“Life, Marriage, and a Healthy Society: A Packaged Deal”
October 28, 2023
Speech upon the acceptance of the pro-life leadership award
on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of United for Life of San Francisco
Star of the Sear Parish, San Francisco, CA
Thank you, Tony, thank you, Ron, and thank you all for all your support. Just keep me in your prayers, asking God that I not be too unworthy of all this recognition that you give to me. My hat is off to Tony – or, I suppose I should say my zucchetto – not because of all those flattering things you said about me, but because you began your remarks with the way I was going to begin my remarks: Mary Ann Schwab, what a heroine to us all. Tony gave a great recognition and review of her heroic life, so I wanted to begin by recognizing that we are all mourning her passing. I want you to take just one minute of silence and then pray at the very end in thanksgiving to God for who she was and all she did.
At this time, the Archbishop led one minute of silent prayer for the repose of the soul of Mary Ann Schwab.
May she rest in peace. Amen.
I thank you for this recognition, but I see it really as a recognition of all of you and all that you are doing to defend the sanctity of life. We would not be here if you were not doing that. So as the old saying goes, we are all in this together, and we really are, and it is a team effort. Everyone has to do their part and make the contribution only they can make.
I personally am very encouraged by your willingness to take a stand and speak on this issue of the utmost importance. This is the intrinsic sanctity of human life, of human dignity, and especially in these times. So, we are very happy about that Dobbs decision, that after almost 50 years, Roe was finally overturned, but as you know, especially here in California and other states – but no more than here in California – it is presenting new and greater challenges.
Who cannot be horrified at the idea of the call to make California an abortion “sanctuary” state? A “sanctuary” for the killing of children in the womb? “Sanctuary” is supposed to be about protection, not killing, right? I do not mean to be rhetorical; I mean this literally: this is a “sanctuary” for Satan because the sacrifice of children is satanic. When the ancient Israelites deviated from the covenant that God had made with them, and they went over to the pagan practices, they sacrificed their children. It is very clear, they sacrificed them to Moloch: we see this all throughout the Scriptures. Those of you who share Holy Orders with me or are religious read about that in the Office of Readings. Remember the reading yesterday from the prophet Baruch, it spoke about how they were eating the flesh of their sons and daughters? So, this is something that is satanic: remember, of course, that in the Old Testament biblical mentality the pagan gods, or false gods, are the same thing as demons. So, our state wants to be a sanctuary for Satan.
On a happier note, we are here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of United for Life. Applause. Amen. Thank you. Thank you all. I am so impressed when I look out at you all and see the great diversity of us “united for life” and beyond, this united effort, this great diversity of races and ethnicities, of expressions of our common faith in Christ, and of all ages as well. Of course, those of us involved know that the pro-life movement is a young movement. The young people are the ones who are leading the charge in pro-life because they are beginning to realize what has happened to their generation. Approximately one-third of them are not here. The young people alive today are the ones who survived this holocaust.
Some of us are older, though, and I see that a number of you are around my age or older. So, we can remember when that happened, when the Roe decision happened 50 years ago, this year almost now 51. I remember it very well. I remember being horrified by it. I could not understand how people could think that this was a good thing. I remember some of my classmates in high school thinking that this was advancing society forward; I just could not understand it. I could not understand how people could not recognize how serious this is, and I have noticed ever since then this campaign to change people’s attitudes on the issue, and they always begin by changing the language.
What It Isn’t – Rhetoric
They know that if they change the language, to get people to adopt that language, they can change the way people think about it, and then they can begin to succeed. So, the language is a way of deflecting attention away from what the issue is really about. And so, you are all familiar with the rhetoric about being supposedly “pro-choice”. This language of pro-choice, we cannot capitulate to that; so many do, even those who are ardently pro-life, they capitulate to using that term “pro-choice”.
We are all for choice in the sense that we all believe people have the right to make choices for their lives. Yes, this is a foundational principle of our country, but we also believe that people’s rights have to be limited so that the rights of one do not deprive others of their rights.
So, I noticed how the media follows this script of using “pro-choice” and “anti-abortion”. How much sense does this make? If there is an issue, and you have some people who are “pro-” and some people are “anti-”, the word on the right side of the hyphen has to be the same word. Otherwise, you are talking about two different things.
This mentality is so ingrained. I remember a few years ago when Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, was the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-life Activities. A New York Times reporter was there, wrote up an article about him, and the article referred to him as the chairman of the United States Bishops’ “Anti-Abortion” Committee. They could not even cite the real name of the committee, so ingrained is this mentality.
