The Pro-life Counter-Witness to Roe v. Wade

The following is a column from the National Right to Life that was published yesterday. Originally it was written by Archbishop Charles J Chaput a week prior to the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade. 

Charles J. Chaput is the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and (as anyone who reads NRL News Today already knows) someone from whom I have learned a great deal and quote frequently. The following is excerpted from his weekly column and was written just prior to the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.


January 22 marks the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion on demand. Thanks to Roe, abortion has killed more than 57 million unborn children [now over 61 million] over the past four decades – the equivalent of roughly one in six living Americans; an entire generation extinguished. But alongside the killing spree, and despite the contempt of abortion activists and unfriendly media, the pro-life counter-witness of millions of Americans has also continued.

The “March for Life” this January, like every January over the past several decades, reminds the nation that killing an unborn child is never a private matter. Abortion is a uniquely intimate form of violence – but violence with bitter public consequences. Catholics eagerly join the March for Life each year because we believe in the God of life and joy; a God who creates every human being with innate dignity and rights, including above all the right to life.

What we really believe, we conform our lives to. And if we don’t at least try to conform our lives to what we claim to believe, then we’re fooling only ourselves, because God cannot be fooled. When we claim to be “Catholic” but then don’t advance our beliefs about the sanctity of the human person as the basis of law, it means one of two things.

We’re either very confused, or we’re very evasive.

All law involves the imposition of somebody’s beliefs about the nature of truth, charity, and justice on everyone else. That’s the reason we have marches, debates, elections, and Congress–to peacefully turn the struggle of ideas and moral convictions into laws that guide our common life. …

There’s a very old Christian expression that goes like this: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Are we troubled enough about what’s wrong with the world — the killing of millions of unborn children through abortion; the neglect of the poor, the disabled and the elderly? Do we really have the courage of our convictions to change those things?

The opposite of hope is cynicism, and cynicism also has two daughters. Their names are indifference and cowardice. In renewing ourselves in our faith, what Catholics need to change most urgently is the lack of courage we find in our own personal lives, in our national political life, and sometimes even within the Church herself.

Every year in these weeks between the end of Christmas and the beginning of Lent, I reflect on what the Church means when she talks about the season of “ordinary time.” Ordinary time is where we spend most of our lives — raising families, doing our jobs, helping others, making the daily choices that shape the world around us. Ordinary time is the space God gives us to make a difference with our lives. What we do with that ordinary time — in our personal choices and in our public actions — matters eternally.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote [in “The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956”], “the line separating good and evil runs not through states, nor between classes, nor even between political parties, but right through the center of each human heart, and every human heart.” That includes you and me.

Next week hundreds of thousands of good people will march for life in Washington. It’s an opportunity to prove the strength of our convictions; to show to the world what we really believe about the sanctity of human life. I’ll be there. And I ask you to join me.

Blogger’s Note: If you are planning to be in DC next week and decide to stay for the weekend, here is a post that breaks down a few worthwhile events and additional ones hosted by Priest for Life that are in DC and West Coast. 

Remembering Cardinal John O’Connor at 100

On January 15th, 1920, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor was born in West Philadelphia. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese on December 15th, 1945.

His legacy as Cardinal of New York can be described as a small fish in a big pond. Meaning that he was in the heart of a liberal state swamped by a concrete jungle from the mid-80s until his death in May 2000.

He has been an outspoken critic when it came to the destruction of human life from conception until natural death. He spoke out against unjust wars and even Rockefeller drug laws. Following a visit to Dachau concentration camp, 10 miles from Munich, Germany, O’Connor felt called and moved to find a religious institute dedicated to the sanctity of all human life to serve pregnant women and the dying. In 1991, that dream became a reality with the establishment of the Sisters of Life.

The Sisters of Life invite you to a Holy Hour/Mass in his memory at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. Learn more here.