Archive for the ‘Sisters of Life’ Category

The Battle is Far From Over

Friday, January 25th, 2019

The catastrophic enactment of the Reproductive Health Act has left pro-lifers, both in New York and beyond, feeling numb, angry and dispirited. The bill legalizes abortions up until the moment of birth, allows non-doctors to do abortions, removes any legal penalty for a domestic violence attack against an unborn child, and eliminates protections for babies born accidentally in an abortion. Perhaps the better name for the law is the “Guaranteed Dead Baby Act”.

It was the most devastating defeat for the pro-life cause in New York since the original legalization of abortion in 1970 and the failure to repeal the law in 1972. It came at the end of twelve years of fighting, in which we were able to hold off the passage of various versions of the law, including one specifically drafted by the Governor’s office and slipped into his budget. But after last fall’s election, which swept away the GOP control of the Senate, the passage of the bill was foreordained.

We never gave up – our bishops issued strong statements of opposition, we sent information to our parishes, our allies in the Evangelical churches fought hard, and about 40,000 emails were sent to the Legislature through the Catholic Conference’s Action Center. But elections have consequences. If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now. This is what happens if Catholics, other Christians, and all good people fail to make life a priority in their voting decision. And that means voting only for pro-life candidates and refusing to vote for anyone who favors legal killing of unborn children.

The injury was compounded by the insult of Governor Cuomo’s celebratory mood, climaxed by his decision to have state facilities lit up in pink to mark the passage of the bill. The obscenity of that decision is best seen in the lighting of the Freedom Tower’s pinnacle in pink. Remember, the Freedom Tower is built on a grave – the last resting place for the victims of 9/11, which included several unborn children. Every day in the United States, more children are aborted than the number of people who were murdered on 9/11. The Governor took a war memorial that belongs to all Americans, and perverted it into a beacon of the Culture of Death.

But the battle is far from over. The pro-abortion advocates who pushed for this horrific bill are powerful, rich and arrogant. They think we’re going to give up or that they can force us to conform, but they’re seriously mistaken. We will never stop working to create a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love. So what do we do now? Here are some thoughts.

The real question of abortion is not up to any legislature or governor. It will be decided one pregnancy at a time. The pro-abortion message relies on fear of all kinds — losing autonomy or lifestyle, the opposition of families, abandonment by the baby’s father, and so on. Every pregnant woman’s situation is unique, and we must be ready to respond to them as individuals, not as puppets in a political theater, and help them through their fears to hope and joy.

This is where our pregnancy assistance programs are so important. We clearly need to make a massive new investment in supporting pregnant moms and post-natal moms and babies. We have many great pregnancy support initiatives. One example is the wonderful Mother Theresa Home in Buffalo. Another is the Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life. There are many, many more.

These pregnancy centers are in the cross-hairs of the pro-abortion movement, which desperately wants to shut them down. After all, they can’t handle it if women actually hear the truth and feel the love of people who will support a decision for life. The Supreme Court recently upheld the free-speech rights of  pregnancy centers, but they didn’t resolve the issue definitively. We expect further legislative and enforcement threats to the centers, so we have to be ready to defend them.

That leads to another key issue – the protection of religious liberty and conscience rights. Our resistance to abortion is grounded in the truth. We can never compromise with lies, and we can never permit anyone to force us to accept them. New York already has robust anti-discrimination protections for people who oppose abortion for religious or moral reasons. But people don’t know their rights and the government isn’t going to tell them. A major publicity campaign has to be undertaken to ensure that people know that they don’t have to knuckle under to the pressure to cooperate in abortion, and that they can’t be punished for their religious beliefs. This can lead to a wonderful legal irony – filing complaints and making our hostile state and local governments enforce the anti-discrimination laws to protect us.

We also have to keep our eyes open for the next big pro-life battle front – this time, at the other end of life. We are not a one-issue movement that only cares about abortion. There is a serious, well-funded and relentless effort to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, and they have set their sights on New York. This battle has been going on for a while, but it’s going to move to center stage now.

