A Letter from Bishop Sean P. O'Malley, O.F.M. ,Cap, Bishop of Palm Beach
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
As slavery was the great moral and ethical crisis of American History, in our own times, the worst moral blindness finds its expression in abortion. There is a sadness in my own heart that wells up each time I recall the tragic mistake of our Supreme Court in the decision of Roe vs. Wade that opened the flood gates of abortion. This egregious betrayal is akin to the Dred Scott decision in the radical way that the court devalued human life and excluded innocent human beings from the protection of the law. After three decades and millions of abortions, the danger of complacency is great.
Every Catholic must work to promote the Gospel of Life in all its facets; not to do so is to fail in our mission to make this a better world where people take care of each other and make sacrifices for the most weak and vulnerable. Our obligation to protect and nurture human life does not end when the baby is born; but the other works of mercy and social entitlements are meaningless to the baby girl who has died a victim of partial birth abortion. As a society, the first thing we can do for a child is to respect the inalienable right to life that comes to us from God and is enshrined in the foundational documents of our nation.
This year, as I have done for the last 30 years, I shall go to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and there with young people, priests and faithful veterans of the cause of life, we will pray for the end to abortion in our country and in the world. I am so proud of the fact that each year we are joined by thousands of young people who pray with us at Mary's Shrine and then walk in the March for Life. Their faith and idealism fill me with hope. They are there despite the hostility of so many advocates for abortion who want to ridicule our cause and dismiss us as "social conservatives." But the cause of life cannot be dismissed. Life is precious and the defense of life is both a privilege and a duty.
We pray for just laws that will protect human life, but we must work to change human hearts to make room at the table of life for all our brothers and sisters. A huge challenge is to change people's attitude towards adoption. We are confronted with the strange logic that somehow it is better to kill a child rather than entrust a child to a loving family. Thousands of childless couples are longing to give a home to an unwanted baby. In our Church we must celebrate adoption and support birthmothers and adoptive parents who want to give life a chance. We must build a society where every baby is wanted.
The kinds of changes we strive for demand spiritual renewal and prayer. It is in prayer that we will experience God's power and love. In prayer we shall learn compassion for the unborn child, for the mother and even for the abortionist who tramples the noble vows of the Hippocratic Oath.
We must not allow our rightful indignation over the crime of abortion to diminish our love and concern for those involved in these horrendous situations. Recall how Dorothy Day, whose cause has been presented for sainthood, in her youth opted to have an abortion after her lover abandoned her. Likewise, Dr. Nathanson the champion of NARAL and personally responsible for thousands of abortions has become Catholic and a staunch defender of human life. God's grace can turn people's lives around; we must never cease to proclaim this consoling truth.
As a community of faith we need to reach out to women who have had the misfortune to have aborted their child. We must try to help them to recover spiritually and psychologically from the violence that abortion causes women. We are grateful for Project Rachel, which has been a powerful instrument of healing for the families of aborted children.
This year by a vote of the United States Bishops' Conference and confirmation by the Holy See, it is a particular law of the Church for Catholics of the United States that January 22nd will be observed as a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through abortion and as a day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.
The liturgical calendar (Ordo) states that the Mass for Peace and Justice should be celebrated with purple vestments. It is also a day when we are all asked to fast and pray and to make sacrifices as we do during Lent. I would certainly encourage people to try to attend Mass on that day and to pray the rosary.
Even as we pray for changes in our laws and in the hearts of our fellow citizens, we must redouble our efforts to work for a more just and caring society where women will be less prone to abort their babies. We need to get the word out that our faith community stands ready to help every woman in a difficult pregnancy.
The Catholic community must stand ready to help those families that are suffering economic insecurity and are most vulnerable to "facile solutions" promised by a culture of death. We must also do a better job of preparing our young people for a vocation of marriage and parenthood.
Let me say a word of thanks to our brothers and sisters who are already working tirelessly to make the world safe for unborn children and to those who are helping women contemplating an abortion or who have already had an abortion.
We must embrace the Gospel of Life not in a spirit of self-righteousness but with humility and compassion and also with a sense of fulfilling the mission that Christ has entrusted to His disciples. Christ has not sent us to judge or condemn people but to invite them to conversion and to life.
Our quest for respect for life is not a political issue; it is a moral imperative. Life is precious at all stages, and we must be prepared to defend life through all the stages of life whenever it is threatened.
I pledge my prayers for all of you but especially for our young people that you will all be apostles for the Gospel of Life and that together we may make ours a better world; a world where human life is deemed precious and where we bear one another's burdens with compassion.
Devotedly in Christ,
Most Reverend Sean P. O'Malley, O.F.M., Cap
Bishop of Palm Beach
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