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Monday, January 23, 2012

Homily Special Edition: The Right to Life

Below are notes from a homily given this weekend.  


This day, for the thirty-ninth year, a cold shiver runs down the back of our great nation as, once again, we commemorate the supreme failure of our government to uphold the most fundamental—and dare I say, inalienable—right that has been endowed upon our race by Almighty God: the Right to Life.  I am speaking, of course, of the US Supreme Court’s 1973 decision which resulted in the legalization of abortion in the United States.

Contrary to what many think—and what I’m sure many sitting in these very pews today believe—issues of Life are not...I repeat...ARE NOT a political issue.  Government does not give life.  Politics does not give life.  In our time, fueled by pundits claiming to support the “health” and “rights” of women, lawmakers and politicians have placed human life in a strangle-hold, ransoming it for their own designs, and, in the process, denying the citizenry of the possibility of any longer adhering to a consistent Ethic of Life that Thomas Jefferson defined so eloquently in our own Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”  And yet it is that same government, “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” that restricts the very life that is ours by Divine Right.  For who but God alone can create life?  Who but God alone endowed humanity with the ability to procreate, that we might share in our Master’s joy of creating that which is good?  Who but God alone?  No man.  No woman.  No politician.  No government.  Who, but God alone?

The promotion of a consistent Ethic of Life, then, is neither the purview, nor the responsibility, of elected officials, but of those who do the electing.  And I dare say that, in no small manner, we—Catholics—are partially responsible for permitting the atrocities of abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and unjustified execution to prevail in our society.  Do the math.  Almost 25% of the electorate in this nation is Catholic.  The largest single constituency in the United States of America consists of baptized, confirmed, and professed Catholics!  

Now before anyone decides to start writing letters to the Bishop or the IRS, this is NOT a politically-driven homily.  I am not advocating one political party’s platform over another, nor offering criticism of the present or past administrations.  Because, as I have said, Issues of Life are not political issues.  They are MORAL issues.

It is the moral obligation of every Catholic to form his or her conscience according to the precepts of the Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.  This foresees—and, dare I say, requires—the assent of believing Catholics to the doctrine of the Church.  I have yet to figure out where it is written, or who started saying, that it’s OK to pick and choose which teachings of the Church you want to believe in.  It’s not OK.  In fact, it might even be said to be sinful

True, on certain issues, the Church concedes a tiny bit of latitude.  But “Catholic” is not just a label that we slap on a variety of different “belief packages” so as to include as many people as possible.  That’s not our mission!  And it is not for individuals to tailor the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Faith to their needs, desires, lifestyles, and political opinions.

To be Catholic is to uphold the dignity of all human life, from the moment of conception until natural death.  This is a moral imperative given to us not by a pope or bishop or pastor, but by God Himself.  The Church continues to grow in her understanding of social issues, but always toward a more consistent position in favor of human life.  For if we are not in favor, then we must be against!

We must never permit ourselves to be duped into submitting to political agendas, for we have a higher calling—a calling to holiness, a calling to true Christian charity, a calling to love our neighbors, and to build up the Body of Christ.  Our goal, as Catholics, must be step back from the political arena, and to decide for ourselves, based on the clear, non-negotiable, and infallible teaching of the Church that all human life is sacred.  This is our Faith.  This is the Faith that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, handed on to his Apostles, and that has been transmitted to us throughout these 2,000 years of Christendom! 

Three points, and I’m finished.

First of all, the Catholic Church is not a hate-filled institution.  Our mission is to focus on the Gospel of Life, of Mercy, of Justice.  We must vehemently oppose sin at all times—most especially those sins which are inflicted upon the most vulnerable of our society—but always with love, compassion, and pity for the sinner.  For we, too, are sinners, and have no right to judge.

Second, we must work to dispel the myths that are propagated by opponents to the Pro-Life movement through sound reasoning and true charity.  There are so many slogans that float around that make abortion seem so reasonable and tolerable.  For example, the term “Pro-Choice” is constantly bandied around, as if “choice” is a viable alternative to “life.”  But choices can be both good and bad, right?  Not all choices are healthy, nor are they safe, nor are they moral.  Some choices, while they might exist, ought not be choices at all!  The phrase “Pro-Choice” certainly doesn’t point to that which is being chosen, and it would never be applied to child abuse or violent crime.  Some choices have victims.  And isn’t it a simple and fundamental matter of justice that the desires of one must end where the rights of another begin? (h/t to Priestfor Life for these observations)

Third, to consider Issues of Life, we, as a society, must look to our past.  We have overcome so many injustices in our nation, all in favor of the dignity of the human person.  Women’s suffrage.  Abolishing child labor.  Civil Rights and the end of slavery. 

Let's look at Slavery just briefly...the enslavement, buying, selling, trading, and abuse of an entire race of people just because of the color of their skin, devalued and treated as objects and commodities, stripped of all semblance of human dignity.  Are we not doing the same thing now, with regard to the unborn, the elderly, the terminally ill, and those who do not seem to be “valuable” to society?  Can it really be said that we, as a people, have truly progressed that much at all?

I close with the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe, from her “Concluding Remarks” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin:

But what can any individual do?...There is one thing that every individual can do—they can see to it that they feel right.  An atmosphere of sympathetic influence encircles every human being; and the man or woman who feels strongly, healthily and justly on the great interests of humanity, is a constant benefactor to the human race.  See, then, to your sympathies in this matter!  Are they in harmony with the sympathies of Christ?  or are they swayed and perverted by the sophistries of worldly policy?

A day of grace is yet held out to us.  Both North and South have been guilty before God; and the Christian Church has a heavy account to answer.  Not by combining together, to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved—but by repentance, justice, and mercy; for, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!


Today, tens of thousands of people from all races, religions, economic backgrounds and demographics will march on Washington DC in the March for Life.  We owe them our prayers, that their witness will not go unnoticed.  The mainstream media will not cover this event because it does not serve their purpose or agenda.  But we know that they are there...over 200,000 of them, peacefully demonstrating on behalf not just of the unborn, but of the terminally-ill, the mentally handicapped, and all our fellow human beings who are marginalized and devalued as human persons because they are not "productive" or "valuable" to our society.  We owe them our prayers, because they speak for those who have no voice.  We owe them our prayers because they are standing up for Truth.  We owe them our prayers because we should be there with them!

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