Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Life’

Election Results

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Gallons of ink, and millions of electrons, have been spilled on the results of last week’s election, and what it means for our nation, our state, the political fortunes of the President and a host of other presidential contenders, our new-fangled voting machines, etc.

I’m more interested in real results.

On the national level, the switch of control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans has brought with it a pro-life majority. The narrowing of the Democratic majority in the Senate also increases the chances for some pro-life legislation. These election results present new opportunities for real gains on Culture of Life issues.

The top priority has to be passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Currently, restrictions on public funding for abortion comes through piecemeal amendments to the budget bills. This means that pro-lifers have to be vigilant about all the various ways that canny legislators and bureaucrats can find to promote abortion. So, the Hyde Amendment restricts funding through the Medicaid program, the Helms Amendment stops funding for oversees abortions, the Smith Amendment prevents federal employee health insurance plans from covering abortion, and the Weldon Amendment provides conscience protection to medical personnel. Each year, these amendments have to be passed against the opposition of pro-abortion members of Congress.

This bill would take the provisions of these individual amendments, make them permanent law, and apply them across the entire federal budget. This would cure the major flaw in the health care reform law, as well as offer genuine and solid conscience protection for all medical personnel. This is a bill that would easily pass the House, and has a decent chance of passing the Senate — public funding for abortion is deeply unpopular.  It would be very interesting to see what our pro-abortion President would do if this bill appeared on his desk.

That’s one result of the elections that we’re looking forward to.

On the state level, the results of the election are not as positive. Our state has elected an ardently pro-abortion Governor and a radically pro-abortion Attorney General. Both men have committed to pressing for the passage of the extremist Reproductive Health Act. The chaos over the results of the elections for the State Senate (the final outcome is still in doubt) leaves Culture of Life supporters with a deep sense of uneasiness that the real result of the state elections could be very, very bad. So, we must remain vigilant in monitoring what goes on in Albany.

Perhaps the most interesting result of the election is the continuing demonstration of the popularity of the pro-life position. Conventional “wisdom” characterizes a pro-life stand as an electoral loser, and encourages candidates to avoid it. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.   Polls show that 30% of the voters in this election said that abortion “affected” their vote. But it’s the breakdown of that 30% that’s most interesting — 22% voted for pro-life candidates, while only 8% voted for pro-abortion candidates. That’s an advantage of almost three to one in favor of life.

This reflects an on-going trend that I’ve written about but that continues to elude the mainstream media. Our culture is slowly changing towards greater respect for life, and a greater desire to promote life. The new pro-life majority in Congress is just one reflection of this trend. More will follow.

That is a very encouraging result of the election.

Talking About a Revolution

Monday, October 18th, 2010

(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.

    Why Did I Answer the Phone?

    Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

    I have to start out by saying that I resent the telephone.  It sits there on my desk, interrupts my train of thought, and brings nothing but trouble.  It requires me to engage with real, live people, which makes me uncomfortable.  I much prefer to deal with email, because it’s more efficient, and because I can do what I am comfortable with — looking intelligent, answering questions, and solving problems.  The phone makes me face my shyness with people, my insecurity, and my fear of emotional involvement.

    So, why did I answer the phone the other afternoon?

    I was rushing — as usual — between one meeting and another, from one task that I considered very important to another I thought was just as important.  That’s me, Mr. Too Busy and Important to Answer the Phone.  When it started to ring, and I didn’t recognize the number, I knew that answering it would make me late, and would throw me off my train of thought.  It was a most inconvenient time for a phone conversation of indeterminate subject and length.

    So, why did I answer the phone?

    When I picked up the receiver, the young lady started out with a very relieved sound in her voice.  She explained that she had happened upon one of my earlier blog posts, in which I mentioned how we need to do more to help pregnant women in crisis, for example by providing more day care.

    She then went on to tell me that she was in exactly that position.  She was pregnant, alone, and was having a hard time figuring out how she was going to take care of her child and return to work.  She wasn’t sure if I could help her, because she didn’t live in the Archdiocese, but instead was in upstate New York.   But she was scared, and a little bit at the end of her rope.  She was asking me for help — real, concrete help, in the here and now.

    So, why did I answer the phone?

    I talked to her for a while, telling her how there was definitely help out there for her.  I then gave her the best advice I could think of.

    I suggested that she call the Sisters of Life.  Their Visitation Mission specializes in helping women and men deal with the difficulties of a pregnancy, and they have innumerable connections all around the nation.   I have heard stories about their work that have moved me to tears.  So that was the first smart thing I did.  I told her about the Sisters.

    The second thing I did was to tell her that she should get in touch with her local diocese’s Catholic Charities.  Here in the Archdiocese, our Catholic Charities helps hundreds of pregnant women every year.  I know this, because their Maternity Services office is on the same floor as mine, and I’m constantly seeing moms, dads and babies.  They also work miracles.

    I then told her how great it was that she was doing the right thing, and that she would be able to do this with a little help.  I told her “God bless”, we said goodbye, and I offered a small prayer for her.  Afterwards, I realized that I never even asked her name.  But I believe she’ll be alright.

    So, why did I answer the phone?

    I don’t know.  But I think that the Holy Spirit, who moved my heart and will, and my guardian angel, who was whispering in my ear, know the answer to that one.  And maybe, someday, I’ll meet a young lady and a baby, and I’ll know the answer too.

    Pentecost in Albany

    Sunday, May 16th, 2010

    The men came came forth from where they were, and prayed aloud in the public areas of the town, proclaiming the love of God and the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ.  And the people of that place were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another “What does this mean?”

