Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This week I will join pilgrims from the Archdiocese of St. Louis at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. As we do, the question on many people’s minds is: Will this be the year? Is this the last March for Life before Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court?
If not, then I say these two things: that it will be a great loss, but only a temporary setback.
A great loss, because more than 62 million children have lost their lives to abortion since the landmark 1973 case. The deaths of those children and the corresponding hurt inflicted on mothers, fathers, families, siblings and society is staggering.
But it would only be a temporary setback because, as St. John Paul II once asked: “Can history swim against the tide of conscience?” His own life experience told him, for a time, yes, but not permanently! Good wins out in the end. But he knew, and we know, that victory often comes only after terrible losses.
If this is the year that Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, then I say these two things: that it will be a great victory, but only a partial one.
A great victory, because we will have recognized a massive legal and cultural error.
But it would be only a partial victory for three reasons. First, because the real victory is when we walk with moms in need, help them bring their babies into the world and care for moms and babies alike. That’s an ongoing task, not the result of a legal decision.
Second, because the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us a moral methodology. In its treatment of the Ten Commandments, the Catechism begins with the direct matter of each commandment and then expands to a consideration of other things that are included by implication. The same holds true here. If we establish, in law, that innocent lives ought not to be taken by abortion, we have to go on to ask: what else is included in that judgment by implication? The victory will not be complete until all innocent lives are protected — and that is a long road.
Third and last and most deeply, because there are two perennial tendencies in the human heart, and our culture lives out of both of them. The first is: “This is your body, taken for me.” That tendency is the way of all sin — abortion, lust, stealing and so on. The other is: “This is my body, given for you.” This is the pattern of Jesus’ life, summed up in the Eucharist but also embodied in the Incarnation, the Passion, and His every word and deed. This tendency is meant to be the heart of marriage. It’s one of the ways that human motherhood is meant to make the life of God visible.
These two tendencies are both written in the human heart — one by sin, and the other by God. As long as the battle between these two tendencies continues in each of our hearts, it will continue in our culture as a whole, no matter what the Supreme Court decides.
We certainly go to the March for Life this year with a keen sense of hope! But let’s make sure it’s a realistic sense of hope. Whatever the Supreme Court may decide between this January and next, we will find ourselves with much work to do.