Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As our nation observes the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we mourn collectively the loss of 56 million children whose lives were ended before birth. The numbers are so staggeringly large that they can become meaningless to us.
We grieve with the parents and families of these little ones, whose loss and regret often remain hidden, affecting their lives and robbing them of joy with a grief they feel unable to share openly. We see the coarseness of our society, which so often suffers with violence and indifference to the needs of others in the pursuit of individual choice unmoored from considerations of responsibility and consequences.
The Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision was just four years old when I was ordained a bishop in 1977. This sorrowful chapter in our nation’s history has been a constant accompaniment over these years, and the destruction of innocent life has sadly come to be considered routine and jealously guarded by some as an unassailable right. The issue of abortion is often distorted through lenses of political platforms, the dominion of choice, private decisions and legal precedents. What is so easily lost in such abstractions is the precious and utterly unique gift of life from God that is each child.
Think of the different people you know, no two alike in appearance or personality — so too are each of these children and the human community has been deprived of what they might have been and done in our midst. Of course, Roe v. Wade did not emerge from out of nowhere. It was the consequence of many other changes in our culture and, as Blessed Pope John Paul often said, only a change of culture — through a change of human hearts — will make abortion a thing of the past, safeguarding each human life while attending to the needs of those in difficult pregnancies.
This is the ongoing work of proclaiming the Gospel of Life, and I want to thank so many of you in our diocese and across our country who take this work in hand. While recalling 40 years of legal abortion understandably creates a somber tone of sadness, abundant signs of hope are also part of our history since 1973.
Crisis pregnancy centers greatly outnumber abortion clinics, providing maternal-child care, emotional, spiritual and practical support and skills for parenting and decision-making far into the future. Education and outreach strive to address root causes of unintended pregnancies and offer life-affirming alternatives.
Project Rachel and similar ministries offer healing and hope to women and men after abortion.
A younger generation sees the possibilities in faith and advocacy for life, refusing to accept that abortion, poverty and violence must be a part of our society; their idealism and energy challenges us to renew our efforts and not give way to discouragement or the inertia of the past.
Persevering and fervent prayer for life reassures us and calls upon the power of the Holy Spirit to do what no human power can accomplish. That Spirit — the Lord and Giver of Life — is at work among us. In this Year of Faith, we call upon this Advocate to make us “strong, loving and wise” (II Timothy 1:7) in witness to the gospel of life.
Thus, along with my brother bishops, I encourage you to join in the nationwide Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty as you are able. This includes the possibility of fast and abstinence from meat every Friday; the daily rosary as individuals or families; including these intentions at the Prayer of the Faithful at our Masses; a holy hour the last Sunday of each month; and a second Fortnight for Freedom to be observed this summer.
In our 1998 statement, “Living the Gospel of Life,” the U.S. bishops concluded by invoking Mary. As her faith and openness to life allowed God’s mercy to take flesh in Jesus, so we ask for those same gifts that Christ’s teaching may take flesh through our lives.
Mary, Patroness of the Americas, renew in us a love for the beauty and sanctity of the human person from conception to natural death; and as your Son gave His life for us, help us to live our lives serving others. Mother of the Church, Mother of our Savior, open our hearts to the Gospel of life, protect our nation, and make us witnesses to the truth.
+John F. Kinney
Bishop of Saint Cloud