The Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and The Conversion of St. Paul

This article was originally published in the Parish Bulletin on Jan. 20, 2013

I am very pleased about how everything is going with our stewardship renewal. Thank you for your participation, as you have considered what portion of your time, talent, and treasure you intend to give to God. Your recording these intentions on your commitment card means a great deal!

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That is a day off for schools, and an important holiday that we should not allow to pass unnoticed. Besides honoring a man who has become the symbol of our nation’s move to protect people’s civil rights, the third Monday in January can remind us to examine our consciences and see whether at some level we have formed judgments about people based on their racial background. If we realize we have, let’s try to remember that God loves them as much as he loves us.

I hope you will help me spread the word that this Tuesday, January 22 will be the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s twin decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion. The National Right to Life Committee reports that from 1973 through the end of 2011, there were 54,559,615 abortions in the United States – those are exact figures through 2008, as obtained by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which surveys abortionists directly, and estimated figures for the years 2009-2011. Currently there are about 1,212,000 abortions each year (down from a high of 1,608,000 in 1990).  Since it is 2013, we must have surpassed 55 million Americans who were never born. At least 25 million of those aborted babies would be adults now, loving God, caring for families, making discoveries in every field of study, and yes, working and participating in our economy and paying into the Social Security system.

According to the National Right to Life Committee (see this portion of its website:, in 1967 Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in the case of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother or in cases of rape or incest. Similar laws were soon passed in California, Oregon, and North Carolina. In 1970, New York began to allow abortion on demand, and Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington soon followed. At the end of 1972 those four states allowed abortion on demand, while 15 allowed abortions with some restrictions, and 31 allowed abortions only to save the life of the mother. So if the Supreme Court reversed itself next week, it seems we would revert to an array of different laws. Abortion was legal in some places before January 22, 1973, and it will continue to be legal when the Supreme Court eventually reverses itself, which it one day must do. So our work must be to change people’s minds. We have to pray and work to convince people that abortion is wrong and should be illegal, as other immoral activities such as theft and assault are illegal. Then when the ability to make laws limiting abortion is restored to the states, we will have to work to make abortion illegal here. For now, let us pray that people will open their hearts and come to respect the dignity of every human life. And let us also pray for anyone who has had an abortion or encouraged someone else to have one. They must know that God loves them and will certainly forgive them and heal them if they turn back to him.

In our country, all Catholics are urged by our bishops to observe “a particular day of penance for violations of the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.” If you are able to go to Mass that morning in the Historic Church at 9:00, you can hear the prayers that have been composed for January 22. Even though I will not be in town, I will be celebrating Mass in union with those of you who will be in our Historic Church. After Mass here, the Prayer Service for Life with Bishop Lee Piché will begin at 10:30 in the Cathedral of St. Paul. It will be followed by the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) rally outside the State Capitol.

Friday, January 25 is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The week before the feast day of Paul’s conversion is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Within Christianity there are three groups: the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and the ecclesial communities that have their origin in the Protestant Reformation. Human sinfulness is what would lead even those who are united in baptism to separate from each other. The separation of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians from each other happened over many, many years, but the seeds of the break were sown by the time of Paul himself. Toward the end of the first millennium, Christians began to drift away from one another because of differences between East and West based on language (Greek or Latin) and culture. By the year 1054 these differences had intensified into a formal break called the Great Schism.  In the 16th century, another very serious break occurred within the Western Church, in Europe, due in large part to the seriously sinful behavior of many people in the Church. That break has been multiplied many thousands of times over with the splintering of the Protestant communities into smaller and smaller groups.

The process leading toward the healing of the scandalous divisions in Christ’s Church is known as the ecumenical movement. True ecumenism (that’s pronounced eh-KYOO-min-ism) requires that Christians come face to face with our differences. And it requires prayer that the Holy Spirit will allow all Christians to experience real conversion, so that we will recognize what already unites us and move toward perfect unity.

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