We hear about the right to privacy. Of course, this is not in the Constitution, or in those so-called “penumbra” of the Constitution – and what about the right to life, anyway, even if there is a right to privacy here? We hear this rhetoric about a woman has a right to her body, trying to deflect attention away from the fact that there is another body inside this body. What about the right of that body, the human being who inhabits that body?
Or, “my body, my choice” – I might be going out on limb with some of you, but somehow that did not apply when it came to the vaccine mandates. Somehow, “my body, my choice” did not apply in that case. In fact, in referring to these mandates, our president said – literally, word-for-word – “There is no freedom, there is no choice.” Okay, so you are trying to tell me that if I do not get that vaccine and I get infected, there is a very minuscule chance that I might infect someone with the virus if I have it and do not know it, and that person will die? Those chances are very minimal, but when it comes to abortion, it is absolutely certain somebody is going to die. So, we have this cognitive dissonance.
Then, they speak about “equality for women”, which is another way of confusing “equality” with “sameness”. This is something that also has always perplexed me. Do we really respect women when they have to be doing everything that a man does to be equal to a man? Is not this setting up the male as the paradigm for equality? Why does she have to kill what makes her uniquely feminine in order to be equal to a man? How is that respecting women? Why are we not amazed, reduced to silence, at the gift God gave to women, to bring a new life into the world? Inside of her womb is a new life with an immortal soul! Our society used to organize itself around that, for the good of the child and for the good of the mother, for the blessing of her fertility is a blessing from God. It is not an inconvenience or a switch to be turned on and off.
What a blessing from God that is, and this goes along with an equal demise of true manhood – that the man has this role of mediating his children’s relationship with God. There is something uniquely priestly about the man in the home. So, God gave an awesome gift to each one, to the man and to the woman. They are equally awesome, and it is a beautiful thing when they come together in complementarity to image God, Who is a life-giving Communion of Persons. That is how He created us to be. That is how we reflect His image and likeness – in a life-giving community of persons. A man and a woman come together in comprehensive union, a conjugal union, that gives forth in life.
Then, they somehow pivoted from this whole “pro-choice” and “right to privacy” rhetoric to calling abortion “reproductive health”. It is another cognitive dissonance. It is about keeping women from reproducing; how can you call it “reproductive health”? Reproductive health is making sure she is healthy in order to reproduce.
Now, though, abortion is being celebrated as an absolute good. This is another digression I have noticed over the decades, as old as I am now. The rhetoric in favor of abortion was originally intended to softly introduce abortion into society, to tolerate it as a necessary evil. Way back then, people who were in favor of it being legal and available would at least say, “Well, it is not really a good thing, but sometimes it is the best choice of all bad choices.” Of course, that is not true because somebody ends up dying, but at least they looked at it that way. Then, it became the “right to choose”, and then it became “healthcare”, and now we are told to celebrate abortion as a positive good. How can this be celebrated? How can anyone, even if someone is misled into thinking that it can be legitimate in some circumstances, think that it is a positive good?
We hear all kinds of other examples of this rhetoric: “You can’t legislate morality.” Actually, we do that all the time. Any law, any felony, it is a moral issue, right? You can’t murder somebody. You can’t set fire to their home if they have upset you. You can’t steal their car. You can’t break into their house and burglarize their home. These are all moral issues, and they are illegal. So, actually, we do legislate morality.
And of course there is that really big one in the rhetoric: “You cannot impose your religion on everyone else.” Well, if that is the case, if this is imposing religion, then we have to do it with all those other laws I just mentioned. Stealing would have to be off the books, right? Because religion says stealing is wrong. Arson is off the books. Religion says arson is wrong, right?
Look at the Ten Commandments – I do not know if the Lutherans have to same listing of the Ten Commandments as Catholics (but I think you do) – but the first three commandments have to do with our relationship to God. This is part of revealed truth. The other seven have to do with the relationship we have with each other. These are things we can figure out from reason alone, right? That we should respect our parents. That we should not steal from people. That we should not kill innocent people. These things we can understand from reason alone, and we can understand that, without the observance of these principles, there would be no good governance in any society. So, we are not legislating our religion or imposing our religion on everyone else.
