Your unworthy servant had the privilege of speaking at the beginning of a forty-day vigil outside Roanoke Planned Parenthood yesterday evening… [The beginning of the talk will sound familiar to faithful weblog readers.]
Maybe we can begin with a few words, spoken in Washington by the pope, during his early-autumn visit?
I do not hesitate to proclaim before you and before the world that all human life—from the moment of conception and through all subsequent stages—is sacred, because human life is created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person. Human life is not just an idea or an abstraction; human life is the concrete reality of a being that lives, that acts, that grows and develops.
Let me repeat what I told the people during my recent pilgrimage to my homeland: If a person’s right to life is violated at the moment in which he is first conceived in his mother’s womb, an indirect blow is struck also at the whole of the moral order, which serves to ensure the inviolable goods of man. Among those goods, life occupies the first place… Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is forever…
All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ…
For us, the sacredness of human life is based on these premises. And it is on these same premises that there is based our celebration of life—all human life. This explains our efforts to defend human life against every influence or action that threatens or weakens it…
And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life. When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God.
…Okay, that was Pope John Paul II, back on October 7, 1979.
Let’s talk a little more about Pope Francis in a moment. But first, let’s ask ourselves, in light of St. John Paul II’s words, what does it mean for us to keep a vigil at a Planned Parenthood? Two thoughts by way of an answer…
1. Certainly we do it in order to pray. We believe in God, we believe in His Providence, we believe in His plan. We believe that He can work miracles, give hope, save lives. Our religion impels us to care for others and do what we can to help.
All that said, our pro-life convictions are not, in themselves, purely religious. In fact, our conviction that the innocent unborn child has a right to life actually proceeds directly from science.
During the dark days of scientific ignorance about pregnancy, people who meant well might have had a leg to stand on, if they tried to make a case for abortion as a real alternative. But now that medical advances and scientific study have revealed so much about the living being in the womb, there’s no room left in which to try to justify abortion.
Does an abortion involve the killing of an innocent human being? 100 years ago, someone might have said, “Well…we don’t really know…” But in 2015, a reasonable person can only answer, “Yes. Abortion involves the killing of an innocent human being.”
The next question automatically follows: Can anyone justify morally the deliberate killing of an innocent human being? 1000 years ago, 100 years ago, today, and 100 or 1,000 years from now, we can have only one answer to that question. No. The conscience of man always prohibits the killing of an innocent human being, no matter who the human being’s mother or father may be.
2. Which brings us to the second reason why we keep a vigil at a Planned Parenthood for forty days: because we love the mothers.
We love the mothers enough to believe that they can make the humane choice. We have enough love and enough guts to recognize that the greatest favor anyone could ever do for a woman getting ready to walk into an abortuary is to talk her out of it, to show her another path to take.
What kind of love would say to a mother on her way to have an abortion, “Go ahead. You know it isn’t right. Every calm and reasonable person around here knows it isn’t right. Your future will forever bear the weight of grief and regret. But go ahead. Walk on, to your baby’s death.”
If that’s love, I would prefer a punch to the kidney.
No. Love means wanting our neighbors to live with a peaceful conscience. We keep vigil because we know this moment need not mark an end; we know that it actually marks a beginning. A beginning of struggle and hard work, to be sure—but also a beginning of love and beauty and wonderful surprises.
If we weren’t committed to helping any mother raise her child, then we shouldn’t keep this vigil. But of course we are ready to help. We do not necessarily count ourselves among Hillary Clinton’s biggest fans. But when it comes to it taking a village to raise a child, we have no problem agreeing with her there.
In fact, our vigil declares: we villagers here care. We care, and we will help. We love you enough, fearful mothers, to believe you can do the right thing. We will stand by you as you do it.
Hopefully everyone can see that these are the values which Pope Francis wants to teach us. He has insisted on them over and over again during his visit this week.
I know I was disappointed on Thursday morning when the Holy Father did not specifically mention the innocent and defenseless unborn children during his address to the US Congress. But he did insist on their right to life when he spoke at the UN yesterday. And, listen, we have to accept and celebrate the fact that his message to us about immigrants is a pro-life message that we are bound to lay hold of, with all our zeal.
A certain presidential candidate who I will not name right now can talk all he wants about denying US citizenship to babies born here, based on whether their parents possess certain documents that can be all-but-impossible to obtain.
But if we really are pro-life, we will reply, “Sir, this baby is a child of my village, a brother or sister of mine, and if you try to force this child and his or her family to march south through the desert, you will have to get through me first. Yes, this baby is an ‘anchor’ baby. An anchor of our community. An anchor of our common future. An anchor of our American hopes and dreams. Just like the abortionist is going to have to get through me to get to this baby, so is the immigration enforcement officer.”
That must be our consistent pro-life witness. I would humbly submit to you, therefore, that when we listen carefully to our beloved Pope St. John Paul II, and to our beloved Pope Francis, then we know exactly what we are all about here. We are here to stand up for the rights of every child and mother—white, pink, tan, brown, or butternut.
May the good Lord bless you for your loving sacrifices, and may He prosper this effort. Let’s not leave it to Congress to shut down Planned Parenthood. Let’s shut the joint down ourselves by the pure, spiritual power of our loving witness to the truth.