One of the reasons that I am most grateful and proud to be Catholic is because the Church has been, and continues to be, the greatest defender of the dignity of the human person at every stage of life, especially to the unborn.
Often times those who are pro-life are accused of having too narrow a focus when they insist that abortion is the foundational issue of the pro-life cause. Now to be pro-life certainly encompasses many issues and takes on many forms, and the Church is very clear that all human life must be protected and respected at every stage (from conception until death). This includes issues like fighting against the exploitation of the poor, promoting the right to proper housing and adequate health care, and speaking out against an unjust use of capital punishment.
But the reality is that all of these other issues become irrelevant if we as a society, and we as a Church, fail to protect and defend that most fundamental right. Pope St. John Paul II once said that all of our other rights as persons become “false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
For those of you who may be actively engaged in the pro-life cause, I think it is sometimes tempting to get frustrated because it seems that so many people don’t recognize this truth that seems to be so intuitive. Many people, including politicians, seem to be so obstinate regarding their support of abortion, and it’s feels like it's a losing battle.
The number of abortions continues to remain extraordinarily high, with almost a million and a half abortions taking place in the United States alone each year. And all this while science and technology continue to provide us with even clearer, I would say, undeniable proof that the unborn are truly human beings. As I have said before, any reasonable person can understand that each of us was at one time an embryo and a fetus, and now each of us is simply an embryo and a fetus that has matured and developed since the day of our conception. But the reality is that many people just don't seem to be interested in reason.
I read an interesting article recently, however, that I think sheds some light on this reality. The article talks about how when a young woman, in particular, experiences an unplanned pregnancy, in her mind, she is faced with a scenario where she feels that enduring the pregnancy and having the baby in a very real way means the end of her life. Having a child would maybe be an extreme source of humiliation or disgrace, or maybe it would kill the dreams that she has for finishing school or having a career or being able to pursue other personal or professional kinds of aspirations. And so in a very real way, a pregnancy poses a grave threat to her. She feels she is faced with the choice: it's either my life or the baby's life. And an abortion is almost seen as an act of self-defense. And that there really is no other choice but to have an abortion. And that even placing the child up for adoption would be a worse fate than abortion, because of the pain of having to give up the baby along with the fact that she doesn’t know where the child will end up and if the child will be properly cared for.
Reason tells us that this is a flawed way of looking at the situation, and that we can never directly kill an innocent person in order to achieve some good whatever it may be. But we have to acknowledge that this is not simply a matter of reason, and the way that many women feel is that having an abortion is really the only option that they have.
And I think this emphasizes more than ever the importance for us to be engaged in the pro-life cause not simply at a political level, although this is certainly important, but also to be involved in organizations and activities that support women who find themselves in difficult circumstances, so that women do feel that they have other options. And I think we need to help women understand that a child is a beautiful gift, and that having a child does not necessarily mean the end of her life or having to put aside all of her dreams indefinitely.
And I would add to that and say it’s also so important that we are actively engaged in trying to promote God’s plan for chastity, so that young people don’t find themselves in these situations in the first place. God’s plan for love and marriage is such a beautiful plan, and our culture would be spared so much pain and heartache if only we would recognize that. And I think we need to concede that our society’s idea that throwing more contraception at young women has simply exacerbated the problems that we are seeing.
In the end, the reason we are still seeing a million and a half abortions happening in our country each year is because our culture is sick. And we as a Church in particular have a responsibility to be a source of healing. To heal the wounds of a culture that has lost its value for the dignity of life, that's lost its value for the beauty of God's plan for marriage and sexuality, to be a source of strength and support for women who are faced with difficult pregnancies and are tempted to despair, and finally to be a source of healing for so many women who bear the scars of the guilt of having had an abortion.
And so let's turn to the Lord and ask him to help us to live this mission that he has entrusted to us to fight for the rights of the unborn, to be courageous witnesses to the beauty of God's plan for love and marriage, and to be source of healing and strength for a culture so in need of God's mercy, so that ultimately every person, born and unborn, might be protected in law and welcomed in life.
This homily was written by Fr. Neil Dhabliwala for St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kennesaw at the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade in January 2019. The homily was met in many masses with a hearty round of applause. Fr. Neil, a board member of Pregnancy Aid Clinic, is a champion for God's plan for marriage. His parish, St. Catherine of Siena, is hosting a Faith and Love Conference next month to discuss the Church's teaching about marriage and human sexuality. For more information please visit: https://www.stcatherinercc.org/conference