by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Yesterday (March 25), in the liturgical calendar we observed another solemnity during this Lenten season, the Annunciation of Our Lord.
Exactly nine months before the great feast of Christmas, we commemorate the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary. This solemnity celebrates the greatest “yes” in human history — when the Virgin Mary accepted God’s special mission for her to be the mother of the Redeemer.
One of my favorite pectoral crosses was given to me by Pope John Paul II. Lest you become too impressed, Pope John Paul gave the same cross to every bishop in the world.
Under the image of the crucified Jesus, there is a tiny representation of the Archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary God’s desire for her to be the mother of his son. This cross is a reminder that Mary’s “fiat” was crucial for Jesus to reveal the depth of God’s love and mercy on Calvary.
The life of Jesus does not begin in the stable of Bethlehem but in the womb of Mary.
The Scriptures begin the story of the Redeemer with the announcement to Mary of the conception of Jesus. This is an inconvenient truth for those who believe that the Bible is silent on the sanctity of human life within the womb of a mother.
Last year, the solemnity of the Annunciation also marked the 25th anniversary of the promulgation by Pope John Paul of his landmark encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”). The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in observing this important anniversary, launched a new initiative, Walking with Moms in Need.
The initial goal of this endeavor was for every diocese and parish in the country to assess the assistance available in their geographic area for mothers experiencing an untimely or difficult pregnancy.
The purposes of Walking with Moms in Need was for dioceses and parishes to: 1) communicate better the services that already exist; and 2) increase the concrete, practical help for mothers and their children by identifying and filling the gaps of the current assistance available to this vulnerable population.
When my father died in December of 1948 and my mother was carrying me in her womb, abortion was unthinkable. Mom received assistance from my grandparents, other family members, friends and our parish community. The entire culture supported her giving birth. My mother was surrounded by a supportive community that provided her with much needed encouragement and practical assistance.
Sadly, the current culture in our nation not only permits abortion, but promotes abortion. Notice how those supporting legalized abortion rarely speak any more about being pro-choice? Proponents of abortion no longer view abortion as a choice but rather as a right.
Beginning with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), there has been an effort to redefine abortion as basic preventive medicine. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued Catholic hospitals for medical malpractice for not providing abortion.
Similarly, if the notion of abortion gains cultural acceptance as legitimate health care, doctors will be forced to perform abortions and surgical nurses will be required to assist. The rights of conscience for medical professionals are in jeopardy.
This is what underscores the rationale of President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker of the House Pelosi to coerce every American to pay for abortions through their tax dollars.
For almost 50 years, there has been bipartisan agreement not to fund abortion with taxes. The effort to gain approval for federally tax-funded abortion realized a victory with the recent passage of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. Previous COVID relief legislation prohibited abortion funding.
Bishop Peter Christiansen of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, devised a brilliant response to this distressing development. Bishop Christenson initiated a program in the Boise Diocese that is entitled, “I Will Give Half.”
The name of the initiative comes from the episode in Luke’s Gospel (Lk 19:8) when Zaccheus, a reformed tax collector, promised to give half of his money to the poor. Bishop Christiansen encouraged the members of the Diocese of Boise, who can afford to do so, to give at least half ($700) of their Covid relief assistance to a pro-life organization.
For members of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, I wish to promote a similar effort. Specifically, I urge every parishioner to consider giving half or more of your Covid relief income to a local pregnancy resource center/crisis pregnancy clinic or to the efforts for the passage in August 2022 of the “Value Them Both” state constitutional amendment.
“Value Them Both” is a necessary response to the tragic Kansas Supreme Court decision that invented a right to abortion in our state constitution. Abortion proponents have already begun a disinformation effort about the amendment. To successfully pass “Value Them Both,” it is necessary to conduct a major educational campaign.
As we approach Holy Week, it is natural to marvel at the amazing love of God revealed by Jesus Christ, who was conceived in the womb of Mary and gave his life for us on the cross.
May the celebration of the solemnity of the Annunciation inspire us to surround expectant mothers with love and support so that they and their children not only survive but thrive.