This is a spiritual battle, not just against political adversaries but against the powers and principalities (see Eph 6:11-18). On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Cathedral of St. Patrick was filled for a Holy Hour and Mass for life. The Holy Spirit uplifts us, even in our dark hours, and nothing can prevail against Him. We have to convert our anger against this bill and its supporters into prayer. Remember what Jesus told us: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The rich and powerful people in our society like to call themselves “the resistance” because they oppose the President and march wearing silly hats. But they’re just oligarchs in exile who want to recapture power. We are the real resistance. Our goal is not power, but conversion of heart for those who are appalled by injustice. Our message is “come, join us”, and not “we will force you to agree”. The most important tactic is our willingness to testify to the truth by our words and our actions, and our refusal to cooperate with injustice and lies.

We are in the epicenter of the Culture of Death, so if anyone really wants to fight it, this is the place. It’s easy to be pro-life in the deep red states, where they’ve already enacted every pro-life law imaginable and there are few abortion clinics. If you want to go where the action really is, come to New York.

We will never give in to the Culture of Death. We need to keep on our lips the brave words of the prophet Daniel when he stood up against the powerful people who wanted him to conform: “Be it known to you, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the [pink] image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:18). Amen to that.

On the Precipice of Abortion Expansion

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

With the beginning of the new session of the New York State Legislature, we are now on the verge of having the most radical and extreme abortion law in the United States, if not the world. It’s the latest version of a bill that we have been fighting against for over a decade, the “Reproductive Health Act” (S.240/A.21). It’s more aptly called the “Abortion Expansion Act”.

The leaders of our Legislature, thanks to the wide majority of newly-elected Democrats, are totally committed to passing this bill as soon as possible. The Governor, whose appetite for abortion expansion seems to have no end, has pledged to have it pass this month and has even gone so far as to promise to have the New York State Constitution amended to enshrine abortion as a basic right. Barring a miracle, the bill will be signed into law later this month.

How much more abortion do our elected officials want? There were over 82,000 abortions reported in 2016 (the most recent official statistics). We already have highest abortion rate of any state —double the national average. Over 1,700 of these abortions took place at 20 weeks gestation or later – after a baby can feel pain. In over 2,600 abortions, the mother had at least five previous abortions. Do we really want even more of that suffering and death?

As New York is about to plunge even deeper into the Culture of Death, we must be very clear about what this bill would do:

It is designed to allow more late-term abortions — killing babies through all nine months of pregnancy.

The promoters of this legislation frankly admit that its main goal is to expand late-term abortion.  Current state law already permits abortions through 24 weeks of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever, but only after that if it is necessary to save a woman’s life.  This bill would permit a “health” justification for late-term abortions. But the term “health” has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include pretty much anything related to a woman’s physical, psychological, emotional health, including things like age and economics.

In other words, it’s such a broad term that this bill will allow abortion for any reason whatsoever at any time during a pregnancy even up to the moment of birth.

It would allow non-doctors to perform abortions.

New York law right now is clear that only licensed physicians can do abortions. This bill would eliminate that requirement, by allowing the state government to permit other health care professionals to do abortions — which could include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, as well as other non-physicians. Let’s say that again so it’s perfectly clear — this bill would allow people to do surgical abortionswho haven’t gone to medical school, haven’t served as an intern, haven’t done a medical residency.

That’s how extreme this bill is. And that’s exactly the goal of the advocates — because so few doctors want to get involved in the grisly business of killing children, they want to expand the pool of potential abortionists.

It is designed to guarantee a dead baby.

Currently, New York law gives full legal protection to any child who might be born alive as the result of an abortion, which can happen during a late term abortion. It also requires that a second doctor be available during a late-term abortion to care to a child born alive. This bill would repeal these protections, leaving a child born alive at the mercy of the doctor and staff who were just minutes ago trying to kill her. We’ve seen how that turns out, thanks to the horrific Kermit Gosnell case from Pennsylvania.

