‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that’: Coloradans march to celebrate life

After a cold, snowy morning, thousands of Catholics from the Archdiocese of Denver gathered Jan. 12 to participate in the Celebrate Life March at the foot of the Colorado State Capitol — the place that first allowed for the legalization of abortion in the United States over 50 years ago — seeking a renewed respect of the most fundamental right: the right to life.

Calling to mind that Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion, David Bereit, the event’s emcee, and co-founder and former C.E.O. of 40 Days for Life, motivated the faithful to continue fighting to undo the evil that had begun in the same building that oversaw their gathering.

“Even though lives continue to be lost to this very day, we have seen, through the prayers and efforts of faithful people here in Denver, throughout Colorado and around the nation, the tide is turning for life,” he said, assuring that from the 2,200 abortion clinics that were present in the country at the pinnacle of the abortion industry in 1992, fewer than 600 remain. 79 percent of abortion centers closed their doors and went out of business, in great part due to the action and prayers of pro-life advocates.

“The abortion rate continues to drop… Americans self-identify as pro-life by the largest majority since Roe v. Wade. More pro-life laws have been passed in the States over these last three years than the previous 30 years before that… We realize that the days of Roe v. Wade are numbered. Abortion is going to end! Our work is not yet done, and that’s why we gather here,” Bereit continued. “What began here in this place, must end here in this place.”

This year’s Celebrate Life March also comes at an important time in the political realm of the State of Colorado, as the November midterm elections saw the defeat of legislators who were in support of key areas of Catholic teaching regarding the dignity of life.

The Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila impelled the participants to stay faithful to the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person. (Photo by Brandon Young)

The Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila urged the participants to be a light in the darkness in the public sphere to defend the dignity of life from conception until death.

“In this past midterm election, some of those lawmakers who were in support of the Church’s teaching in these key areas, failed to win their seats, which makes our task today of remaining vigilant and engaged all the more important. And it is you, the laity, who need to make your voices heard,” he said.

The prelate also called for the repeal of the death penalty in Colorado, which he assured was unnecessary; and, quoting Pope Francis, spoke against the idea that the Catholic Church must accept the many of these laws under the banner of progressivism.

“‘The internal consistency of our message, the message of the Church and of Christ, about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position in this question. It is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.’ Our legislators need to hear those words. The Catholics in our pews need to hear those words. The media today would never report on those words of Pope Francis,” Archbishop Aquila assured.

The rally also counted with the presence of Elizabeth Felix, a college student and leader of Students for Life, who insisted that being pro-life meant being pro-woman, pro-man and pro-child; the McGarity family, who spoke for the dignity of children with Down Syndrome; and Elías Moo, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Many Catholics from the state of Colorado gathered to celebrate the gift of life by the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, Sat., Jan 12. (Photo by Brandon Young)

In a bilingual speech in English and Spanish, Moo highlighted the importance of fighting for the right to life, especially for Christians.

“Our duty to our neighbors, even those who disagree with us, is to serve the common good of our society by defending the most vulnerable and fighting against the culture of death. For we’re fighting for the most fundamental right of all, the base of all other rights: the right to life,” he stated. “We love life because we love Christ.”

Marching with joy

For the second year in a row, women from ENDOW (Education on the Nature and Dignity of Women), a Catholic apostolate that helps women come together and learn about their faith and dignity, set the pace of the March. But this year, the representatives were five young Hispanic ladies wearing their colorful quinceañera dresses.

Members of the Catholic group ENDOW led the march wearing their quinceañera dresses to testify that the support for life and women go hand-in-hand. (Photo by Brandon Young)

“They are the champions of life. They are right in that age group where they can say, ‘This is what it means to be a woman, and this is how I can protect life starting now,’” said Marcela García López, Program Growth Coordinator for ENDOW. “Planned Parenthood and other organizations say that minorities need abortion because there is a lot of poverty or because of [the many] troubles that they go through. But actually, look at these girls. They can say yes, and they can challenge that.”

“A life is a life. It doesn’t matter if it was an unplanned pregnancy or not,” said Litzy Morán, one of the participating quinceañeras, who believes that many young women would choose life if they had someone they could talk to about their fears of an unplanned pregnancy.

