By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON — If Roe falls, “my hope is that we will come together and seize this opportunity to create a post-Roe America where human life is cherished and cared for, and where the family is recognized as the true foundation of a just and prosperous society,” said Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez.
“Abortion was among the first social evils opposed by the early church,” the archbishop wrote in his column “Voices,” in Angelus, the archdiocese’s online news outlet, ahead of the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe. “That commitment has never changed down through the centuries.”
“In the past half-century of legal abortion in America, the Catholic Church has sought to create a culture of care and compassion for women facing challenging pregnancies, and to promote alternatives to abortion such as adoption,” he said. “At the heart of everything we do is our belief that human life is sacred, that every person is created in the image of God and redeemed by the love of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Gomez said that as Pope Francis stated, “we can never allow abortion to be regarded as simply a ‘private’ or ‘religious’ matter.”
“Abortion attacks the ‘sacredness of human life,’ the Holy Father reminds us,” he added, “and societies that deny life to the unborn threaten the foundation of all other human rights.”
The Catholic Church “has a duty to bring this perspective to our national conversation about the kind of America we want to create after Roe,” added Archbishop Gomez, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We need to insist on what St. Pope John Paul II called ‘the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law,'” he added. “American history proves that when our laws do not reflect moral law, it leads to the worst injustices. We have seen this with slavery, segregation, abortion and euthanasia.”
He also called for “bold thinking” going forward “on how we can support women and children and promote strong marriages and families.”
The day after his Jan. 19 column appeared, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement committing the church “to actively support and advocate for policies and services that enrich the lives of California’s women, children and families.”
The conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, outlined several priorities for the state’s Catholic communities, including:
— To accompany “our sisters … as you walk the journey of motherhood.”
— To raise awareness of “the abundant life-affirming safety net resources available to women, children and families in California through faith-based, community, and public agencies, including food, housing, health care, mental health care, intimate partner violence intervention, paid leave, child care, education, employment, economic and material assistance.”
— “To unite our state’s life-affirming pregnancy shelters, centers, and clinics, creating an accessible statewide network to accompany women facing challenging pregnancies and in the early years of parenthood.”
The Catholic conference said it also will “advocate for transformative family policies,” including increased access to affordable housing, prioritization of homeless pregnant and parenting women and expanded paid leave for families.
Its list of priorities came as Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s “pro-abortion” legislative supermajority vowed to turn California — which already has no restrictions on abortion — into an “abortion sanctuary” for the nation if Roe is overturned when the Supreme Court issues its decision this summer in a case involving Mississippi’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks.
In Texas, retired Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo issued a pastoral statement to mark the Roe anniversary saying that “the staggering magnitude and unbelievable worldwide numbers of abortions” makes abortion “the most urgent, greatest and gravest, moral pastoral issue facing the universal Catholic Church and the church in the USA.”
“As we pray and encourage all Catholics and pro-life Christians around the world to join efforts to stop the enormous magnitude of abortions,” he said, “we focus our attention on our country and working with our bishops, our priests, religious, deacons and all dedicated laypeople to make a super new effort to pull America back from the brink by those who believe in the constitutional principle of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all beginning with the tiny persons in their mother’s womb.”
“Choose life for both the mother and the child” must be “our constant pro-life motto,” he said.
He added that “as followers of Jesus, we understand that when a nation abandons the conviction that all life matters from it’s very beginning, the end result is barbaric” — a result “we must now work to overcome.”
He urged his fellow bishops to “make a concerted effort as pastors and leaders of our people to speak out strongly with a united voice” against abortion and called for developing prayer programs, “centered on the Eucharist”; “constant praying” of the rosary in front of abortion centers; and being “much more proactive in promoting pastoral action, formulating pro-life plans for all the Catholic parishes of our country.”
Bishop Pfeifer echoed the hope of many that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe but also called for support for the Life at Conception Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in early 2021.
The legislation would implement equal protection under the 14th Amendment “for the right to life of each born and unborn human.”
During the annual diocesan Mass for Life Jan. 21 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Cleveland Bishop Edward C. Malesic told the congregation: “We are all a part of God’s plan. Every unborn child is a part of God’s mysterious plan, too.”
He called the Roe decision “a flawed judgment in 1973” and said “it remains flawed in its interpretation of the Constitution.”
He, too, said the faithful should have hope the law will change, but “unless we change minds and hearts,” we will not advance very far to be a type of society that mirrors God’s kingdom.
People will not be converted to the Gospel of life “by arrogant voices of judgmental people, but by the persuasive power of love and forgiveness that we have found for ourselves in Jesus Christ, our Lord,” Bishop Malesic said. “And women will choose life only when we give them a way to choose it, alleviate their fears and give them a safe place to give birth.”
“Keep those prayers coming for the unborn” and dream big, he added. “But we also must act. Our children are counting on us.”
The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops in Tallahassee, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said the church is “committed to accompanying all women, including those experiencing unplanned pregnancies or considering abortion.”
Florida’s dioceses, it said, are on board with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ initiative Walking with Moms in Need, which connects parishioners with volunteer opportunities at community pregnancy resource centers.
“We wholeheartedly support this ministry that offers tangible, life-affirming support for vulnerable families — fathers, mothers and their babies,” the state Catholic conference said.
“The Catholic Church stands emphatically and unreservedly for the rights of the unborn,” the conference said. “We look forward with the hope that God will soon bring our nation to a profound awareness of the dignity of human life and a recognition that all lives deserve protection under the law.
In a Jan. 12 column in Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said he still had Christmas on his mind as he looked ahead to the Jan. 22 anniversary of “the gruesome decision” Roe v. Wade — which he added makes January Respect Life Month “by default.”
“At the center of history, when B.C. becomes A.D., is a mother and her baby,” he said. “Babies are what it’s all about. … Where would we be without babies? Well … extinct!
“Nothing brings hope and promise like the birth of a baby, the sure sign that creation, life, and civilization go on. Lord knows where we would be if babies were not at the center, if infants were looked upon as a curse.”
“Yet … are we close to that?” he continued. “Folks far brighter than I’ll ever be speak about an ‘anti-natalism’ in culture, where pregnancy and babies are thought a burden, where conception and pregnancy are considered a threat to liberation and self-fulfillment.”
Cardinal Dolan noted that right before Christmas, “Pope Francis lamented a ‘demographic winter.’ In his beloved Italy, he noted that the number of deaths last year were higher than the rate of births. That’s haunting!
The late Robert Kennedy — “who beamed over” his children — said “the health of any society can be gauged by the way we treat babies, the fragile and the weak elderly,” the cardinal said. “We may be flunking!”
“‘Choose life, that you may flourish!’ the Bible exhorts. No babies … no life; no babies … no civilization!” he said.