How are we supposed to vote this year? Well I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to share with you something that should inform your voting, about a grave injustice in our country. Abortion. I’m vested in this issue, and not just because of what the Church teaches but because it weighs heavily on my heart.
And one of the most important jobs of a priest is to help people form their consciences; and if I fail to do so, I will be answerable for neglecting my duties. And I’m not going to hell for that. Yes, telling the truth can cause division; indeed, Jesus said he came not to bring peace but a sword which would separate a man from his father, a daughter from her mother (Matthew 10: 34-36).
I told you, I’m vested in this. When my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, she was told to have an abortion. Without my grandmother’s courage and the support she received from others, I wouldn’t be here today.
Every October we celebrate Respect Life month. It is of particular importance this year since twenty-five years ago, Pope St. John Paul II wrote that the Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ saving message to the world (Evangelium vitae, 1). In taking on human flesh, dwelling among us, and sacrificing his very life for our redemption, Christ reveals the profound dignity of every human person. This God-given dignity does not change with our stage of life, abilities, level of independence, or any other varying circumstance. Do we believe this?
Rather, it is rooted in the permanent fact that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, created to share in the very life of God himself. The human person is a “manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory” (EV, 34). And we must reflect this truth in how we act and how we treat one another.
I think most of us could agree that the culture thinks it knows better than God, and we find it very hard to obey God in all things. I know that I struggle with that myself at times. Our culture thinks it unfair that God not permit abortion and in fact believes that abortion is necessary for human happiness. Still, as Scripture makes clear, we won’t achieve happiness or salvation if we reject God’s law.
This is what our Gospel is about today – the choices that we make and how they either bring us closer to the eternal banquet in heaven, or further away. As Jesus said, we are all invited to enjoy eternal life and by our choices we determine if we are worthy. So what will our choice be this election season? By our decisions we communicate to God whether or not we want to be close to him. We have to determine, through prayer, what decision that means for us. In your conscience do you believe that it’s a greater or lesser evil to vote for a candidate that supports abortion? I personally don’t see any other issue greater than this one.
In 1989 the USCCB (Resolution on Abortion), said, “No Catholic can responsibly take a ‘pro-choice’ stand when the ‘choice’ in question involves the taking of innocent human life.”
Now, I know that some of you may have had abortions or enabled them, and I want you to know I am not preaching on this issue to condemn you but to relieve you of the burden of that sin. The good Lord came to forgive sins so I invite anyone who carries the sin of abortion to come to confession and reconcile yourself to the Lord. God loves you so much and He does not want you to carry that burden. I would like you to be free of that burden and for others never to experience it. I also recommend that women and men involved in abortion take advantage of one of the abortion healing-ministries, such as Rachel’s Vineyard or Grief to Grace.
Catholics are not just pro-birth, we are completely pro-life. And so we must support women (and men) who have undergone abortions or a considering abortions. We must be convicted and committed to helping. Here in our own area we have two crisis pregnancy centers that do great work. We must walk with those women and truly love them. We cannot minimize their struggle or their pain, but we must encourage them in Christ, sharing with them the message of St. Paul in the second reading, a passage used so often by Mother Cabrini herself, “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” We must support those crisis pregnancy centers and provide for at risk women, knowing that God will fully supply whatever it is we need – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
And yet we also cannot minimize the fact that abortion is a tremendous evil, for it kills innocent human life and generally haunts those involved for the rest of their lives. Those who fight against abortion are fighting both for the lives of the unborn and for the souls of all those involved in abortion.
Still, as long as abortion is legally protected in our culture, we are fighting against the culture. As Mother Teresa said, “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love is abortion.” Any culture that allows the killing of the most vulnerable is a dying culture, and it is becoming clear that ours is.
“A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed” (FC, 22). No political party or candidate aligns exactly with Catholic moral teachings. However, if a party position is in direct opposition to the moral teachings of the Church, it is the duty and the responsibility of the individual Catholic voter to oppose that position. This can be done at the ballot box or by directly challenging our elected officials on those positions. We can and should advocate for the appointment of judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1972 Supreme Court decision that struck down the laws against abortion present in nearly every state at the time. The court imposed abortion on our country and so the court can reverse it.
Consider this: It is hard to maintain that abortion is just one issue among many when we learn that while 11 million people were killed by the Nazis, 42 million babies worldwide were aborted in 2019 alone. Nearly 62 million babies have been aborted in the U.S. since 1973. Isn’t that shocking?
That is nearly as many as have been killed by communists worldwide over a full century. Vastly more babies died because of abortion than those who have died in every war since the Civil War. I say this not to compare or equate any of these issues, but to put into perspective the tremendous numbers of babies that have been murdered.
And the numbers are staggering and horrifying, but they mask the tragedy of particular individual women who often out of desperation submit to procedures that kill their babies and mark their souls. As my favorite saint, Mother Teresa again said, “Abortion is profoundly anti-women. Three-quarters of its victims are women: Half the babies and all the mothers.”
We constantly tout that America is the freest and most charitable country in the world. We need to be the force that brings the right to life to children in the womb and charity to women who need our help.
It is not my intention to tell you how to vote; my intention is to help you form your consciences as you prepare yourself to vote. Remember it is more important that you vote in accord with Gospel values and to allow Christ’s Church to help you form your consciences than to be formed by the media and celebrities.
We can find some help in forming our consciences from the U.S. bishops, who have identified abortion as the preeminent moral and political issue of our times. They didn’t pick this issue out of a hat; they know how wrong racism is, how evil euthenasia is, how wrong greed is, how wrong hostility to immigrants is. But it is quite impossible to understand any of those issues as worse than killing unborn children by the billions. It is a crime the Church says cries to heaven for vengeance.
I want to share one quick story with you. 31 years ago… A pregnant woman went to the doctor’s for a normal checkup. What was supposed to be joyous took a horrible turn. The doctor told her that her baby boy would be born severely deformed and with mental incapacities. The doctors tried to convince her to have an aboriton. She went home and waited for her husband to return from work to tell him the news. They refused an abortion, saying they would welcome whatever gift God offered them. The only deformity was a slight hole on their son’s ear, which closed up within days after being born. Today, this child whose life could have easily been ended because of misguided observations of a doctor is a Catholic priest, and my best friend.
So let us choose to support pregnant women and mothers who are in need. Let us choose to elect leaders who protect the most vulnerable in the womb. Let us be proudly pro-life.
Consider for yourself, what do you believe God is calling you to support? By our actions, our choices we make today (and everyday) we must consider, will this bring me closer to the banquet of heaven?
Much of this homily is borrowed from Dr. Janet E. Smith, in an article she wrote for National Catholic Register on September 28, 2020, “Preaching and the Election: How Not to Get in Trouble but Still Be Effective.”