Just as the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 was a turning point for how our country treats innocent and vulnerable children in the womb, the recent ruling in Dobbs v. Mississippi is an inflection point in the opposite direction. As Catholics who believe in the God-given, irrevocable dignity of every person, from conception to natural death, we are called to respond to this new moment with faith, hope and charity in a challenging environment.
The latest issue of the Denver Catholic is fittingly dedicated to life issues and the Church’s efforts to build a culture of life in our state. The foundation for this culture is the truth that there is no one who is beyond the mercy and love of God and no condition which causes any person to lose their human dignity. The right to life is God given, not state given, and it begins at the time of conception. As Christians with a biblical worldview, we recognize that creation is good and a gift and most especially an unrepeatable human life. Yes, welcoming new life or even the trials of everyday life can be difficult, but struggles are also one of the ways that God forms our hearts and polishes our souls so that they reflect his image even more clearly. Earthly life is how God prepares us for eternal life with him.
As we seek to live out our faith in this present world, we should be looking for the ways that God is asking us to establish his kingdom more firmly, such as fostering a culture of life. Over the 45-plus years since Roe v. Wade allowed legal abortion, many Catholics in the archdiocese and around the nation have devoted themselves to making this happen. This should be a time of gratitude for the repeal of Roe, an unjust ruling that allowed millions of children to be legally killed in the womb.
At the same time, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to return the regulation of abortion back to the state level, the Church in Colorado and our pro-life allies have an uphill battle in front of us. While we can rejoice that many neighboring states will likely enact limits on abortion, the signing into law of the Reproductive Health Equity Act allows abortion in Colorado up until birth for any reason. Furthermore, it states that no embryo or fetus has rights, prior to birth. This is truly a clear rejection of the truth, goodness and beauty of human life. The aim, according to some of its supporters, is to make Colorado an “abortion destination.”
This new reality presents us with a challenge. We must prepare ourselves to welcome and support more women who are vulnerable to choosing abortion by giving them our love, prayers, and friendship, by continuing to provide excellent medical and mental health care, and by supporting them with housing and other material needs.
A Pro-life, Catholic Response to Attacks
In the wake of the draft opinion on the Dobbs case being leaked, some of our churches and both Catholic and non-Catholic pro-life centers have been attacked. We should not be surprised when this happens. In fact, the attacks speak to the effectiveness of our witness for life. As Jesus told the disciples, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. … Remember the word that I said to you … If they persecuted me, they will persecute you …” (Jn 15:18-20).
So, how should we respond when we are attacked and vilified? Jesus told us not to be surprised when we are persecuted because the Gospel exposes sins, exposes the “father of lies,” and when sin is exposed to the light it can either lead to repentance or to a hardening of heart and a descent into hatred. This is a temptation both for those far from God and for those who live the faith but are on the receiving end of evil. We must be on guard so that we do not allow evil to turn us toward hatred. Instead, we must beg God for the grace to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Cf. Mt 5:44).
We can draw inspiration for this supernatural struggle by looking to previous generations of persecuted Christians and to those who are suffering for the faith today. I was recently reading about our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who routinely bear the heavy cross of brutal attacks that have taken the lives of dozens, including the elderly and children. Just a few weeks ago, 50 parishioners were bombed and gunned down while they celebrated Pentecost at St. Francis Xavier Church in the southwestern town of Owo.
At the funeral for many of the victims, the grieving parish was encouraged not to let the tragedy crush them. “People of God,” Bishop Emmanuel Badejo said, “tragedy and sorrow, small or great, have the capacity to batter and crush us only if we succumb to them. … Today, difficult though it is, let us choose more to give thanks to God that he gave our departed brethren the life, the faith and the privilege of belonging to Him and of returning to Him even in this incomprehensible manner.”
When we suffer for protecting children in the womb, for believing that God made us male and female, for upholding the sanctity of marriage, for insisting on the dignity of migrants, for fighting racism, or any attack on the image and likeness of God, let us seek to imitate our brothers and sisters in the faith who turn to the Lord for strength and perseverance. Let us seek to also imitate the Apostles, who were whipped for preaching about Jesus and rejoiced when they were considered worthy to suffer for preaching about Jesus (Cf. Acts 5:41).
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn and the mother of Jesus, pray for us and protect us!