Pro-life causes operate from victory
The enactment of a seriously flawed health care bill last week was a major blow to the pro-life cause. Tom Grenchik, director of the U.S. Bishops' Pro-life Office, acknowledged this health care bill "is clearly the largest legislative expansion of abortion funding and mandates in our country's history."
Despite extraordinary efforts to advocate for health care reform that protects human life and conscience rights, is fair to immigrants and improves affordability, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) was forced to oppose this health care bill in the end. The bishops concluded that despite whatever limited good may come from the bill, its expansion of the intrinsic evil of abortion and failure to protect consciences is too high of a cost.
This sobering reality has caused great concern among pro-life Americans. And many people may be tempted to become discouraged or cynical and, as a result, disengaged from the battle for life.
It is providential that we are celebrating Holy Week in the immediate shadow of this setback to the pro-life cause. This holiest time of the year reminds us the ultimate battle against death and evil has been won - once and for all - by our Lord's death and resurrection.
Father Frank Pavone from Priests for Life expressed this comforting reality quite cogently when he said that as Christians we engage in the pro-life battle not just for victory but from victory. God does not ask us to defeat death. He has already done this. But evil still exists and is always on the prowl.
What God asks of us is to faithfully, passionately and unceasingly oppose evil wherever and whenever it appears. And he gave each of us unique gifts and opportunities to serve him in this way.
At our final judgment we will have to account for how we used these gifts and opportunities from God. In particular, I believe, we will account for our action or inaction in proclaiming and defending the sacred dignity of human life.
If we truly embrace and embody the assurance of our faith, we should be confident and joy-filled in our pro-life efforts, in good times and in bad times. The following quote from the late Father Richard John Neuhaus has long been a source of inspiration and encouragement to me. I pray it also inspires you as we contemplate our Lord's Passion, death and resurrection.
"So long as we have the gift of life we must protect the gift of life. So long as it is threatened, so long must it be defended. This is the time to brace ourselves for the long term. We are today laying the foundations for the pro-life movement of the 21st century. Pray that the foundations are firm, for we have not yet seen the full fury of the storm that is upon us.
"But we have not the right to despair. We have not the right and we have not the reason to despair if we understand that our entire struggle is premised not upon a victory to be achieved, but a victory that has been achieved. If we understand that, far from despair we have right and reason to rejoice that we are called to such a time as this, a time of testing, a time of truth.
"The encroaching culture of death shall not prevail, for we know, as we read in John's Gospel, 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' The darkness will never overcome that light."
Greg Schleppenbach is state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.