How callous have we become that we are passing a bill that would permit – and even require – doctors to stand by and let a baby to die of neglect?

It will leave women and babies vulnerable to back-alley abortions and domestic violence.

This bill would completely decriminalize any kind of abortion. Currently, the crime of “abortion” is the only way to prosecute unlicensed abortionists, people who coerce women into having an abortion, and domestic violence attacks against pregnant women that are intended to harm the unborn child. These crimes happen all the time. Just last month a man in upstate New York was arrested after pushing his fists into the belly of a 26-week pregnant woman to try to cause a miscarriage. This bill would give him a free ride for such a heinous act.

At a time when violence against women is being given so much more scrutiny, how can our legislators be so blind as to pass such a bill?

It could compel health professionals and institutions to cooperate in abortions.

The bill declares that abortion is a “fundamental right,” and that the state may not “discriminate, deny or interfere with” this right. The result may be that doctors and other health providers may be required to perform or refer for abortions or risk losing their license to practice. This has happened in other countries and there’s no reason to think that it couldn’t happen here. Medical facilities, even religious ones, could be also be forced to allow abortions on site or risk fines, penalties, or loss of licenses.

So much for the “right to choose”.

What can we do about this?

First, please contact your legislator and urge them to reject this radical bill. The easiest way is to use the New York State Catholic Conference’s Action Center.

Second, we need to step up our efforts to support women who are pregnant and are at risk of choosing abortion. A wonderful example of this is the Sisters of Life Visitation Mission. We also need to reach out to the women who have had abortions and now need healing. Two great programs are the Sisters of Life Hope and Healing Mission and Lumina.

Third, we need to pray. For conversion of heart of our elected officials and advocates for abortion. For hope and support for pregnant women. For an increase in a culture of sexual purity and respect for the sacredness of every human life. For God to withhold his hand of judgment against our wicked society.

New York, and indeed our entire society, is on the precipice. In times past, society looked the other way when unwanted children were abandoned or killed. With this Abortion Expansion Act, we are reverting to a state of barbarism.

The Sisters of Life Speak Out

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Today, the Sisters of Life issued a statement against the iniquitous HHS mandate that all health insurance plans cover sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortions).  This is an important contribution to the discussion, because it presents a problem with the mandate (and with the health care reform law in general) that has not adequately been considered — the effect on individual religious sisters, brothers and priests.  Here is the statement, with a particularly important passage emphasized by me:

The Sisters of Life join with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and leaders of many other religious communities, in strongly objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services rule for “preventative services,” and the “compromise” announced by President Obama regarding religious liberty.  This mandate will gravely violate the individual and collective religious liberties of the Sisters of Life and millions of others by forcing us to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception against our conscience.

The Sisters of Life is a religious community of consecrated women, founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor. Ours is a religious community founded in the United States of America by a priest who dearly loved this country, and served as a Rear Admiral and Chief of Chaplains in the United States Navy. We, too, love our country. We are grateful to be a part of its proud history, for the generosity and valor of so many who call this nation home, and for the possibilities that arise from living authentic freedom within a pluralistic society. Yet now we are faced with a government decision that is not only a grave affront to the religious liberty and rights of conscience of every citizen of the United States, but also an offense to each Sister of Life in a particular way. Every professed member of our community takes a special vow “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

In response to a call from God and to the sheer beauty and goodness of the gift of life, each Sister dedicates herself to God that all people might come to know the precious gift of his or her life, and that every human life be protected and received as an unrepeatable icon of the living God. To this end, we defend vulnerable human life in the womb from the moment of conception, supporting and upholding mothers in need through emotional, spiritual and material support during and after their pregnancies.  Because the gift of life is intrinsically linked to love, we also affirm and fully support the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church regarding marriage and sexuality. This includes an understanding that sterilization and contraception are gravely against God’s plan for human life and love, and we believe, in the end, are false promises that undermine the peace and freedom in commitment that are fruits of authentic human love.

