by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
On the day this edition of The Leaven is scheduled to arrive in your mailboxes, I will be in Washington, D.C., participating in the annual March for Life, the largest, longest and most under-reported annual public demonstration in our nation’s capital.
The pro-life movement, not long ago, after 50 years of fervent prayer and hard work, succeeded in convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to acknowledge its 1973 error by overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.
Many of us hoped that this was the beginning of the end of legalized abortion in the United States. Unfortunately, beginning with the defeat of the “Value Them Both” constitutional amendment in Kansas, we have witnessed a series of states — Michigan, Kentucky, Vermont and Ohio — where voters have made abortion a constitutional right or rejected initiatives that would have expanded the legal protections for mothers and children from the horror of abortion.
After almost 50 years of court-imposed legalized abortion, Americans, when given the opportunity to vote to protect mothers and children, have chosen instead to protect the abortion industry. For many pro-life Americans, this has been beyond discouraging. Adding to the pro-life disappointment was the wide margin of young, first-time voters supporting the right to kill our own children.
When you reflect upon it, this should not be very surprising. Young adult voters have been propagandized in public education, higher education, print and broadcast media, and the entertainment industry to believe abortion is a fundamental right that is necessary for their happiness.
Even more troubling has been the violent attacks as well as the legal efforts against pregnancy resource centers that strive to surround women experiencing a difficult pregnancy with a community of emotional, medical, material and economic support. The abortion industry has abandoned the rhetoric of choice and now hails abortion as a fundamental right, encouraging postabortive women to celebrate the deaths of their children.
The culture of death appears to be winning. The Father of Lies is working hard to spread discouragement and despair for those who cherish the sanctity of each and every human life.
Certainly, the situation appears grave! However, Jesus did not promise his disciples that following him would be easy. In fact, Our Lord told his followers that if they wanted to be his disciples, they had to be prepared to carry the cross. Jesus instructed his disciples that if the civil and religious authorities spoke ill of him, rejected him and persecuted him, then they should not expect anything different or better.
This is a battle for the soul of our culture and the future of our society. It is a struggle in defense of true love and the sacredness of human life. We have truth on our side, because Jesus identifies himself as the way, the truth and the life.
The culture of death is really based on falsehoods. The first and most important of these deceptions regards the meaning of love. Our popular entertainment culture has portrayed love as nothing more than the pursuit of pleasure. We are encouraged to seek what is easy and what is pleasurable, especially in the area of our human sexuality.
However, the truth is that sexual intimacy, as revealed in our human anatomy, is designed to communicate the deepest and most profound love — love that must be committed, faithful and exclusive. Christian sexual, moral teaching is not about keeping us from experiencing pleasure but beckons us to seek authentic love. A love where what a man and woman communicate physically to each other through their bodies corresponds to the rest of their lives, expresses itself by seeking the other’s good over satisfying one’s own wants and desires.
Secondly, our human sexuality is designed to be fruitful. God offers a man and woman the incredible privilege to become with him co-creators of a new human life. With the popularization of oral contraceptives more than 60 years ago, our culture attempted to eliminate the natural fruitfulness of sexual intimacy that is incorporated into the divine design of our bodies. Oral contraceptives are a chemical attack on a woman’s natural, healthy fertility in order to make her body always available to satisfy the pleasure of a man.
Contraception, by preventing the conception of a child, attempts to eliminate one of the reasons why sexual intimacy requires an enduring commitment to each other from a man and a woman. Nevertheless, there are inevitable emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences for both the man and the woman. As much as they strive to deny the innate meaning of what they have communicated physically and emotionally to each other, the lies they tell each other result in loneliness and alienation.
In addition, there is no form of contraception that eliminates completely the possibility of a new life being conceived. Planned Parenthood’s own data acknowledges that at least 50% of the abortions they perform are on women who were using some form of contraception: thus, the need for abortion in order to be able to eliminate a new life that is inconvenient to a couple who thought they were engaged in activity for pleasure with no long-term consequences.
With the epidemic of pornography in our culture, many prefer to experience sexual pleasure without even the inconvenience of a partner. Sex is disconnected from both of its innate meanings — authentic love and generating life. The pornography industry seeks to addict our children at a young age before they are equipped to defend themselves from its alluring offer of pleasure.
The consequences of this distorted understanding of the meaning and purpose of human sexuality have had dramatic and significant cultural impacts. Americans abort, kill, almost one million of our children annually. At the same time, an alarmingly high number of children are being raised without one of their biological parents, usually the father, in their home. Cohabitation has become a cultural norm that sometimes precedes marriage but frequently does not result in marriage.
Has the pleasure of sexual intimacy without the strings of committed love or the responsibility of children made us happier and healthier as a society? The social science data reveals something quite different.
We should not be surprised by the epidemics of loneliness, anxiety and depression that plague our young people as well as older adults with the prevalence of: 1) divorce; 2) single adults with multiple sexual partners resulting in the trauma of multiple breakups; 3) many women and men living with the inevitable grief and guilt of abortion; 4) many children growing up in a home without a mother who loves their father and a father who loves their mother and together love the child who is the fruit of their love; and 5) a large number of youth and adults devoid of meaningful relationships and addicted to pornography.
The devil wants to discourage us and deceive us into believing our society is incapable of change. However, the Gospel of Jesus was first proclaimed in a pagan, materialistic culture not very different from our own. Within a few generations, the witness of the joy and authentic love of the disciples of Jesus changed and transformed the world.
Despite the defeats on ballot initiatives, I see many reasons for hope. One of those reasons for hope is the joy and enthusiasm of the young people participating in the March for Life. Though they may be a minority in their generation, many of their peers will be drawn to the source of their witness of true love, of compassion for the suffering of others and of authentic joy in the midst of life’s challenges.
I am also edified by our pregnancy resource centers and the amazing ministry of compassionate care by their staff and volunteers to rescue women and babies from the tragedy of abortion. Similarly, I am grateful for the many parishes that have embraced the Walking with Moms pastoral initiative, making our parishes islands of compassion amid a sea of indifference.
I am inspired by Project Rachel, the postabortion ministry, that brings healing and the mercy of Jesus to those ensnared by the guilt and grief of abortion. It is beautiful to witness the peace and joy that people experience when they realize Jesus loves them in their weakness and not because they are perfect.
The truth is irrepressible! The lies of the culture of death cannot stand, because they lead inevitably to sadness and despair. Our culture is longing for witnesses of the “Gospel of Life.” You and I are called to be these witnesses. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! In the end we know: Life Will Be Victorious!