In light of events next week, I am going to depart from our gospel reading today, at least for a bit, but hopefully will be able to tie several thoughts together in the general subject of being called to holiness, being called to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, and being called to respect life.
Nearly forty-two years have passed since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, on January 22, 1973, and our country has never been the same since. Abortion is the worst domestic crime ever sanctioned by America, and the statistics become grimmer by the year: nearly 60 million unborn children have been legally murdered since Roe. Every day in America, some 4000 lives are terminated in the womb.
What has also been murdered over those years is the culture’s acceptance of moral absolutes; any notion of good or evil is churned into some HR jive we call “appropriate” or “inappropriate”, as if right and wrong can be deadened of their moral consequence by a substitution of terms. This culture wants to rename things first, because it realizes that unless you name the evil, you never fully confront it. This is why our President called abortion “health care” on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade last year. With all due respect, abortion is not health care, Mr. President, it is murder. We have surrendered, and Roe was a big part of that surrender, to the notion accepted by most people in America today—there are no absolutes, and we accept that one absolute absolutely. How do we respond to this slaughter, and how do we live our lives in Corinth, I mean, in the United States of America?
First, the U.S. bishops invite us to pray for the protection of all human life. A special novena called 9 Days for Life will take place from January 17th through the 25th. Please go to the USCCB website to learn more about this opportunity.
Second, the Students for Life Group at St. Mary’s High is coordinating a March for Life tomorrow, January 19, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Starting at 9am with a silent prayer vigil outside of Planned Parenthood, the merchant of this death. At 10am there will be a procession to Corpus Christi Church, from 11 till noon, there will be adoration with the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, and at noon, there will be Mass celebrated by Bishop Sheridan. We need some pro-life prayer warriors to join in on this occasion. More info in the Catholic Herald.
We look at this carnage, and it’s tempting to despair. Despite all of this, there are more reasons to hope in the pro-life movement than to despair because of abortion. Many lives have been put back together through the Rachel Ministry, as those who have been affected by abortion understand that there is no group in the world better able to deal with the heartbreak, guilt, shame, and condemnation that are byproducts of abortion than the Catholic Church. She has the Confessional, she has the te absolvo of absolution—“neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” She has forgiveness, she has hope, for she has Christ, and there is always hope, no matter what road you have walked upon. Let us remember, too, that, appearing before a crowd of tens of thousands in Rome early in his papacy, Francis said, “I greet the participants of the March for Life which took place this morning in Rome and invite everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.” He then joined the 40,000 marchers on the ground, to express his solidarity with them, and pro-lifers throughout the world cheered. Today, this extraordinary event is rarely mentioned, and comments that the Holy Father made about not being obsessive about all the church’s teaching all the time, in every conversation, are twisted into representing the Pope as somehow soft on the issue of abortion.
Third, there is the revealing fact that many leaders of the “pro-choice” movement have themselves openly acknowledged what abortion really is. “We know that it is killing, but the state permits killing under certain circumstances,” says the founder of a Milwaukee abortion clinic. Camille Paglia, the outspoken feminist, is even blunter:
The pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. . . . Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue.
Even more encouraging is the fact that, despite forty years of pro-abortion propaganda, more than half of all Americans still describe themselves as pro-life. Since their activism began, peaceful pro-lifers have endured jeers, contempt, unjust arrests, and even violence. Everyone knows that there is a regular Mass in front of Planned Parenthood. Even our Protestant brothers and sisters respect that kind of commitment, and increasingly walk with us on these issues. Everyone who is pro-life in this city knows Father Bill Carmody, and the Balrogs in hell cringe at his name. Though the media has largely ignored this witness, (even as it has covered fringe extremists, never part of the authentic pro-life movement), they have marched on nonetheless.
This January 22, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers will march in Washington, as they do every year, to speak, pray, and bear witness to the fundamental right to life that every American citizen is entitled to. Let us join them—if not by marching, than in spirit—in peace and in hope, undeterred.
Let us understand what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who also lived in a culture that regarded human life as cheap and disposable—the Roman and Greek women would not try to surgically destroy life in their womb, though they did practice the use of abortifacients of many types—but they would simply leave their unwanted unborn on the garbage heaps of the major towns and cities, like Corinth, for the dogs to treat as carrion. And it was the church who rescued those innocent lives.
Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
These are issues that cannot be thoroughly plumbed in a Sunday homily. They have import on public policy, and the role of citizenship in a pluralistic and non-Christian society. How does one live a life of purity in the face of such reckless hate? How does one balance the fundamental truths of the Framers of our Constitution to autonomy and community, to natural and civil law, to the right to self-determination and the clear fact that St. Paul says "you are not your own; you were bought at a price." There is indeed a higher call than the law of the land for those who were purchased by the blood of Christ.
It was just the kind of challenge that St. Paul faced in Corinth, and so the challenge is to place ourselves in that biblical narrative…what do we do in Corinth? How do we keep ourselves pure in Mordor, in the midst of the rapacious evil around us? This means “equipping the saints” to be twenty-first-century apologists who can (as Pope Francis has been saying) offer compassionate aid to the walking wounded of postmodern society, so that as strong as the world hears our passionate defense of the unborn, that same world also hears our message of hope and forgiveness, of alternatives to murder like adoption and family intervention. Our message is good news, if ever it is good news, right at the place of bleakest devastation. We can give hope, just as we can explain the truths about the human person that the Church believes are essential to a fruitful and blessed world.
May we pray, may we work, may we speak up, and for God sakes may we at least vote—for pro-life leaders who take the scriptures seriously that say, “Glorify God in your body.”