By Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Editor’s note. Archbishop Naumann heads the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas. This is his monthly column.
In our first reading this Sunday, the prophet Habakkuk states: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and clamorous discord.”
As we observe Respect Life Sunday this weekend and begin Respect Life Month, we can resonate with the prophet’s painful lament.
With the epidemic of violence on many of our urban streets, the horror of the sex-trafficking of many young people, the recent string of mass shootings, the legalization of euthanasia in some of our states and government-sanctioned abortion of almost one million of our children annually, we cannot help but be saddened by the violence of our culture and the numerous attacks on innocent life and the dignity of the human person.
We can easily feel overwhelmed and discouraged. We can wonder: Are our efforts to restore respect for the sanctity of human life and reverence for the dignity of the human person having any meaningful impact upon our culture and society? The devil loves to discourage us and make us feel that our situation is hopeless.
In last week’s Leaven [the Archdiocesan newspaper], there was a photo essay regarding the recent observance of national Day of Remembrance for children killed by abortion. As part of the commemoration at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, a member of the archdiocese had created a display of 160 blue and pink crosses. Each cross symbolized 500,000 of the 60 million American children killed by abortion since 1973.
The most American deaths in any of our nation’s wars were nearly 500,000 in the American Civil War. The number of soldiers killed in all wars combined throughout our history pales in comparison to the number of children killed by abortion.
Abortion remains the pre-eminent human rights issue of our time, in part because of the magnitude of the numbers of lives destroyed. However, there is another equally important reason.
St. John Paul wrote in his encyclical, the “Gospel of Life,” that abortion and euthanasia are horrific because they involve the destruction of innocent human life within the family. Abortion and euthanasia not only destroy the lives of those killed, but they also scar the human bonds of love that are most precious.
For every child that dies by abortion, there is a mother that is deeply scarred and wounded by her authorization of the killing of her child. Because of the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, all the legal responsibility for the abortion decision is placed upon the mother.
Every aborted child also has a father. Sadly, often the child’s father has abandoned the mother — or even worse, pressured her to have an abortion.
We have raised a generation of men who think their only responsibility, if any, is to help pay a portion of the cost for the abortion of their child. At the same time, if a father opposes the abortion, he is powerless to protect his child. The court gives him no say in the fate of his child.
In addition to the more than 60 million children killed by abortion since its legalization in 1973, there are even more mothers and fathers carrying deep emotional, psychological and spiritual scars because of their participation in abortion.
Not only parents are deeply impacted by abortion but also grandparents, siblings and friends who encouraged and supported the abortion decision. They, too, carry serious scars from their involvement in abortion.
Of course, the abortion clinic personnel, the doctors, the nurses and all the staff are profoundly affected by their direct involvement with the deaths of these innocent children. Pope Francis recently compared abortion to hiring a hitman to kill your own child.
Nevertheless, there are reasons for hope. Project Rachel, our post-abortion ministry, has helped many who now deeply regret their involvement with abortion to experience the healing of God’s merciful love.
For the first time in 45 years, there is legitimate hope that the current U.S. Supreme Court might reverse its 1973 decisions legalizing abortion or at least return more authority to the states to limit abortions and to protect innocent unborn children.
Our pregnancy assistance clinics also are having a real impact in significantly reducing the number of abortions by surrounding mothers in the midst of an untimely pregnancy with love and practical support to choose life for their child.
The current generation is much more pro-life than their parents and grandparents. They are rejecting what Pope Francis describes as a “throwaway culture.” They do not accept the pro-abortion propaganda that pits mothers against their children.
Thanks to ultrasound technology, the humanity of the unborn is undeniable. This past March, the movie “Unplanned,” depicting the pro-life conversion of Abby Johnson — a former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director — was viewed in theaters by large audiences across the United States.
A significant factor in her conversion was viewing an ultrasound guided abortion. Just this past August, the DVD of “Unplanned” was released.
Abby Johnson’s ministry — And Then There Were None — has been instrumental in helping hundreds of former abortion doctors, nurses and clinic employees leave the abortion industry. Today, some of the most eloquent and effective pro-life advocates are post-abortive women as well as former abortion clinic personnel.
This is an especially critical moment for our Respect Life efforts in Kansas. This past spring, our Kansas Supreme Court essentially copied what the U.S. Supreme Court did in 1973.
The Kansas Supreme Court claimed to have discovered a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution. Their assertion that the authors of the Kansas Constitution intended to create a right to abortion would be laughable were not its consequences so deadly serious.
The only way to correct the court’s usurping of the power for Kansans to determine our state’s public policy on abortion is to pass a constitutional amendment. To do so, both the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives must, by two-thirds majorities, authorize placing a constitutional amendment on a state- wide ballot, making it crystal clear that the Kansas Constitution does not contain a right to abortion.
In most of our churches this Sunday, you will have the opportunity to sign a petition to the members of the state Legislature urging them to support a constitutional amendment to remedy the actions of the court. Some parishes may choose to promote signatures for these petitions later in October.
The single most important action you can take this Respect Life month is to sign the petition urging our elected representatives to support the passage of a constitutional amendment.
What a tragedy if the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states greater authority to protect the lives of unborn children and Kansas is powerless to do so. Without this constitutional amendment, even the pro-life laws previously passed by our state Legislature are in jeopardy of being challenged in the court.
This is a moment when our legislators need to hear clearly from their constituents insisting on the right of the people of Kansas to determine public policy on abortion. This is the moment for all Kansans of good will to speak with a firm and united voice that we want our laws to protect the lives of children, not the gruesome business of abortion.
Some will claim our efforts to be political. They are not. We are not supporting any politician or political party but advocating for the most fundamental human right. Just as churches led the efforts to abolish slavery, end racial discrimination and promote civil rights, so people of faith have an important role to play in advocating for the protection of innocent human life.
We must not yield to forces of discouragement. This is the moment for all of us to intensify our pro-life efforts. We know that Our Lord has already won the victory of life and it is our privilege to participate in its unfolding in our time. Life will be victorious!