Our religious faith gives us deeper insights and greater clarity into these natural truths, yes. But if you say “you can’t impose your religion”, our opposition to abortion is not a matter of religious belief. First of all, it is a matter of scientific fact. It is a fact that it is a human life in the womb. There is no question that is a human life, right? And they say they believe in science, but somehow, they conveniently do not when it is inconvenient for them. So, that is a fact, and if you believe that innocent people should not be killed, it can lead you to no other conclusion.
We hear a lot about “separation of Church and State”, which, of course, is also not in the Constitution, as I am sure you all know, but the right to life is a foundational principle of our country. As you know, that is in the Declaration of Independence, the foundational document from which was drafted our Constitution: no man shall be deprived of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “Man”, of course, we understand, does not mean simply adult male, but rather all members of the human race.
What It Is – “Fundamental” Right
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – there is a logical sequence here, right? Life is the foundational one. If there is no right to life, how can there be a right to anything else? All rights are built on that foundation of the right to life. So, you cannot deprive someone of their right to life for the sake of your right to liberty. I want to be free to do whatever I want to do, but there is this logical order: the foundational right is life. So, my right to liberty has to be limited if it is going to deprive someone else of the right to life. My right to the pursuit of happiness has to be limited if it is going to deprive someone else of their right to liberty. So, there is this kind of logical sequence.
Their tactics are very clever. So, I had thought of this as we were sitting down to dinner. When my dear friend and brother Walter Hoye was being introduced, it reminded me of the first time I met him, which was before my visit to him in jail. It was in January of that year at the dinner after the Walk for Life. That was when I realized what a pro-life hero we have here. I do not know any other example of a city council that passed an ordinance to target one individual who was trying to give women information as they were going into abortion clinics. The City of Oakland passed an ordinance because Walter was praying in front of the abortion clinics, and he was giving literature to the women, giving them accurate information about abortion. They passed an ordinance, forbidding anyone to come within eight feet of a woman going into an abortion clinic.
Now, I do not think I mentioned it to you, Walter, but I mentioned it to somebody. What I would have done, Walter, is to get something like a hula-hoop, an eight-foot radius around you, okay? Or make sure you are eight feet away using a stick with a device at the end to hand them the literature. They targeted this man and put him in jail for trying to give women information and save them from misery. Thank you, Walter.
What It Is – Industry
So, what is this about, really? It is not really about choice. It is not about imposing religion. Sadly, abortion in our country has become an industry, and this is well documented, too. I am sure many of you have read another awesome conversion story of the former abortionist who became a pro-life hero, Dr. Bernard Nathanson. He wrote a book called Aborting America, and he explained the strategy to liberalize abortion laws. Part of this was changing the language. They had to identify a visible enemy, so they did target the Catholic Church as a visible enemy. We were easily targetable. Dr. Nathanson was a founding member of the original NARAL. The original NARAL stood for the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, which was trying to liberalize abortion laws. After they succeeded, they changed the name, and now they are the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League. But Dr. Nathanson said the real motivation was profit. They saw a lot of money was to be made in abortions, and that is still the case.
I am sure many of you – all of you – have heard the testimonies of Abby Johnson, Patricia Sandoval, and others who have come out of the Planned Parenthood abortion industry world. They say it is all about sales. They do not want women to have information. They tell them lies. They told Patricia – in one talk, I heard her say it – not to put pictures of the little children in your workspace. It might dissuade the women from getting an abortion. They are lied to. I am sure you know examples as I do. There is a woman I know who is now a pro-life hero who went through her own abortion experience. When she was in the clinic and changed her mind, she did not want to go through with it. But they are very vulnerable, right? They are susceptible to pressure. She was told that it is just a bunch of cells. They know that if women are given real choice, they will choose life.
True Respect for Women
We are most pro-life when we give women that opportunity, and thank you to all of you who do what you can to support pro-life crisis pregnancy clinics. Thank you, Dolores, and all your supporters of the Bella Clinic. This is exactly what we need to be doing to show that we are truly pro-life and to show the lies of the abortion industry. They say all we care about is the baby in the womb; that we do not care about the woman. We are the only ones who care about the woman. Where are the abortionists afterwards when the woman is grieving, anxious, and does not know where to turn? In fact, she can’t talk to anyone about it. She is not supposed to feel guilty about it. Where does she go for healing? She goes to the Church, the ones who understood how wrong this decision was. We are the ones who take her in and help her to heal.