    The day of Pentecost was the first time when the Apostles of Christ proclaimed the Good News.  Heedless of the confusion and opposition of the world, the first bishops of our Church stood before the world, knowing that they would be opposed, and proclaimed our faith in Jesus.

    In a sense, all of us are called to do the same — to emulate the Apostles on the first Pentecost.

    And just so, the Knights of Columbus went to Albany on Tuesday, May 11, to hold the annual Prayer Rally. The purpose of the day was to pray publicly for our government, to encourage our elected officials to respect human life, to honor marriage, and to treat people of faith fairly.

    But it was not at all a political event.  More than anything, it was a Pentecost day.

    The setting of the Rally was striking.  We gathered in a small park in the center of Albany.  On one side was the New York State Capitol Building, one of the most striking works of public architecture in America, but which houses one of the worst, most dysfunctional, and most anti-life legislatures in our nation.  Around the other sides were government buildings, from the imposing classical-style Education Department to the modern Legislative Office Building.

    There was no mistaking that we were gathering to pray in the midst of the powers and principalities of this world.  Indeed, throughout the Rally, government workers and legislators passed through the park, enjoying the beautiful day, and no doubt amazed and perplexed by what they were seeing.

    The agenda for the Rally was simple.  The entire Rally was organized around the public recitation of the Most Holy Rosary.  There were some speeches interspersed among the Mysteries,  but the entire focus of the Rally remained fixed upon our prayers to God, with the intercession of Mary.

    The most striking part was that you could hear the sacred words of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be reverberating against the government buildings, calling to mind the words of the prophet: “Hear what the LORD says: ‘Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.‘” (Mic 6:1)

    There is a unique power in the joined prayer of Christian people.  There is special strength when that prayer is offered in public by men.  The world shuns prayer, looking upon it as a peculiar habit.  The world cannot make sense of the prayers of men, and considers it a weakness.

    But on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were unafraid to give witness to the faith that gave them life.  Filled with the Spirit, they strode into the public square and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Last Tuesday, together with my brother Knights of Columbus, I was privileged to participate in a modern-day echo of that first great day of Pentecost.

    More Causes for Hope

    Friday, April 16th, 2010

    In these embattled days, it’s all the more important that we look for reasons to hope, and to be optimistic.  Fortunately, God being so good, there have been several such signs thrown my way in recent days.

    First was the special Family Life Conference sponsored by the Respect Life Office.  The theme this year was to honor the legacy of John Cardinal O’Connor, and all that he did to defend and promote the dignity of every human life.  It was a wonderful day, with great speakers — Archbishop Dolan, Helen Alvare, Mother Agnes of the Sisters of Life, and Fr. Charles Connor.  The large crowd was filled with fond memories of the Cardinal, and we were reminded of his indomitable commitment to the cause of life.  Despite all the battles he fought, he never wavered, and never lost his well-founded confidence in the rectitude of our cause.  It was an uplifting day.

    The second event was a pro-life legal symposium at Columbia University last week, sponsored by (believe it or not) the Columbia Law School’s pro-life group.  Yes, you read that correctly — a thriving group of committed pro-life law students at one of the most liberal institutions in the nation.  The line-up of speakers was outstanding — experts in constitutional law, attorneys who were actively litigating pro-life cases in the courts, law professors who are teaching and mentoring the next generation of pro-life legal crusaders. The best part of the day was how dynamic and hope-filled the law students and young attorneys were.  For old warhorses like me, it was a breath of fresh air, and another uplifting experience.  I felt as if the cavalry was on the way.

    The final cause for hope was the most recent Witness for Life — the prayerful vigil that is held outside of the Planned Parenthood abortion mill in lower Manhattan every first Saturday.  After praying outside the clinic in the cold and benediction at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we return to the basement of the school for a hot coffee and a doughnut, and a bit of fellowship.  Part of the social is a sharing of stories by some of the participants.  Some of the men in the group shared their experiences in doing the sidewalk counseling — taking for a few moments with the women on their way into the clinic, handing them brochures from the Sisters of Life offering alternatives to abortion, and then talking at greater length with the men who bring the women there and then wait outside.

    One of the sidewalk counselors reported that, after talking to one of the men, the man decided to go back into the clinic to try to convince his friend not to have the abortion.  We all prayed that he would be successful.

    But the most amazing story of all was one told by one of the Sisters of Life assigned to the Visitation Mission, which helps women in crisis to make the decision for life.  Recently, the Sister was called to speak to a young lady who had gone into the same Planned Parenthood clinic that we pray in front of, to make arrangements for an abortion.  While sitting in the examining room, the young lady happened to look at the pamphlet rack, which was filled with all the usual horrible material about contraception, STD’s, etc.

    But what did she find instead?  One of the very same brochures from the Sisters of Life, offering hope instead of abortion, that our sidewalk counselors hand to the women who are going into the clinic — someone must have put it into the pamphlet rack, and the clinic staff hadn’t removed it.  This young lady read the brochure, had a change of heart, left the clinic and went right to see the Sisters.  After talking to them, she made the decision to keep her baby.

    The Holy Spirit is a very inventive fellow, always looking for ways to open our hearts to God’s will and His love.  He works through our memories of great leaders, he buoys our mood by raising up new warriors, and he reminds us of the wonderful mysteries that the world would call coincidences, but which we know as the handiwork of God.  How can we not be hopeful with such an ally?