Today we observe the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. This is a day that we cannot take lightly, and it is good that we begin it by celebrating Mass. We all know the issue: so many children have been legally put to death since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, millions of them, in fact. Who knows how much our world is impoverished right now because those people never got to live?
Any confessor worth his salt will tell you how devastating abortion is on people. Not just on the aborted baby; that goes without saying. But it absolutely destroys the life of the mother, and very often the father as well. As Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta has said, “Abortion kills twice. It kills the body of the baby and it kills the conscience of the mother. Abortion is profoundly anti-women. Three quarters of its victims are women: Half the babies and all the mothers.”
Abortion is not just one issue among many. It is an issue of tremendous impact, because it has torn down the morality of our great country. Listen again to St. Teresa on that issue: “But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.
“And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.
“By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.
“And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.
“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
That’s quite an earful. She delivered that address at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, an occasion at which, I’m sure, then-President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary probably wished they were someplace else. Any place.
Some object that we can’t just have anti-abortion sentiments and call them pro-life. Their point is well-taken. Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. has said: “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
But we can’t take that too far, either. As Catholics, we don’t believe in either/or morality, it’s most often both/and. We must pray to end abortion and take action to make sure the poor are taken care of. Pope Francis would say the very same thing.
Jesus says words of parable in the Gospel reading today: “But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man.” We are strong men and women, and if we let ourselves get tied up by the enormity and the rhetoric, our house will be plundered. We won’t get tied up of we pray. And so today, we must pray to end abortion, we must pray for the healing of mothers and fathers who have had abortions, we must pray for forgiveness for our societal sins that allow abortion to be commonplace, we must pray for all children, especially those in poverty, and we must pray for that one mother who right now is considering abortion because she has no one to turn to in her fear and doesn’t know how she could ever care for a child.