Our special fourth vow, made in a solemn and sacred ceremony and binding on us in conscience and in the laws of the Church, is at the heart of our identity as a religious community, and is a profound expression of the religious and spiritual commitment of each of our Sisters. This new rule pays no heed to our right to live according to our vows.  Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act each of us will be required by law to obtain health insurance, or face fines.  Since this HHS mandate will require every insurer to include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception, we will not be able to obtain any coverage that is free from those “services,” and we will be forced to pay for them directly.  Since we are neither employers, nor employees, of any religious institution, we cannot even take advantage of the “religious exemption” contained in the new regulations or the “compromise.”

As a result, this mandate would coerce each and every individual Sister of Life to betray her religious vows.  We will be forced to pay for “services” that attack human life and deny the truth and beauty of human sexuality.  This would directly contradict our special religious vow to “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life,” and go against everything we believe in and have devoted our lives to.  To us, it would be comparable to a law requiring a spouse to violate their marriage vows — an unthinkable intrusion upon a sacred promise.

This mandate is an offensive and dangerous infringement upon the natural and Constitutional rights of American citizens. The only just solution to this infringement of rights is to rescind the HHS rule.  We call upon members of Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible, and we invite our fellow citizens to join with us in prayer and fasting that our Nation may be protected from this great threat against liberty.

The statement can be found at the Sisters’ website.  While you’re there, check out the wonderful work being done by the Sisters, and consider — what kind of society have we become, where our government would seek to force such women to be unfaithful to their vows? Can any of us think of a more egregious violation of the fundamental human right to religious freedom?

A Call to Action

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Last week, a very important press conference took place, in response to the recent release of statistics on abortion in New York City.

Anyone with a conscience should be shocked by the horrifying numbers in the report:

  • 41% of all pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion — 87,273 abortions;
  • In the Bronx, 48% of all pregnancies ended in abortion;
  • 60% of African American pregnancies ended in abortion;
  • Among Blacks, there are far more abortions  than live births — for every 1,000 live births, there are 1,489 abortions;
  • Among teens of all other ethnic groups, for every 1,000 live births, there are 1,288 abortions;
  • This is not just an issue with teen pregnancy — 54% of abortions were with mothers in their 20’s, 30% were with mothers in their 30’s or 40’s;
  • These statistics were analyzed by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a private group that has committed to working to support pro-life initiatives, particularly pregnancy support efforts. They have set up a website, NYC 41 Percent, to publicize this effort.

    The press conference was most significant because it called together a group of interfaith leaders — Catholics, Protestants, Jews, whites, blacks and Hispanics — who all pledged to work to offer pregnant women real choices.

    For his part, Archbishop Dolan re-issued Cardinal O’Connor’s famous pledge to offer support to any pregnant woman in need.  For his remarks at the press conference, see here.

    Catholic Charities is already doing a great deal to fulfill that pledge, and the Sisters of Life do heroic work to help pregnant women and those who have already given birth.  The various pregnancy support centers in the City, and many faith communities are working miracles.  These efforts are certainly worthy of support.

    But they’re not enough.  More must be done.

    At Mass I attended this morning, the celebrant read the Archbishop’s press conference statement in his homily, and called to mind a story from his earlier days as a construction worker.  When things were slow, and the workers were idle, the foreman would tell them, “This isn’t a spectator sport”.

    Just so.  Preventing abortions is not a spectator sport.  The decision to have an abortion, all too often, is made by a woman who feels afraid and isolated, with nobody to support or help her.  That means that all of us, in our families, parishes, and communities, can prevent abortions by giving practical and emotional support to the women in our lives.  No woman should ever go to an abortion clinic because she feels alone.

    That’s a call to action for us all.

    An Ugly Attack on the Sisters of Life

    Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

    One of the pro-abortion movement’s propaganda websites has put up an attack on the Sisters of Life, of all people.  The crux of the piece is a bizarre accusation that the Sisters are prospering while other Church agencies that care for the poor are suffering for funds.

