Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called on hundreds gathered for the annual Memorial Mass for the Sanctity of Life to be witnesses and to testify for life.
The liturgy, celebrated at St. Martin of Tours Church, 639 S. Shelby St., Jan. 19 drew about 400 people, including families with young children.
Archbishop Kurtz thanked his listeners for their prayers during his months-long cancer treatment that began last summer. His doctors have declared him free of cancer, he said.
The archbishop began his homily by drawing on the Gospel reading from the book of John and the prophecies of John the Baptist.
“Wouldn’t you have loved to meet John the Baptist? He was someone who didn’t mince words. He testified,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “John the Baptist gave testimony to the presence
of someone who was his cousin and our savior Jesus Christ.”
It’s not certain whether John the Baptist and Jesus Christ knew each other growing up, said the archbishop. But Scripture shows that during a visit when both Mary and Elizabeth were pregnant that Elizabeth’s child “leaped for joy” in her womb.
“So it was in the womb that the Baptist first met his savior,” said Archbishop Kurtz.
The “innocent child in the womb” is worthy of defense and protection, said the archbishop.
“Medical science is telling us that the life you and I are now living was affected by the way we were treated when we were in the womb,” he said. “The prophet Isaiah said, in the first reading, that it was in the womb where he was formed by God, that his vocation and calling began from the very moment of conception.”
The archbishop went on to say that St. Paul, in the day’s second reading, talked about his calling to “testify.”
“You and I have no excuse,” he told the congregation. “You and I know we are here today … to find what God calls us to do, to stand up and testify for life.”
One way in which members of the faithful can testify for life is to support laws aimed at protecting the unborn, said the archbishop.
He also noted that he received a letter whose author suggested changing hearts instead of laws. The archbishop said he wrote back that both hearts and laws need to change in order to end abortion.
“We cannot tolerate unjust laws. Catholic social teaching makes that clear,” he said. “Good law helps change consciences.”
Archbishop Kurtz offered praise for the Kentucky Ultrasound Informed Consent Act passed in 2017. That law requires a woman considering an abortion to have an ultrasound and be informed about the images.
The archbishop went on to share with the congregation that the United States Supreme Court in December declined to hear a challenge to the law, enabling it to take immediate effect.
“We’re not supposed to, in the church, preach politics,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “What we are supposed to preach is just law.”
The archbishop shared that one such law being debated by Kentucky legislators this year is House Bill 67, which seeks to amend the constitution to explicitly state that there is no right to an abortion in Kentucky.
While the church stands against abortion, the archbishop noted that it is also important to support pregnant women.
“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to give dignity to the mother, but not to the child.’ You can’t say, ‘I’m going to give dignity to the child but not the mother.’ They go together,” he said.
That’s the reason the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the initiative “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service” to help parishes learn how to take action to help pregnant and parenting women. The initiative is set to begin in March.
The archbishop closed his homily by thanking all those in the Archdiocese of Louisville who are involved in ministries to support pregnant mothers.
“Each of you has given yourself courageously for life,” he said.
The annual Memorial Mass for the Sanctity of Life was one of a series of events in the Days of Human Dignity Initiative, including a celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy the following day.