Bishop's Column

Speak the truth, in love, about abortion

We live in confusing, and confused, times.

We live in an era where reason has given way to sentiment. Where, at the highest levels of society, emotion, self-interest and uncertainty have taken the place of logic.

We live in a time where culture and policy seem to be governed by what Pope Benedict XVI has so often called "the dictatorship of relativism."

Consider the issue of abortion. For 39 years now, since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion has been a legal procedure in every corner of the United States. Make no mistake about it—abortion is the killing of tiny human beings in the womb. But for nearly 40 years in the United States, abortion has been a legally protected right by the Supreme Court.

Abortion is not just tolerated in America. It is no longer viewed even as a tragedy. Instead, abortion—the killing of tiny and not so tiny human beings—has become celebrated as a basic human right.

Perversely, abortion is increasingly understood as a safeguard to preserving freedom. As John Paul II pointed out, in his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae": "A new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives crime against life a new and—if possible—even more sinister character ... broad sectors of public opinion justify crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom."

Consider the comments of President Obama last year, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Abortion, said President Obama, helps ensure that "our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams."

What a tragically confused perspective. In order to protect the rights of our sons and daughters, President Obama, and many more, believe that we must deny the most fundamental, inalienable and God-given right—the right to life.

Relativism has tried to convince us that abortion is a fundamental right, and that life itself is not.

Despite this tragic circumstance, we have reason for hope—namely, the work of Jesus Christ in our lives, in our families and in our country.

By God’s grace, young people are taking seriously the rights of the unborn and are working to preserve them.

The annual March for Life has seen record crowds in recent years and youth pro-life events for are more popular than ever before.

Furthermore, the charitable work of Christians is increasingly effective in helping to prevent abortions. In the Archdiocese of Denver, the work of Catholic Charities in providing support to families and the work of Gabriel House in providing resources to women in crisis is impacting many women and families who might consider abortion.

We are also renewing our efforts to reach out to women and men who have been traumatized by the experience of an abortion through Project Rachel, a post-abortion ministry of healing and reconciliation. The most recent statistics indicate that one-third of women under the age of 40 have had an abortion. And, for every abortion, there is a mother, father and other family members and friends who are seriously impacted.

In an effort to more effectively extend the healing mercy of Jesus Christ to those impacted by abortion, Regina Caeli Clinical Services of Catholic Charities will be sponsoring Project Rachel training in February for priests, deacons, spiritual directors, mental health providers and other select lay apostolates in the archdiocese.

Finally, across the country, Catholics and other Christians are committed to prayer for an end to abortion. In adoration chapels and churches in our archdiocese, prayer for life is a regular occurrence. So, too, peaceful and prayerful witness outside abortion facilities is taking place. Prayer will make the difference—"The fervent prayer of a righteous person," says the epistle of James, "accomplishes much."

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in a famous speech given in 1994 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by both houses of the U.S. Congress spoke these words: "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

Each of us is called to witness to the dignity of all human life. As uncomfortable as it might be, we are called to share our pro-life convictions with our neighbors, friends and families. We can counter the influence of relativism by speaking the truth with love—convincingly, clearly and without compromise. We need not be combative or polemical—but to be serious Christians, we need to be honest. And honesty means telling the truth, in love, about abortion.

Beyond that, each of us can join in the charitable work of the Church to end abortion. Some of us may be called to work with Catholic Charities or to join the Angel program at Gabriel House. Others may be called to other ways of opening our lives to women and families in crisis. If we are serious about ending abortion, we should also be serious about helping those who might consider this tragic choice.

Finally, each of us, at all times, is called to prayer. Please join me at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 for a special "Mass for Giving Thanks to God for Human Life" followed by a "Rosary for Life" in the Marian Garden to the east of the cathedral.

Without a doubt, we live in deeply troubled times. The ongoing presence of abortion in America witnesses that. But we do not live alone—we live in Christ. And in Christ, each of us can work together to end "the dictatorship of relativism." Together, we can hope, we can work and we can pray, for the flowering of a culture of life.

Bishop James D. Conley is apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese.

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