    (You’ll have to take my word for the content of the piece — I refuse to link to such a thing.  If you want a thorough demolition of the article, though, you should check out this by the invaluable Kathryn Jean Lopez)

    I am offended by this hit-job for several reasons.  First, of course, is that I work with the Sisters and I love them, and so I take it very personally when their honor is impugned.  Second, I was offended by the sheer number of classic anti-Catholic canards that the author managed to fit in one piece.  And finally, the author had the nerve to quote one of my blog posts — including citing me by name — and I just can’t stand the nerve of using my words in the context of any criticism of the Sisters.

    The blind animus of the piece is shown by its indifference to basic facts.

    One big falsehood underlies the piece — the implication that the Sisters of Life  are fat-cat real estate barons. The funny thing is that the Sisters don’t own anything, much less a land empire.  All their convents are owned by parishes or by the Knights of Columbus, who have invited the Sisters to live and work in them. They also live a serious life of poverty.  If you ever want to see the evangelical counsels in real life, just spend some time with the Sisters (or drive with them in one of their second-hand cars!)

    I also found what the article didn’t say about the Sisters to be as revealing as what it did mention.  There was no reference to the wonderful and compassionate post-abortion healing work done by the Sisters — that subject, of course, is totally taboo for the pro-choice crowd, who deny that there are any consequences to abortion.  Nor is there any comment about the Sisters’ Visitation Mission, which gives poor pregnant women the kind of pragmatic help that they need  — referrals to social services, help with medical appointments, diapers, maternity clothes, and just plain friendship.  To do so, naturally, would undermine the absurd “rich nuns are indifference to the poor” meme.

    The oddest thing about the piece was this accusation that the Sisters don’t care about the poor. And the evidence of this is… well, nothing except some mind-reading.  Could it be that there’s a little projection going on here, some guilt by the pro-choice crowd whose only “care” for the poor is to pump them full of contraceptives and kill their babies?  It certainly has no relationship with reality on the Planet Earth, where we see the Sisters caring for economically disadvantaged women every day — not to mention the poorest of the poor, the innocent unborn.

    The whole piece is perfect evidence of the totalitarian mindset of the Cult of Moloch, particularly their absolute intolerance of anyone who disagrees with their dogma of child sacrifice.  The irony is that, as always, every accusation they make against pro-lifers is actually true about themselves.

    The Cult of Moloch must be feeling a little desperate these days, if they’re resorting to attacks on the Sisters of Life, on the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

    A Gala Event, and Why It Matters

    Monday, April 19th, 2010

    On Friday night, my wife Peggy and I had the privilege of being the guests of the Sisters of Life at their annual Dinner Gala at the Union League Club.  It was a black tie affair, organized by the Friends of the Sisters of Life, and its goal is both to raise some money for the Sisters’ efforts, and also to offer an evening of fellowship for those who share and support their mission.  But it has a significance far beyond being an enjoyable evening on the town with my lovely wife.

    It’s not news to anyone that our society is deeply mired in what Pope John Paul called a “culture of death”.  The threats to human life from the moment of conception until natural death are everywhere for us to see.  Just in the newspaper today we read of the terrible imbalance between boys and girls in China, the result of sex-selection abortion.  And we have reviews of an upcoming special movie on cable TV,  a favorable profile of Dr. Kevorkian, the killer of dozens of elderly and sick people, under the duplicitous charade of “assisted suicide”.

    The Sisters, because of their special charism to protect and defend human life, are a significant counter-sign to the culture of death.  And their friends at the Dinner, who share this mission and love for life, joined them in proclaiming the truth of the dignity of every human life.

    We also see throughout our culture a trivialization of sex and a denial of the values of authentic femininity and masculinity.  Nobody can turn on the television or pick up a magazine or newspaper without having distorted sexual images and values thrust upon them.  And daily we see the consequences of sexual nihilism.

    The Sisters, because of their open witness to religious life, are a powerful counter-sign to the culture of libertinism.  Their commitment to virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of God helps us to clarify our own understanding of authentic sexuality.  Their beautiful testimony to authentic femininity makes it easier for women to be what they are called to be, and men to be what we are called to be.  We certainly saw this at the Dinner, with so many wonderful young men and women who were living lives of virtue and joy.