Among the many participants waving flags and banners, a group of medical students and doctors wearing white lab coats also sought to bring the message of life to the public.

“We have been trying to bring the concept of life to the medical campus for the past six or seven years, which is basically taken over by the culture of death with abortion teaching… through lectures and seminars to students on life issues, including Natural Family Planning” said Dr. Francisco La Rosa, Associate Professor in Pathology and Faculty Sponsor for the student group Catholic Medical Association at Anschutz Medical Campus.

The march was accompanied by the performance of folkloric dancers and a mariachi band. (Photo by Brandon Young)

As the crowd joyfully marched on the downtown streets of Denver, and was met with varied reactions from those observing, Martin Luther Jing Jr.’s words, quoted by Archbishop Aquila in his speech, seemed to resound with greater clarity: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Dr. Francisco La Rosa’s name. We apologize for the error.

COMING UP: Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

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Seeking justice, transparency and accountability, archdiocese voluntarily enters agreement with Colorado attorney general

Initiatives include independent investigation and independent reparations program

Mark Haas

With a desire to “shine the bright light of transparency” on the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has announced that the three Colorado dioceses have voluntarily partnered with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children.

In a joint news conference on February 19 at the attorney general’s office, it was also announced that the three dioceses will voluntarily fund an independent reparations program for survivors of such abuse.

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” said Archbishop Aquila. “While this process will certainly include painful moments and cannot ever fully restore what was lost, we pray that it will at least begin the healing process.”

It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Discussions for these two initiatives began last year with former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and then finalized recently with Weiser. Both Coffman and Weiser praised the dioceses’ willingness to address this issue.

“It is well known that child sexual abuse is a societal problem that demands attention and action,” said Weiser. “I am pleased the Church has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for victims.”

Coffman added: “Childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution or to the Catholic Church. The spotlight is on the Catholic Church, but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on what has happened.

“[The dioceses] demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”

The independent file review will be handled by Robert Toyer, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. His final report is expected to be released in the fall of 2019 and will include a list of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors, along with a review of the dioceses’ handling of the allegations. The report will also include an evaluation of the dioceses’ current policies and procedures, something that was not included in other states’ reviews, such as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

“We in Colorado have found our own way in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report,” said Weiser. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, alongside Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, speaks during a press conference announcing a comprehensive joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on February 19, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

“This is not a criminal investigation. This is an independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church,” said Weiser.

Since 1991, the Archdiocese of Denver has had a policy of mandatory reporting of all allegations to local authorities. The procedures were further strengthened by the 2002 Dallas Charter to include comprehensive background checks, zero-tolerance policies, safe environment training, and training for children as well.

“This independent file review presents an opportunity for an honest and fair evaluation of the Church in Colorado’s historical handling of the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” said Archbishop Aquila.  “We are confident in the steps we have taken to address this issue and that there are no priests in active ministry currently under investigation.”

We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table to develop appropriate solutions that are collaborative, committed to transparency and put victims first.”

The independent reparations program will be run by two nationally recognized claims administration experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who will review individual cases and make financial awards to victims who elect to participate. The victims are free to accept or reject the award, but the Colorado dioceses are bound by what the administrators decide.

The program will have oversight provided by an independent committee chaired by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown. More details will be announced in the coming months, and the program will officially open closer to the release of the final report.

This is similar to a program instituted by former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in 2006. Archbishop Aquila said it is important for local Catholics to know the program will be funded by archdiocesan reserves, with no money being taken from ministries or charities at parishes, annual diocesan appeals, or Catholic Charities.

“With humility and repentance, we hope the programs announced today offer a path to healing for survivors and their families,” Archbishop Aquila said.

And acknowledging how painful this has been for everyone in the Church, Archbishop Aquila said he hopes this is step towards restoring confidence among the faithful.

“Helping people to restore their trust, to live their faith, that is essential,” said Archbishop Aquila. “And to help them have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, so that is my goal in all of this. I know that healing is possible in Jesus Christ.”

For a copy of the full agreement and a detailed FAQ, visit archden.org/promise.