships as men and women in the sacrament of marriage. Children are gifts from God who are to be born into loving families with fathers and mothers who are committed to each other in genuine and lifelong relationships. The highest honor and privilege of being a woman is the joy of motherhood. Thus, being “reproductive machines” with rights over their own bodies must yield to the consideration of the rights of motherhood and the lives of the children only they can bear. Children must be seen as part of loving unions of husbands and wives—not simply the by-products of indiscriminate sexual romps. Abortions kill children—millions of children since the Court has given permission for such vile and destructive behavior.

October is Pro-Life Month. Pray for pregnant mothers. Pray for fathers. Pray for babies. Pray that babies may be born and live in a world of genuine love and care.