    At this time in particular, our Church is under attack, not least because of the sins of Her children.  As at many times in history, the weaknesses of fallen men and women are a scandal, contradicting the message and mission of the faith.  Sadly, our sins are driving others away from the only Person who can heal them, Jesus Christ himself.

    And here is, in my opinion, the greatest significance of the Sisters.  At every point in Her history, when reform and renewal have been necessary, the proper and essential response has never been to simply enact more laws and more procedures.  The answer has never been to change the gender of those in high Church offices, or to open up positions of authority to lay people as such, or to relax some disciplinary rules like celibacy for the clergy.

    The only answer to the need for reform and renewal, today as always, has been sanctity.  Holiness is the only way for the Church to restore her bridal beauty, so that She may be presented to Christ the Bridegroom “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5: 27).

    And this is why the Lord has called forth the Sisters of Life, and other dynamic religious communities like them — to be beacons of sanctity, to encourage all of us to holiness, and to pray for an increase in devotion and fidelity among God’s people.

    So, yes, it was a gala event, and everyone had a wonderful time.  But nobody could miss the deeper meaning, and why it matters so much.

    The First Principle is God

    Saturday, March 13th, 2010

    On Tuesday, over a thousand Catholics from across the state traveled to Albany for the annual Catholic Conference Public Policy Forum Day.  The goal of the day is to give witness to our faith in the public square, and to advocate for some important issues of concern to the Church and to individual Catholics.

    It’s a long and frustrating day, and it would be easy to get cynical and give up on our State government.  But for me, there were two highlights of the day that are worth reflecting on, that keep me hopeful and optimistic.

    In the morning, Archbishop Dolan led a workshop on Catholic Social Teaching.  There have been many outlines of the social teachings of the Church, in an attempt to make them more accessible to people.  (Full disclosure:  I even wrote a small book about this subject)  And the Archbishop did an excellent job, in just a few minutes, to lay out the basic principles:  the innate dignity of every individual human person, made in the image and likeness of God;  the common good; solidarity; subsidiarity; and the duty to bring God’s truth into the public square.

    But what was striking was how he started the discussion.  He said that “the first principle is God”, and that we must always remember that God’s way, and His law, must have dominion over our lives and our world.

    That is a truly radical proposition, and it’s the heart of what we as Catholics must do when we stride into the public square.  We are never there to advance a purely partisan agenda, or to act on a theory of economics or social organization.  We’re there to convince the world of the dominion of God, that He must always be our guiding star, and that we are His servants.  It was the perfect way to kick off a day in which we would be going to the Capital Building to talk to our representatives about legislation.

    The other highlight, for me, was the privilege of walking the halls of the Legislature with the Sisters of Life.  We went on a tour of the Capital Building, which is a whitewashed tomb, outwardly beautiful but filled with corruption within.  But we were there not just to see the sights, but so that the Sisters could be seen.   They don’t have to say a word to a legislator or to an aide, give a quote to a reporter, or have their picture taken.  Their presence alone is a witness to the King of Kings.  Merely walking through the hallways was an evangelizing moment.

    And everyone there recognized it.  One thing about walking anywhere with the Sisters — you have to be patient, because they’re stopped every ten feet by people who want to talk to them and they stop to give Miraculous Medals to everyone they see.  What they saw, of course, was not just a small group of women in habits.  They saw a visible sign that people should commit themselves to God, and serve him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strengths.

    The first principle is always God.  That was why over a thousand Catholics went to Albany.  That’s the source of our hope.

    Prayer Warriors

    Sunday, November 1st, 2009

    In the final stages of the health care debate, we turn our attention to all the techniques of Advocacy 101. The USCCB has encouraged all parishes to publish in their bulletins a call for all Catholics to contact their Congressional representatives, to urge them to ensure that human life is respected in the health care bill. Our bishops are being asked to contact key legislators, to let them know of our concerns. Our professional lobbyists are working long hard hours behind the scenes to advance our concerns.

