by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Saturday, Sept. 24, I led the praying of the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet at the recently opened Planned Parenthood Clinic on Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kansas. We had competition — a woman and man, sitting in lawn chairs with a microphone and speaker system.
As soon as we began praying the rosary, she began chanting: “Mind your own business.” Occasionally, the man would intervene by criticizing us for foolishly believing in God and praying. In order to express the depth of his disdain for us, he spewed a litany of vulgarities.
About 10 days before, I had been invited to receive an award at the Missouri Right to Life (MRL) annual banquet in St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis. The featured speaker for the event was Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback.
Tebow’s parents served as Baptist missionaries in the Philippines. His mother contracted amoebic dysentery that resulted in her being in a coma.
It was discovered during her recovery that she was pregnant with Tim, her fifth child. Partially because of the side effects of the medications she was given to recover from her serious disease, doctors feared that her baby would be stillborn and recommended an abortion.
The Tebows rejected the abortion proposal. Tim was malnourished at birth but quickly made up for the problems he had in utero, becoming a star athlete at the high school and college level, and enjoying a three-year career in the National Football League.
Tim Tebow’s foundation does humanitarian work. The foundation helped to build a hospital in the Philippines and sponsors the annual event, Night to Shine, that honors young people with various physical and intellectual disabilities. A Night to Shine provides a safe prom experience for these young people.
Pro-abortion protesters picketed outside the MRL banquet. Tebow had his assistant serve refreshments to the abortion advocates. In his keynote, he reminded the assembled pro-lifers that the protesters outside were not our enemies.
In God’s eyes, the protesters — like babies in the womb and their mothers — are so precious that Jesus gave his life on Calvary for them. Tebow exhorted us that even though we vigorously disagree with their ideas, we must pray, hope and work for their conversion and enlightenment.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, issued on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, stunned legalized abortion proponents. The court’s decision was a wake-up call for abortion advocates to elevate their efforts.
No one was more disappointed than me by the failure of the people of Kansas to pass the “Value Them Both” amendment that would have restored to Kansans the ability through our elected representatives to determine public policy regarding abortion.
For one who supports the killing of children in the womb, it is a comparatively small transgression to lie to and deceive fellow citizens about “Value Them Both” as well as the gruesome impact abortion has, not only upon the child, but also the child’s mother and father, their families, friends and the abortion centers’ employees.
Normally, one would expect the secular media to fact-check the claims both sides make regarding a public policy issue. However, in the case of abortion, the secular media merely repeated and amplified the misinformation and distortions of abortion advocates.
Similarly, the secular media has largely ignored the violence and threats to pregnancy resource centers that provide free assistance and support to those experiencing a pregnancy with many challenges.
Cal Thomas, a devout evangelical Christian who had a nationally syndicated Op-Ed column, used to quip that he read the Bible and The New York Times every day — just to see what both sides were doing. I echo his sentiments, just substituting The Kansas City Star for the Times. I consider reading The Star as an exercise in oppositional research.
For those of us who support the sanctity of human life — whether it is the unborn child, a mother experiencing an untimely pregnancy, the refugee, the criminal on death row, the abortionist, etc. — we must respond to the challenge of the increased intensity of abortion advocates by deepening our commitment to proclaim the “Gospel of Life.”
This is not a moment to allow ourselves to be intimidated or bullied by those who seek not only to keep abortion legal, but to coerce every American to become complicit in the culture of death by funding abortion through our tax dollars.
Our opponents want us to believe we are an insignificant minority, even though reputable polls reveal that most Americans do not support unlimited and unrestricted abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
The most important and effective pro-life education does not happen at large gatherings, but occurs across kitchen tables, backyard fences, in employee lounges or sincere conversations with friends.
The defeat of “Value Them Both” revealed that many Kansans are confused and frightened about the abortion issue. Fifty years of legalized abortion have convinced some that our society cannot survive without a so-called right to kill our own children.
The roots for abortion and what St. John Paul called the “culture of death” go back to the sexual revolution. The harm done to marriage, family and especially children by a trivialization of sexual intimacy has been enormous.
The casualties caused by this revolution are all around us. The embracing of sexual intimacy with no responsibilities for the adults involved or the children conceived has resulted not only in nearly a million of our children killed each year, but also epidemics of venereal disease, loneliness and anxiety.
Millions of children grow up without their biological fathers. An increased number of women and children live in poverty. Many young women are given contraceptives by parents and doctors, assuming they are not capable of chastity.
Children are being targeted by the pornography industry to become early adopters. Millions of American adults are addicted to pornography, harming marriages and removing love from sex.
Record numbers of young people are confused about something as fundamental as their gender. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the societal cost of so-called free love.
We are engaged in a spiritual battle and surrounded by many wounded victims. We must not retreat from the battlefield. As Pope Francis reminds us, the church is a field hospital. It is our mission to bring as many of the wounded as possible to experience the merciful and healing love of Jesus.
I continue to wonder about the woman at Planned Parenthood chanting, “Mind your own business.” What motivates her? She is not following her own advice. Why should she care if there are people peacefully praying outside an abortion mill? What is it about our efforts to protect children and care for mothers that offends her? She is not our enemy. She is one of the walking wounded for whom we need to pray and to love.
As we begin Respect Life Month, let us ask the Lord to give us renewed strength, wisdom and courage to build both a civilization of love, where authentic and virtuous love will characterize our families and friendships and a culture of life where every human life will be treasured as one for whom Jesus gave his life on Calvary, one for whom the Son of God suffered and died.