Column: What part will you play in the great campaign for life?

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

On Jan. 22, I was blessed to be in Washington, D.C., participating in the annual March for Life. It was one of the largest of the marches in recent years. The best estimate that I heard was more than 300,000 participants. The March for Life is the longest running annual demonstration on the Washington Mall. It is by far the largest such event. Yet, the march is almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. If it is covered at all, usually more time is given to the dozen pro-abortion activists and their message, rather than the hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates.

Unfortunately, many in the secular media, contrary to their responsibility as journalists, choose not to report and to give attention to those events and activities with which they disagree ideologically. There were well over a thousand Kansans, as well as hundreds from Kansas City, Mo., who journeyed to Washington for the march, most making the arduous journey by bus.

If such a group was making a trip to Washington for almost any other cause, this would be a major news event.

In addition to the Washington march, there were many other local events throughout the country. In San Francisco, tens of thousands gathered for the West Coast March for Life. In Topeka, a couple thousand gathered at the Capitol to advocate for the protection of human life. For a news media that is desperately looking for legitimate news stories to fill air time, the media silence on the annual March for Life and parallel local events is deafening!

Many of the participants in the March for Life are young people. They enlist to attend the march because they are already pro-life. On most of the bus caravans, there is a wealth of information shared with the youth regarding life issues. Once in Washington, there are many opportunities for prayer and education in which the young people participate. Our young people come back from the march more knowledgeable about the abortion issue and with a greater commitment to advocate for life.

Many were stunned at the results of the May 2009 Gallup Poll revealing 51 percent of Americans self-identifying as pro-life, while only 42 percent calling themselves pro-choice. In 1995, the same poll showed 56 percent of Americans identifying as pro-choice and only 33 percent calling themselves pro-life. Obviously, polls have margins of error. However, even allowing for the limitations of poll accuracy, this represents a major shift in the sentiments and beliefs of Americans on abortion.

Just as so many media outlets were shocked by the recent election results in Massachusetts because they chose to believe their own reports, downplaying the opposition to both the content and the method of the health care reform proposals supported by the president and developed by the leadership in Congress, they are clueless about growing pro-life support. It seems that some in the media think, if they do not report it, it does not exist.

In many ways, this is to the advantage of the pro-life movement. It allows us to go about our educational efforts quietly and unnoticed, changing one heart and one mind at a time.

Recently, Sheila Barry — a member of the Archdiocese — sent me a report of the hundreds of pro-life presentations that she has given to thousands of adults and young people in the Archdiocese over a more than 20-year period. It serves as a good illustration of what just one person can do. While not all of us are called to do public speaking, we all can influence family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to understand the sacredness of each and every human life, no matter how young, small or in what stage of development.

In his landmark encyclical letter, “The Gospel of Life,” the late Pope
John Paul II wrote: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve today’s unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians; new, because it will be capable of bringing about a serious and courageous cultural dialogue among all parties. While the urgent need for such a cultural transformation is linked to the present historical situation, it is also rooted in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The purpose of the Gospel, in fact, is ‘to transform humanity from within and make it new.’ Like yeast which leavens the whole measure of dough (cf. Mt. 13:33), the Gospel is meant to permeate all cultures and give them life from within, so that they may express the full truth about the human person and about human life” (no. 95).

During the coming week, I ask you to pray over how the Lord is asking you, in the unique circumstances of your life, to be part of this “great campaign for life.” No one can deny the media is a powerful force shaping our culture. Yet, more powerful than any technology or mass communication tool is the truth proclaimed not only in word, but the manner in which we live our lives.

There are two maxims that give me great strength and encouragement
as I strive to do my part in this great struggle for the soul of our nation and culture: 1) The truth is irrepressible; and 2) Life will be victorious!

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