Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s tragic Roe v. Wade decision. It is a time to reflect on St. Paul’s statement that “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal 6:7).
If we go back to Pope Paul VI’s great encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he predicted certain consequences if contraception were to become accepted in society: a decline in marital fidelity and general moral standards, loss of respect for women and an increase in the objectification of women, and the dangers inherent in the possession of such a weapon in the hand of unscrupulous governments.
Everything he foresaw about contraception has come true about abortion, and even more — millions of deaths, the corruption of the medical profession, the distortion and politicization of law, and the suffering of millions of women and men who have participated in abortion and carry the grief and guilt with them still.
“Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap”.
And yet, there have been many good seeds sown over the past four decades. We saw them today, on the streets of New York City.
Cardinal Dolan, assisted by two dozen of his brother priests, offered a beautiful Mass at 7 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a large crowd of early risers. The Mass was followed by a Rosary procession and prayerful witness at an abortion clinic on Second Avenue and Forty-Second Street.
It was an amazing public witness. Just think of it. Three hundred or more people, processing along the streets of Manhattan at rush hour, praying the Rosary. A man carrying a huge rough wooden cross. Sisters of Life, Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, Missionaries of Charity, diocesan and religious priests. Regular men and women. All giving witness to the power of prayer and the dignity of life, on the cold and windy streets of the big city.
My favorite part came while we were crossing the streets. Manhattan drivers — especially the cabbies — are not known for patience, and we only had one police officer to help us. So we were treated to the amazing sight of rush hour traffic being stopped on Lexington Avenue and Forty-Second Street by a Sister of Life, a Franciscan friar, and a couple of intrepid laymen. Surprisingly little honking, though — they must have realized that this was not your usual traffic snarl.
As we walked, people stopped and stared, and some even joined in prayer. A few asked what was going on and, when it was explained, they paused to add their prayers to ours.
The larger meaning of the event, in a sense, was to reinforce St. Paul’s statement — “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap”.
Our nation has sown forty years of contraception, abortion, suffering, grief, and death. And we have reaped the dire consequences. But a handful of faithful witnesses continues to sow other seeds — love, compassion, service, courage, and witness.
Those seeds will also be reaped, and they bear fruit, a fruit that brings life and hope and forgiveness.