January 21, 2006

Living the Gospel of Life

Thirty-three years ago, seven Supreme Court justices, led by Justice Harry Blackmun, issued their controversial ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court ruled that women have a constitutional right to privacy which includes the right to have an abortion, and the furor over this decision has continued right up to the present day. Concerned Americans, a large majority of whom have been people of faith, have gathered every year since 1974 to memorialize and protest the decision made in Roe and to call for its revocation. It must be noted that Catholic Christians have always been a significant force in the movement to overturn Roe.

I join my sisters and brothers in their concern over Roe v. Wade and its insistence upon a constitutional right to legal abortion. I do not believe that our God is an impersonal creator, but a faithful Father who loves each of his children from the moment of conception and beyond natural death. I also believe that abortion can have a significant and negative impact upon the mental, emotional, and physical health of women, particularly young women -- and this leads me to be concerned not only for the human beings killed by abortion, but also for the women whose lives are so often destroyed along with the lives of their preborn children. Nevertheless, I lack my brothers' and sisters' certainty that America is ready to end the practice of abortion. I fear that overturning Roe would only drive abortion underground, having little significant impact upon the abortion rate and making abortion even more dangerous for the women who seek it in desperation. That is why, even while I join my sisters and brothers in their concern and their belief that abortion is gravely immoral, I cannot join them in their certainty that Roe should be overturned.

While I cannot join in the call to overturn Roe v. Wade, I do call upon our government and our society to act. We cannot, must not, sit idly by while more women and children are destroyed by abortion; it is imperative that we work now to create a culture which welcomes human life and consistently respects it. Relating this consistent ethic of life to pregnancy and abortion, I call upon our society to have greater respect for the women who are bearing these fragile lives within their wombs. This respect must begin not merely with charity, but with concrete economic and social justice: in order to create an environment in which women feel secure in the decision to carry their children to term, we must create a society in which their most basic needs are met during pregnancy and beyond. Creating a culture of life requires a commitment from all of the American people and the government which acts on our behalf to respect life and to respect those who bring life into the world.

In closing, I reiterate my enduring conviction that respect for a consistent ethic of life is fundamental to creating a culture of life. When a pregnant Iraqi woman and the child within her die in the destruction wrought by American bombs, have we not performed an even more sinister form of abortion? When we sit by and do little or nothing to lighten the burden of those dying under the yoke of extreme poverty in the developing world, have we not performed a more subtle but equally horrifying form of euthanasia? How can we truly create a culture of life at home when we do not fully respect life in other parts of the world? And when someone's child dies under the yoke of poverty within our own borders, when the elderly and the disabled and the seriously ill suffer and die without adequate health care, when we demand that children be brought to term only to watch passively while they suffer through plagues like hunger and homelessness and lack of adequate education -- what does that say about we who call ourselves "pro-life"?

In order to create a culture that respects life, we must create a culture that respects all life. I look forward to the day when I will be able to say that the March for Life in which so many of my sisters and brothers participate is a March for All Life. Then and only then will we move on from mere partisan politics toward abundantly living the Gospel of Life. May the Lord Jesus bring us to that moment -- and soon.

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It must be noted, especially on a subject as controversial as this one, that my views are always my own unless otherwise noted and do not necessarily reflect the views of my co-bloggers. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis has no official opinion on abortion and the complex issues surrounding it. While we may disagree over these difficult issues, I invite my co-bloggers and our readers to rise above the issues and commit to unified action. Monday, January 23 has been designated by the American bishops as a day of penance for sins committed against human life; therefore, I invite my co-bloggers and our readers to join me in prayer and fasting, asking God our Father to give us the strength to put an end to all offenses committed against human life which is made in his image and likeness. I hope you'll join me.