During the last three years an important prelude to the March for Life, in Washington, D.C., has been the Law of Life Summit.
The Summit was initiated by Royce Hood, a 2012 graduate of Ave Maria School of Law and is sponsored by the school. It is a two hour event with presentations by the movers and shakers in the pro-life movement. This year over thirty-two speakers in rapid fire succession spoke of their groups efforts on behalf of the unborn. Also, those who are working on the other end of life’s spectrum were represented. Comments on the Summit ranged from; exciting and informative to inspirational.
Over the past three years it has been my privilege to give the opening comments at each of the gatherings and to offer a closing prayer. This year I emphasized three points that pro-lifers should consider:
A Spiritual Battle
Our battle is a spiritual one. With the undeniable evidence of science, especially the ultrasound, there is no doubt that the child in the womb is a human being. How can people deny this or be so blind to this fact? Quite simply, because the Evil One has clouded their reason.
We must recall that the Bible tells us that “Man is made in God’s image and likeness.” Therefore, it behooves Satan to have that image destroyed. Each human person glorifies God by their very existence. An extermination of humans diminishes God’s glory on earth. This is why there is a stealth connection between those who favor abortion and those who promote contraception in Western Society.
The only real antidote to the destruction of innocent life in our society is prayer. It repels Satan. It also gains grace for those who battle against legalized abortion, legalized euthanasia and soon to come infanticide. Prayer enables us to become heroes for the cause for life and even perhaps saints.
Any group that does not have a prayer component in their ministry will be diminished in their effectiveness.
Never Speak Evil of a fellow Pro-lifer
Pointing out Satan’s hand in the aforementioned abominations against life, I reminded the assembled pro-lifers that Satan destroys good by dividing people of good will. Remember, Jesus prayed that his disciples “be one”. He also said A house divided cannot stand.
The pro-life movement is filled with idealistic people – and that is wonderful. However, this can sometimes lead to a break with other pro-lifers who do not see eye to eye on tactics, legislation, or with people who are not 100% pro-life. For example, there are some, especially among politicians, who want an exception for rape and incest in anti-abortion legislation. This, of course, is an oxymoron because it still legalizes the death of innocents. However, it has been shown that instead of condemning these people, we really have a wonderful opportunity to work with them and bring them to a fuller appreciation of why they should support a total ban on abortion with no exceptions.
For example, at the Summit Rebecca Kiessling Esq., who was conceived through rape gave her testimony. She is a pro-life speaker and family law attorney. Rebecca has litigated numerous high-profile cases defending pre-born human life. She expressed her gratitude to her birth mother for having her and to her adopted family for raising her. Kiessling then related how she and her group, Conceived in Rape, Targeted for Abortion, were able to move the Michigan Legislature to eliminate the rape and incest exceptions from a piece of anti-abortion legislation which was ultimately passed in the state. She also related how her group convinced Governor Rick Perry, of Texas, to remove rape and incest exceptions from his political platform.
Personal witness can and does move hearts. To write people off because they are not 100% where we want them to be is wrong. Love and patience can bring them along. Keep in mind that Blessed John Paul II in his 1995 Encyclical, The Gospel of Life, said, that we may endorse and even cooperate with legislation and with politicians who can help to decrease the negative effects of pro-abortion laws even if not 100% acceptable.
Also, what has become an increasing contentious area among pro-lifers are the “end of life issues.” Recent cases involving a thirteen year-old girl declared brain dead by five doctors in Oakland, California and the case of a pregnant brain dead Texas woman, have struck an emotional chord with some pro-lifers. Legitimate difference of opinion have been offered as to what is the proper moral course in these cases.
Pro-lifers must realize that as Christians or for that matter anyone of faith cannot be a vitalist or one who believes that life at all costs must be preserved.
While life is a very high value for Christians, it is only a penultimate good. Eternal life is the highest good. In end of life decisions this must be kept in mind. To prolong life is not always necessary or desirable. It may, in some cases, lead to despair when because of various factors, physical and psychological, the prolongation of life may lead a sick person to give up on God and his mercy.
Pro-lifers must not succumb to irrational positions. As Catholics especially, we have a long and rich tradition that uses philosophy, science, and moral theology which provide general guidelines to be applied to particular cases. Because of the nuance involved in many end of life cases those trained in these areas should provide informed opinion and guidance.
When there is a difference of opinion polite dialogue is in order, not condemnation. Too often opposing points of view take the form of an ad-hominem attacks and are disseminated for public airing on the internet. This serves no purpose other than to hurt those who are sincerely trying to discuss, in a rational way, difficult cases. It is also just what our enemies are looking for in their attempt to delegitimize the pro-life cause.
Division is the goal of the Evil-One. Do not play into his hands! Mutatis-mutandis, a famous quote of Ronald Reagan will suffice, Never speak ill of a fellow Republican, in our context Never speak ill of a fellow pro-lifer.
Pro-lifers Need Skin in the Game
Lastly, I said, that true pro-lifers must have some skin in the game. For example at theSummit a crucifixion nail was awarded to Mr. Michael Hichborn, of the American Life League.
Mr. Hichborn is responsible for performing the research that found that Catholic charities, such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and Catholic Relief Services, had given grants to organizations that support “family planning” and mainstream homosexual activity, and also funded Planned Parenthood in defiance of the dogmatic views of the Roman Catholic Church. His revelations have met with substantial resistance. But, they have also led to a more careful oversight of these organizations.
The award – a replica of a Crucifixion nail – “is an award that speaks of suffering endured”, according to John Henry Weston, Editor-in-Chief of Life Site News. He also said in his presentation of the award, “When you go out to do the right thing, it is most painful when [persecution] comes from those who should normally be on your side. When a stab comes in the back is when it’s most painful.”
Mr. Westen said that Mr. Hichborn’s investigations have “enabled activists like us to pursue the truth, to insist upon it, and to act upon it.”
“While this good fellow might not receive commendations from many, he will from us,” Westen said.
In accepting the award, Hichborn quoted Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s saying that the crucifixion of Christ becomes every Christian’s autobiography. “’The skin of Christ is the parchment, His Blood the ink, the nails the pen,‘” he said. “Now I have a pen.”
Pro-life is not an add-on activity or one that we pay mere lip-service to. If we are sincere, we must be willing to make sacrifices. Therefore pro-lifers must be willing to be uncomfortable, unwelcomed and discriminated against. They must also be willing to suffer financial loss, give up personal time for the cause and even go to jail if necessary in peaceful civil protests. They must also march in a polar vortex as many did on January 22nd, in Washington, D.C.
We are winning
It was announced by one of the speakers that a number of Planned Parenthood clinics have closed around the country (24 in 2013 alone). This fact assured everyone that our work in the cause of life is bearing fruit. But, we can never be satisfied until every Planned Parenthood site is shuttered and Roe v Wade is overturned. As Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.”
I closed the Summit with the following prayer. I hope it will be used and reflect upon by all pro-life groups.
Heavenly Father, you are the Lord of life.
You call us to cherish and protect your greatest gift in creation, men and women made in your image and likeness, from the moment of conception until natural death.
We ask you O God, to give us the wisdom of your Holy Spirit to enlighten us so that we in the pro-life movement may work together effectively for our common cause.
Give us the humility to let go of our own pet projects in order to collaborate in the greater goals of our special ministry.
Give us the courage we need to take wise risks in our effort to do your will on behalf of your children, the young, the sick and the old. Because it is only through your power that we can succeed.
We ask this in your Holy Name. Amen