Bishop Robert J. Carlson
Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
We gather from across the Diocese to celebrate Respect life Sunday. Even the vestment I wear with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of life, highlights the importance of this Mass.
We celebrate this Respect Life Mass against the backdrop of marriage and the family. The scripture readings re-affirm the indissolubility of marriage, and call husband and wife to holiness through total self-giving. In Christ’s
time this was a totally new teaching and today it is made difficult because of the absence in people’s hearts of
God whose love is strong, strong enough to conquer all fears, and to strengthen those in this unique and special way of life.
In addition to a growing number of divorces, we also see a selfishness in spouses that manifests itself in the sinful use of contraception and an anti-life mentality. Mother Teresa saw this as the first step in the culture of death. As our Holy Father said in the beautiful Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, "Concern for the child, even before birth, from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth, is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one being to another." (par. 26)
Cutting through the rhetoric, Mother Teresa made it very simple, speaking at a National Prayer Breakfast, during the days of the Clinton presidency, she labeled abortion as murder and told those assembled, including the President and Mrs. Clinton, that if they didn’t want the children she would take them!
I think that it is important that we celebrate Respect life Sunday within the context of the family, and if you don’t think we have families present here today, just listen to all the crying and wiggling and giggling during this Mass. And if there is ever a time when children should be evident it’s Respect Life Sunday – let them make all the noise
they want! "The family, which is the primary vital cell of society, and in a certain manner, of the church itself, must be a sanctuary for life." (FC 22, Vat. II AA 11 and EV 6)
I was told that the daily newspaper in Sioux Falls, the Argus Leader, called this an "anti-abortion Mass." Ah, the media…once again they miss the mark! They don’t get it. And if they don’t understand why waste the ink printing it? You see, as we know, this is so much more than an anti-abortion service. Actually, Respect Life Sunday is an invitation to be open to God’s love and to reject selfishness. It is something each one of us should do, and when we don’t, we become arrogant like the liberal media.
The abortion movement is rooted in a hedonistic mentality, unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality. It is bolstered by a self-centered concept of freedom. The Argus Leader should have done the background work. Today is much more than an anti-abortion Mass, it is people coming together to embrace God’s love and to
proclaim to anyone who wants to know that we are made, each one of us, in the image and likeness of God. We were knit in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139), and given a soul that will allow us to spend eternity with God.
The difficulty - the reason why our society has so much trouble with the pro-life movement - is because they understand everything in terms of absolute autonomy. This is actually what led our Supreme Court to find a right to privacy in the Constitution of the United States. It didn’t exist when they wrote the Constitution, it didn’t exist when the Supreme Court found it and it doesn’t exist now. Abortion was murder before they found this right, and abortion is murder today.
Often, you hear comments hurled at the Church like, "Keep your hands off my body." This type of thinking by some feminists and others allows us to reject one another, deny human dignity and makes enemies of mother
and child! When human conscience is darkened, what happens is what the Prophet Isaiah talked about in 5:20 - it allows us to call "evil good and good evil."
We live today in a sick society. Each one of us must recommit ourselves to being unconditionally pro-life. You cannot be a Catholic in good faith and vote for a pro-abortion candidate for public office when you have a choice. Regardless of your political party, you cannot be a Catholic legislator at the state level or congressman or senator at the national level and vote for abortion. Those that do, like Senators Kennedy, Daschle and Kerry are wrong, and are a scandal for the Church.
Yes, it is true that we must address all the life issues, but if you cannot survive life in your mother’s womb, you cannot make life better for anyone else. And for those looking for "Catholic-light," you should know that the doctrine on life is unchanged and unchangeable. It cannot be changed and if it were it would cry out for vengeance to almighty God.
Today, as we standup for life I would like to thank in a very special way, those who each week witness to life by praying the Rosary in front of Planned Parenthood, the death camp of Sioux Falls. I congratulate our pro-life committees across the diocese, and here at the Cathedral. I thank God for the gift of our Respect Life Office and staff and for the wonderful gift of the Mother Teresa Endowment. I rejoice with all adoptive parents, and those who are currently working on adoption with Catholic Family Services. And I reach out to all those present who bought the lie of the abortion lobby, and today grieve the loss of their child.
Abortion is wrong and stands against everything that Jesus teaches us, and yet Jesus and the Church stand with open arms to receive the sinner. We support every man and woman who bought the lie and today desire to repent. We invite you to express the truth of what you experienced, and witness to Christ’s love in your life now. Our God is a God of compassion and forgiveness and mercy.
One thing all pro-lifers understand is that we are all sinners, and but for the grace of God could have walked down the same path. We pray for the conversion of everyone in the pro-abortion movement just like the woman who initiated for Roe vs. Wade, who today has changed and become a disciple of life.
I pray for each one of you that you never forget that all of us are made in the image of God, and bear a special dignity given to us from the Creator.