“Pro-life” is not just a slogan or even a philosophy; it is the Christian way of life that respects, defends and promotes what Pope St. John Paul II called “the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life” (Evangelium Vitae 81). This issue of The Catholic Telegraph highlights some of the many pro-life efforts that support expectant mothers in difficult circumstances, both during pregnancy and after their child is born.
Abortion has a special claim on our attention because it is an intrinsic evil that cuts life short at its most vulnerable moment. That has been the clear teaching of the Church since the first Christian century. Science now confirms that everything making a human being human is present in the earliest stages of pregnancy–a vulnerable being whose inherent and sacred dignity demands respect.
For the nearly 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down almost all state laws limiting abortion in its infamous Roe v. Wade decision, Catholics joined others of good will in picketing at abortion clinics and marching in Washington. These peaceful protests sought reversal of a judicial ruling that even some abortion supporters concede had no basis in constitutional law.
However, the reversal of Roe v. Wade would not by itself change people’s hearts to “love them both,” mother and unborn child. That is best accomplished by the good example of joyful witnesses to the culture of life generously assisting women in need. At the time of this writing, there has been no final decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, but the Church has always stood ready to help women during pregnancy and after delivery.
Pope St. John Paul II noted in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) that challenges facing expectant mothers include lack of support from the father, financial strains, concerns about her own health and that of her child, and pressures from family and friends. Crisis pregnancy centers have been there to help in such situations since even before Roe v. Wade. And in our local Church, numerous Catholic organizations have long offered pregnancy counseling. Yet, more can be done. As Pope Francis said in 2015, our parishes should be “islands of mercy in a sea of indifference.”
In 2020, in honor of and in response to the 25th anniversary of The Gospel of Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a nationwide, parish-based effort called “Walking with Moms in Need.” Its purpose is to increase the Church’s outreach and support to pregnant women facing difficult or unexpected pregnancies, and to effectively communicate those efforts. This ministry enables parishioners to know these moms in need, listen to them and help them obtain necessities for themselves and their children.
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), called for the Church to be an evangelizing community of encounter and accompaniment, “standing by people every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be” (EG 24). The pregnancy care centers and pro-life ministries across our archdiocese are among the many answers to that plea.
Please join me in this prayer for pregnant mothers offered by the USCCB: O Blessed Mother, you received the good news of the incarnation of Christ, your Son, with faith and trust. Grant your protection to all pregnant mothers facing difficulties. Guide us as we strive to make our parish communities places of welcome and assistance for mothers in need. Help us become instruments of God’s love and compassion. Mary, Mother of the Church, graciously help us to build a culture of life and a civilization of love, together with all people of good will, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life. Amen.