I was at a Sisters of Life convent the other day for a press conference…
Bless the mother, kill the child
For several weeks at the end of each year, Catholics in America celebrate the beauty and joy of motherhood. The liturgical feasts and biblical readings describe how God instilled hope by creating life in the wombs of virgins and barren women.
On Dec. 8, the Church honors the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She, who was destined to become the Mother of God, was conceived in the womb of her mother, Anne, free from original sin, a pure vessel to bring forth the Savior of the world.
Then, four days later, Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On that date — Dec. 12 — in 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego and imprinted on his tilma an image of herself, clothed in native garb that was adorned with Aztec pictoglyphs identifying her as a pregnant virgin.
Shadow of death
On both feasts and on many other days preceding Christmas, the Mass readings detail the angel Gabriel telling Zechariah about Elizabeth’s pregnancy with their son, John the Baptist, and his message to Mary of God’s divine plan for the Messiah to come among man in the form of her child. These descriptions of divine events are complemented by Old Testament readings from Judges, Isaiah and Samuel, prophesying about Emmanuel and sharing stories of people who preceded and pointed to Jesus, such as Samson and Samuel.
These readings bring us to Christmas. This most solemn of holy days is liturgically celebrated for eight days, ending on its octave of Jan. 1, which the Roman Catholic Church designates as the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. The old year thus ends with the birth of Our Savior, and a new year begins with a celebration of Mary’s motherhood.
But even as life is proclaimed, the shadow of death looms. On Dec. 28, the Church remembers the Holy Innocents, the boys two years and younger who were ordered to be massacred by Herod because his fear that Jesus would be an earthly king.
Today, a similar heinous slaughter has been repeated daily since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Some 60 million children in America have been destroyed before birth, exterminated by acts of their mothers’ free will and abetted by an infrastructure of death. No past society in the history of the world has ever tolerated such voluntary, massive destruction of its own people.
The promotion of death is big business in the United States, with thousands of people making their living killing unborn babies. It is not compassion for a distressed mother but money that is the driving force. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which performs more than one-third of all abortions in the nation, is abetted in its grizzly business by the federal government, having received $544 million in taxpayer money during the 2016-17 fiscal year. With an outspoken pro-abortion advocate — sadly, a Catholic — as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, it is unlikely that federal support will decrease.
After 46 years of battling legalized abortion, pro-life efforts are bearing results. The Center for Disease Control recently reported that the number of abortions in the United States decreased 24 percent over the decade 2006-2015, to an historic low. However, there also is a disturbing shift from surgical abortions to medication abortions. Since the Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486, commonly known as the abortion pill, in September 2000, medication abortions have increased to one quarter of all abortions.
As abortifacients become easier to obtain — an increasing number of universities are making morning-after pills available via campus vending machines — more and more abortions will occur by simply “popping a pill.” There soon will be no need to go to an abortion clinic, face pro-life prayer warriors and counselors, possibly see graphic images or view an ultrasound picture, or undergo a surgical procedure. The woman will have less anxiety or feelings of guilt about taking a self-procured pill, as her actions will seem normal.
The pro-life movement is faced with a new significant challenge. As increasing numbers of abortions are done at earlier stages with pills, the hearts, minds and consciences of people must be formed to acknowledge the existence and dignity of the human person at the earliest stages of development and recognize the evils of abortion in all its forms. With the low level of religious observance in America — one quarter of all adults have no religious affiliation, while only 23 percent of Catholics attend Mass each week — this will not be easy to achieve, but it must be done.
America needs a religious revitalization. There must be an endeavor by religious and laity to live one’s faith openly and fully in public, and to develop a societal reverence for human life. But most importantly, there must be a concerted effort of prayer — to rededicate this nation to its patroness, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and to call upon that pregnant virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has been declared Empress of the Americas. With prayer and faith, with Our Lady’s intercession to her Son, the nation’s culture can change, for as Our Lord assures us, “with God, all things are possible.”
Lawrence P. Grayson is a visiting scholar in the School of Philosophy of The Catholic University of America.