    At the same time, we all must turn to the ultimate weapon — prayer.

    Across the nation, people are lifting their minds and hearts to God, asking Him to guide our nation along the right path. Religious communities and seminarians are fasting, praying, and spending time in Eucharistic adoration. We are imploring Our Blessed Mother to intercede for our nation, that the hearts of our elected officials will be converted, and that we will be saved from the expansion of abortion and euthanasia.

    Many years ago, John Cardinal O’Connor, looked out at the deplorable situation in the United States, where unborn lives are vulnerable to abortion at any time, for any reason. He called to mind the words of Our Lord, that some demons can only be case out by prayer and fasting (Mk 9:29). Cardinal O’Connor understood the fundamental truth that Our Lord was speaking to our time — that abortion cannot ultimately be fought by political means alone, but all our efforts must be rooted in personal prayer and sacrifice.

    That insight led Cardinal O’Connor to found the Sisters of Life, but it has also led to the continual re-vitalization of the pro-life movement. Even as so many of us devote our efforts to the public square, we all realize that the spiritual battle is by far the most important, and that the most effective and productive efforts in our movement are the ones that are so counter to conventional wisdom — they are the efforts of prayer and fasting.

    And so, initiatives like the “40 Days for Life”, which involves people in prayerful witness outside of abortion clinics, has saved thousands of life, and has excited the intense hostility of the forces of the Culture of Death. Here in our own city, the First Saturday of every month has a Witness for Life in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in lower Manhattan.

    And in convents, seminaries and private homes around our nation, prayer warriors are engaged in the real struggle. They realize, as St. Paul did, that

    “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 9:16)

    So, my friends, let us pray, and let us fast.

    The Priest, the Sister, the Playboy Playmate and Me

    Sunday, October 18th, 2009

    This is going to sound like the beginning of a strange joke, but here goes anyway.

    A priest, a sister, a married man and a Playboy Playmate got on the elevator the other day… and I wound up learning a lesson about the theology of the body.

    Allow me to explain.

    Last week, Sr. Lucy of the Sisters of Life and I were invited to appear on a radio show that is broadcast on the Catholic Channel of Sirius Satellite Radio. The show is called Word of Life, and it’s hosted by Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., a very accomplished Dominican priest. We were being invited on his show so that Sister Lucy could talk about some of the activities of Respect Life Month, and I was going to give people an overview of public policy advocacy and the health care reform issue.

    When we arrived at the building where the radio station is located, Sr. Lucy and I were greeted by Fr. Aquinas, and while we were standing at the security checkpoint, we encountered a very glamorous, shapely young woman who looked like a model.

    One couldn’t help but notice that her health was in very grave risk, because her blouse was suffering from a serious shortage of fabric. That’s putting it mildly. But she was dressed for the occasion, since she was a Playboy Playmate, on her way to appear on a radio show run by a “men’s magazine”. Being a normal male human being, I found this all very, very distracting. Every other man in the vicinity certainly did, too, because she was the center of attention, to say the least.

    What happened next taught me the lesson.

    We went to the elevator to go upstairs to the studio, and all got on the same car. Sr. Lucy and Fr. Aquinas were standing on either side of the young lady. So here we were: a priest, a sister, a Playboy Playmate, and a married man who was struggling to maintain custody of his eyes and thoughts, and who was thinking about what an odd collection of people he was with. The elevator stopped, and a man got on. He was taken aback by this scene, and immediately remarked, “You’re not going to the same place”. One of those classic “only in New York” kind of remarks.

    But in a way, this all made sense thanks to the theology of the body. Our bodies have a deep meaning, which Pope John Paul called its “nuptial meaning”. The natural physical complementarity of man and woman reveals to us that we are meant to enter into the loving, faithful union of marriage. Our natural sexual desire for the opposite sex is a call to that union of persons, and is not all about using others for personal pleasure. It is a call to be a gift of self.