We are the ones who are supporting these crisis pregnancy clinics that are being so defamed and persecuted. We know from their experience that when a woman is given information about what is going on within her, about fetal development, and what the abortion procedure involves, she chooses life 95 percent of the time. When she sees that 3-D sonogram, when she is given information about her full range of choices – whether it be adoption or raising the child herself – she chooses life. But she needs support. She might need a place to stay; she might need some job training or help with filling out a resumé for a job so she can get back on her feet. There is also the old-fashioned solution of marriage for those men who (now, sad to say, are not that many) are around to want to commit to her and be the father to the child. There are all these ranges of choices, and we know that when she is given that information and the support she needs to make one of those other choices, life is what she opts for, right?
So that is why I like to say those of you who are supporting these crisis pregnancy clinics, actually, you are the ones who are “pro-choice” because you are giving her the help she needs to exercise any number of choices except for one. On the other side, all they care about is that she makes one choice, and one choice is no choice. You have to have at least two options to make a choice, right? They don’t want her to have any other choice, so they are the ones who are actually “anti-choice”. We are the ones who are “pro-choice”. And those of us who practice pastoral ministry – I am sure my fellow priests here have experiences as I have – hear women who are filled with anxiety say that they did not want to go through with it but felt like they had no choice. How can that be if we are supposed to be a pro-choice society? How could she say, “I felt like I had no choice”?
So, this is something that is very sinister, even diabolical – the way we instrumentalize human beings, the most innocent, for the sake of profit and power. In the end, as I was alluding to before, this is as far as it can get from affirming the equality of women because it is really the greatest betrayal of the true dignity of women. Again, God gave women this awesome gift. I am so heartbroken, devastated, how men do not appreciate this. We men should be down on our knees in awe at this gift that God gave to women. We need to respect them and surround them with love, care, tenderness, and support for this awesome gift that God gave to them.
So why do our laws not require the father of the child to take responsibility, especially now that we have scientific means to verify paternity of the child? It is all put on her shoulders, is it not? Sometimes we hear a man say, “I will support you in whatever decision you make.” Okay, women, I do not know for sure how you react to that, but I suspect your reaction is disappointment and fear because you can see through the phoniness of that response. What does that mean, “I will support you in whatever decision you make”? “Yeah, I will not get in the way if you want to give birth to the child. I will not get it in the way if you want to abort it; I might even pay for it and drive you to the clinic.”
That is supporting her? Will he really support her in whatever decision she makes? What if her decision is, “Hey, you know what? You are the father of this child. This is as much your child as it is mine, so we are going to get married. You are going to go to work; you are going to support our family and take care of us.” Is he willing to do that? That is supporting.
Of course, on the other hand, there are men, too, who are harmed by the abortion decision. There are men who want the child to be born and are willing to take responsibility for the child, but they are left out of the picture, right? It is like, “Butt out, this is my baby.” Well, it is equally his baby, right? The man has no rights in the whole thing. So, how denigrating is this to men, who are called to protect and provide and be a father and a husband?
So, we need authentically to uphold the dignity of women, and the Church has done that from the very beginning. Christians are the ones who upheld the dignity of women in the ancient world, when that dignity was so disregarded, so violated. From the earliest times, we have venerated women saints and martyrs. In the early centuries, when there was this monastic movement – monks going out into the Egyptian desert to seek God in solitude – there were communities of women as well, along with the men. Communities of women arose to take care of the poor and the sick. The Church pioneered institutions of higher education for women, founded and run by women. And the highest ideal of discipleship is a woman, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What You Can Do
Above all, the Church affirmed the dignity of women and civilized the pagan world through monogamous, lifelong marriage. This recognizes the true, equal dignity of husband and wife in the complementary union that is the covenant of marriage. Ultimately, all these social ills we are facing come down to the demise of the Christian sexual ethic. It is the integral connection between sex, marriage, and the bearing and rearing of children.
Now, if you read that article Ron mentioned earlier in the Chronicle about Bishop Barber and me, you would think I am saying this because I am a “firecracker hard-right conservative” because I believe boys are boys and girls are girls. But I am not sinking to that. We have 50-plus years of social science and all this research, all these reports. Those of you my age and older remember the famous Moynihan Report about the demise of the African American family because of the rise of fatherlessness (at that time, 25% of African-American births were outside of wedlock). It says that unless this trend is curbed and reversed, it is going to be a disaster. Now, this fatherlessness is all over our society.
And ever since then, study after study has shown all these social ills we are facing are because of fatherlessness. Children are growing up without a father, or with an abusive father. And we hear so often about whatever the issue is we are dealing with, whether it is gun violence, homelessness, incarceration, they want to get to the root of the problem. I wonder, do they really? If you get to the root of the problem, you can discover it is fatherlessness.
