(On October 15, I had the privilege of speaking at the annual dinner of the Ulster County Right to Life Committee. They wanted me to give an overview of the state of the pro-life movement, and to offer some words of encouragement. My talk was well-received, so thought I would share an adapted version here.)
Tonight, I want to talk to you about a revolution. It’s not a violent revolution, nor is it a political revolution, at least not first and foremost. It’s not a loud and boisterous revolution, with cannons and drums and fireworks. In fact, if you don’t know what to look for, you may not even be able to see it.
Let me explain, by first stepping back and looking at the current situation in our society. By any reasonable measure, our society is deeply in the grip of what Pope JP II called the “Culture of Death”. We see threats to life abound at all levels.
At the beginning of life, the recently passed health care bill institutionalizes and mainstreams abortion, and provides for public funding (direct and indirect) for abortion. Embryonic stem cell research and cloning bring the attack back to the very foundation of life. And there is a deeply ingrained contraceptive mentality that views children as threats to individual fulfillment or even to the survival of society as a whole.
At the end of life, the health care bill makes government rationing of health care inevitable, based on arbitrary “quality of life” calculations and “medical futility” determinations. There is even pressures to re-define when death occurs from organ harvesters.
The family and marriage, which are the foundation of society, are under severe attack. Marriage being re-defined, cohabitation becoming an accepted option as the equal of marriage, and pornography devastates true human sexuality.
Religious values are being stigmatized as bigotry, and believers are being pushed out of government programs, institutions and the public square.
But that is not the whole story, and that brings me to the revolution. I believe that we are on the edge of a great revolutionary moment. This revolution is like the one that the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church carried out – transforming society by the power of love, and with the unified effort of millions in service to others. It’s an “apostolic revolution”, a “revolution of love”. It is aimed at re-building a civilization of love from within the shell of our current corrupt civilization. It builds on our strengths, and will do miracles in the face of opposition.
This revolution is hard to see, because we tend to look at the small picture, the individual components, and we don’t see the larger reality. But once you look for it, you will see it everywhere:
At the March for Life, with the tens of thousands of young people who are pro-life and unashamed.
In the growing chastity movement, an astonishing new development where good, happy, joyful young people openly seek to live lives of purity and to witness to the beauty of the virtue of chastity.
In the opinion polls, which show a genuine shift towards pro-life. Recent polls by the Knights of Columbus show that 56% of Americans (and slightly larger percentages of younger people) view abortion as “morally wrong”, and 86% support restricting abortion.
In our religious leaders becoming bolder and clearer and stronger, even to the point of persecution. We recall the case of Pastor Walter Hoye of Oakland, who was imprisoned for doing nothing more than holding a pro-life sign outside of an abortion clinic. Remember, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, and is the seed of our revolution.
In the growing commitment to vote for pro-life candidates. We are reminded over and over again that the only way that we will get principled elected officials is if we insist that they adhere to principles, and not accept the “lesser of two evils” – the result if which, of course, is that we will only get evil.
In the explosion of apostolic work. The great 40 Days for Life prayerful witness at abortion clinics has reached 238 locations and several foreign countries, and claims almost 3,000 lives saved and dozens of clinic workers converted. Other prayer vigils take place every week, and give witness to the power of love and prayers.
In the new, openly pro-life religious communities (like our Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, and the Sisters of Life), which are booming.
Among our brothers and sisters in the evangelical community, who are also becoming more and more energized for pro-life.
In the Knights of Columbus, which is courageous in pro-life advocacy, and is sponsoring 3D and 4D sonograms for crisis pregnancy centers, which is saving lives.
Although we don’t see it too much here in New York, the change in culture towards pro-life is yielding significant legislative victories across the nation. Most states now have reasonable and common-sense restrictions on abortion, laws requiring parental involvement, waiting periods and informed consent, limitations on public funding, conscience protection, bans on partial birth abortions and protecting the lives of the unborn against violence.
The reality of our revolution is seen quite clearly by the forces of the Culture of Death, who are growing increasingly strident and desperate. They regularly denounce people who hold completely mainstream positions on abortion – those held by the great majority of the American people – as “extremist” and “out of the mainstream”. Such rhetoric only rebounds on them, showing that they are the true extremists.
Of course, any revolution is “radical”. Ours certainly is, but not in the negative way that word is usually used. We’re “radical” in the same sense that Jesus is, because we want to get back to the root of things — that’s the original meaning of the word “radical”.
This is an amazing revolution – a non-organized movement for radical change from within. And it will advance by common-sense actions by regular people, rolling up their sleeves to speak the truth with love and serve others. We are not mired in despair or discouragement, because we know the great capacity of the human heart for love. We see this love in others, sometimes even in ourselves. It’s a love that will attract more and more people to our revolution, it will convert hearts, one at a time, and it will build a better world, where life is revered and defended.
When Pope John Paul came to America in 1999, he said this:
“America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life”
So, I’m talking about a revolution for equal justice, true freedom, and lasting peace. We’re dreaming great dreams, and together, in our revolution, we will do great things in defense of life.