    And each person in the elevator illustrated something important about this. A priest, a man who has been sacramentally conformed to Christ, and gives us the Body of Christ in Communion, so that we could see in vivid reality that true love is a total gift of self. A sister, a woman who gives herself fully to Christ and His Church as a powerful living sign of the mutual gift in the heavenly marriage of the Lamb and His bride. A married man, who is committed to his life-long faithful and fruitful covenant with his wife, and who is struggling to see this beautiful woman not just as a body to be coveted for my pleasure, but to regard her instead as a person. And the Playboy Playmate, whose body is being displayed by our debased culture as an object to be lusted after, a commodity to be used so that money can be made from the weakness of men.

    This didn’t come to me all at once, but only later, as I reflected on my own feelings and reactions to that elevator ride. But now, I wish I could go back to that time. I wish I had the courage to tell her that her body is beautiful not because it gives men pleasure but because it’s a sign that she is a person made in the image of God. I wish I could introduce her to my wife, or some of the other women I know who are trying to put all of this into practice in real life.

    I wish I could get her, and all the men she encountered that day, to see the deeper meaning of the priest, the sister and the married man on that elevator.

    “Are You Going to Abandon Me, Too?”

    Sunday, October 4th, 2009

    There are all too many times when the Culture of Death seems to have the upper hand.

    We look to our political capital, and see legislators — even Catholics — turning their backs on the unborn and denying them legal protection. The culture mocks religious belief and believers, and celebrates those whose irresponsible behavior, especially sexual behavior, leads others into situations of grave crisis. Professions whose missions are dedicated to the arts of healing, instead use their skills to take life. The poor, the immigrant, the elderly, are cast to the side of society, and the affluent and powerful speak of them as burdens.

    At these times, the piercing question is asked of each of us: “Are you going to abandon me, too?”

    Last Saturday, I once again drove to lower Manhattan to participate in the monthly Witness for Life. This is a prayerful event, starting with Mass and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and centered on the recitation of the Rosary across the street from the abortion facility run by Planned Parenthood. It is a time when the Culture of Death and the Civilization of Love come into stark conflict, a spiritual battle.

    The brave sidewalk counselors approach the men and women entering the clinic, offer them literature, and show them that there is another “choice”. The clinic staff mocks us. Many passersby make derogatory comments, or photograph us as if we were mere curiosities. Others walk by, averting their eyes, pretending that nothing is happening. The men and women heading for the clinic, fearful, abandoned or even pressured by those they love and rely on, enter the facility seeking answers, only to emerge some time later with an even heavier burden and no solutions. We stand in prayerful vigil, hoping with all our might that these young women will turn away from the facility, and choose life.

    And we hear the question, posed directly to each one of us: “Are you going to abandon me, too?”

    After the Witness, we gathered at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral School for a cup of coffee and a little fellowship. One of the Sisters of Life spoke to us of the needs and work of their Visitation Mission, which helps women in crisis pregnancies. She told the story of one young lady who turned away from the abortion facility, and came to the Sisters for help. After the Sisters worked with her to find the assistance she needed, the young lady asked the Sisters that question.

    “Are you going to abandon me, too?”

    She wasn’t asking for more material help. She was asking for someone to walk with her in her travails, to be her friend and companion, to be Christ to her. Our Lord asked the same question, from the Cross. But even at that time, he was not abandoned — his mother, one disciple, and a few friends still stood by his side. And the Father and Holy Spirit were always with him. Just as the Sisters continued to be with that young woman, and never abandoned her.

    The Culture of Death is powerful and seductive. The Evil One has his fingers tightly gripped on the hearts of many people. He wants us to stand alone, to turn fearfully away from the choices that God wants us to make, to mock those who do God’s will, or to walk by with heads down and ignore the struggle between good and evil. Many fall for his deceptions.

    But not all. Many are haunted by that question: “Are you going to abandon me, too?” And they answer that question with quiet acts of service and prayer, saying “No, we will never abandon you, we will be with you to the end.”

    Thus is the Civilization of Love built up, by small deeds done with great love.