Each March for Life is a study in contrasts. Prolifers both young and old, who too often labour alone or in small groups with little support or encouragement and in the face of unrelenting pressure, find themselves for one day (weather always unpredictable) assembled in our thousands and take heart from the numbers giving us proof of the profound sanity of our cause.
But the basic reason for our gathering is grim.
This year we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the legalization of the wholesale killing of preborn children in Canada. I can only leave it to the statisticians to do the forensic work on the numbers of the dead. It is in the millions. There is a danger in looking at numbers like that. A saying has been attributed to the mass killer Stalin (among other dubious quotes) that, “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” So too the tallying up of the numbers of deaths is numbing. Uncounted is the psychological and spiritual toll of mothers who have chosen death for their children and the silent sorrow of fathers deprived of any say in saving the life of their preborn children and the widening “collateral damage “ of all of society that can too easily shrug and just say, “We have to accept it, I guess.” We do not, cannot, and will not.
As I write this, the state of Alabama has effectively outlawed abortion and the bill is waiting for the governor’s signature. It appears the state of Georgia may soon follow. Shrill media harpies have already begun their chorus. Many Canadian media commentators are aghast that such a bill could ever be contemplated! Get engaged because the uproar is having ripple effects here.
Niagara West Member of Provincial Parliament, Sam Oosterhoff, recently spoke to the Toronto March for Life outside Queen’s Park and was pilloried in the media for saying, “We pledge to make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime.” His later comment in response to a media scrum was, “I will always be a voice for the voiceless!” but that was cut out of most media reporting. He didn’t back down.
After the March For Life in Ottawa there is a Rose Dinner where hundreds of young people gather. They weren’t alive when abortion was legalized -neither was Sam Oosterhoff- but they echo his words. They speak for voiceless and they are adamant in building a Culture for Life.
As priests, bishops and deacons, we need to help them. We need to help them raise the money for training and activities to turn enthusiasm into action that gets results. We need to stand with them in getting our Catholic high schools to promote pro-life values and set up clubs to educate, motivate and organize effective activists. We need to back them publicly on the street, the campuses, in the pulpits and institutions. We need to help them do the job of the Catholic laity – in politics -without fearing the consequences.
Do not let the dead hand of these 50 years discourage you, deaden your hearts, or silence your tongues. “The lips of priests should guard knowledge and wisdom is to be found from their mouths.” (Malachi 2:7) The People of God turn to us and we can speak to the dry bones of our society so that the Spirit of God will raise up these mighty champions for the preborn, the voiceless and the imperilled. That same Spirit will renew the strength of us, too.
It may be an anniversary, but it is not destined to be our future!