This is the whole point of marriage. As someone smarter than I on these issues once said, “When the baby is born, the mother is sure to be somewhere nearby. There is no guarantee the father is going to be nearby. Society needs a social mechanism that attaches fathers to the mother of the child he brings into the world with her, and to the child, and that mechanism is marriage.” So, we are suffering all of this social devastation because of this disintegration of sex, marriage, and the bearing and rearing of children.
Traditional View of Sexuality
God created this beautiful gift of sexual union for babies and bonding. Again, it is His image. The covenant of marriage is the image of God. Sex is a gift that belongs only within the relationship of marriage. All society, if it is going to be healthy and flourishing, needs to be organized around that. Women need to be respected as bearers of life. Well, I am also old enough to remember when there were traditional manners where a woman would not easily give her affection to a man. He had to prove himself to be worthy of it. I find it so sad, again, this whole idea that the woman has to be just like the man. But what I see is a lot of imitations of men at their worst in terms of language, dress, and manners.
Okay, those of you who are young, you are probably going to think I am a weird old fogey when I say this, but I remember when I was in the end of high school and first year of college, I had a job bussing tables at a diner. And on the weekends, I had the morning shift, the breakfast shift. I remember every Saturday morning a retired Protestant minister and his wife would come in for breakfast, and I did not know yet that God was calling me to be a priest. I was beginning to get an inkling, but I thought my vocation was marriage. And though they were retired and elderly, I remember how joyful they were. I could see through the picture window, they would pull in the parking lot, and he’d open the door for her, and then when they walked into the restaurant, he would open the door for her to enter, and they were holding hands, and they were so joyful, gleeful. And I thought, “When I get toward the end of my life, I want to be like that.”
How to Live Your Lives
How did they get there? Well, you know it was not by hooking up when they were in college! They were formed in a virtue that made them capable of that kind of happiness in their marriage. This is what images the Holy Trinity. So, what can we do? We have to promote a marriage culture, most especially by example in little ways and big ways: modesty in dress, modesty in our speech, avoiding all those dangers of pornography and hooking up, and all those other things that corrupt us. And I would ask you, obviously, in bigger ways to keep doing what you are doing in the defense of the sanctity of life in the womb. Life, marriage, and a healthy society all go together. If they are separated, it all falls apart. Life, marriage, and a healthy society: it is a packaged deal.
This will always involve some suffering — at least ridicule, marginalization, sometimes maybe even having a local ordinance targeted against you. We are all going to face some marginalization and ridicule, but we know what the truth is, and the truth cannot be hidden forever. And what did our Lord teach us when that happens? What are we supposed to do? Get angry and fight back? You do have to fight back, in a Christian way. He did not say to get sad and go away. He said to rejoice. When we are persecuted and slandered unjustly for His sake, we are to rejoice. Think about that scene in the Acts of the Apostles, when they were persecuted, beaten, and then released. What does Luke say in the Acts of the Apostles? “They rejoiced for having suffered dishonor for the sake of the name.”
This is how we bear witness to the goodness of the Gospel and the goodness of the gospel of life. And we see it is having an effect. As extreme as it is getting in some places, like here in California, I sense our country is becoming more pro-life. Now, the media will tell you about how Americans still favor abortion. My sense is that most Americans are conflicted about the issue. I do not think very many Americans believe abortion should be permitted for all nine months up to the day of birth. I do not think very many Americans really believe that is a good thing. The problem is they cannot imagine a world free of abortion. So, they think it should be allowed under some circumstances. And the difference is, how limited are those circumstances? Our challenge is to help them imagine a world free of abortion. That is where it starts. It is just imagining that, right?
So, they might say, “You are never going to eliminate abortion.” Are we ever going to have world peace? Do you think the world will ever be completely free of war? But we can imagine it, right? And we know it is good to work for it, and we keep working for it despite how serious the situation is becoming because we can imagine it. So, people need to imagine a world without abortion and how much better that world would be. Yes, it will involve some suffering, as I mentioned. But we are in good company. All those who have advocated for justice in an unjust society have suffered persecution. Many of us are old enough to remember the civil rights movement, and those who suffered and, obviously, were killed for defending civil rights. Sadly, there is much hatred and hostility in the world today, and it seems to be growing in our own country. But it is your purity, goodness, affability, and compassion that will win them over. So, be witnesses to the truth. And thank you for being witnesses to the truth.