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Remarks of Bishop Raica at the 2017 Gaylord March for Life
My dear friends of the Pro-Life:
The Pro-Life Movement amazes me! There are a number of movements and organizations closely knit together whose mission and purpose is to support life. We are Pro-Life. We are FOR life (not AGAINST life!). We seek to provide those supports necessary to protect and defend life against direct attacks and violent actions against it – especially that violence we call abortion.
For us who are pro-life, it is necessary to do two things today:
- to stand up for the preservation and defense of life when it’s most vulnerable, particularly unborn human life;
- to create a culture that protects, respects and celebrates life, the life of men who are fathers; the life of women who are mothers, entrusted with this very special gift to nurture and bring life into the world. We view life in both its strongest and weakest forms as something precious, cherished and valued.
Certainly, the greatness of any society can be measured by the protections that are offered for all life. I am thinking here about legal protections through legislation; I am thinking here about the safety net in our social systems to support mothers at difficult moments who discover an untimely pregnancy; I’m thinking about the conscience rights of doctors and nurses who have taken an oath “to do no harm;” I’m thinking about truth in education and science without overlays of ideology or reductions to the understanding of anthropology; I’m thinking about people of faith, traditional families, responsibilities of parents and individuals with sincerely held beliefs about life who are belittled by cheap characterizations by a culture and entertainment industry that attempts to glamorize abortion and violence. I am thinking about how we honor the dignity of each individual, not because of a condition of his or her life, but for one’s dignity as a human being (created in God’s image and likeness!). If we do not honor and respect the dignity of each and every human being, then, nothing will be valued. Nothing will be sacred. Everything will up for grabs and subject to the whims of the powers that be. Mother Teresa said it best: “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between."
What’s the alternative? A false and dangerous utilitarianism. If we don’t honor the dignity of every human being, then it seems to me that the alternative is that we are valued and measured only insofar as we are useful to society. Usefulness and utility are dangerous measures for society. Who makes that determination? The doctor? The state or federal legislature? Judges in a court? Family members? The powers that be? I think it is a pretty dangerous path.
Though I stand here as a religious leader, the questions of life are beyond religious issues. They are human issues regardless of what religion I happen to profess. But, because they are human issues, they are also interesting to religion because religion seeks to help us understand reality in all of its factors, especially the transcendent qualities that go beyond one’s physical and chemical make-up. The more we come to know about the real human issues, the more we can speak about science, especially biology. All taken together, we can then look at an individual as one blessed by God, our Creator, and who is imbued with a defined purpose and meaning for the good of self and for society.
As I think of all these things, I think of my own mother, Mary. She came from a very poor Italian immigrant family, settling and living in the rural outreaches of the Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. Some of you may know my mother only has one arm. It was a congenital defect. As children, my brother and I, we know her simply as “mom”. We never thought of her as defective or even handicapped. She was loving and caring in every respect. She drove a car, cut onions and vegetables in the kitchen without any help, taught fourth grade in a public elementary school. She was active in every possible way. Of course, there were some things she couldn’t do. She didn’t swim, for instance. But, then again, many people don’t or can’t swim!
Nowadays, I think what her mother – my grandmother went through. There was no modern technology. She was probably born at home. There was no fancy medical machinery. Instead there was a family doctor who made house calls! Births were at home. There were no ultrasounds. I imagine that if they did, they would have noted her defect and she would have been an easy candidate for abortion. Luckily and providentially, that technology wasn’t available. That was life back in the 1920s. Mom is now 90 years old this month and has lived a life that exceeded her expectation.
In our modern world – with so much more sophistication and technical support and availability of support services, why would one even contemplate a termination of pregnancy or abortion? It’s surprising that in 2017, we have to demonstrate for each human life to be valued and treasured. It is ironic that hospitals today advertise how their specialty doctors and Neo-natal Intensive Care Units can do amazing things to save lives. Yet in spite of these advances, there are some in our culture who foster and promote the destruction of unborn children, taking advantage of women and families in difficulty without offering to accompany them on their journey.
For these reasons, it is important and necessary to stand up for the weakest and most vulnerable among us – those who are in the wombs of mothers across our nation, in our cities and in our families. These are our brothers and sisters who cannot speak or resist, and await us to speak for them and defend their interests. So, here and in many cities across our great nation, we rise up to speak for them.
Since that fateful decision by the Supreme Court back in 1973 on Roe v. Wade, we gather every year to stand up for life. This tragic decision has led to the snuffing out of almost 60 million of our brothers and sisters in this country. It has created a climate of the tacit acceptance of violence against those who are most vulnerable and weakest in our midst. In my view, it tears at fragile nature of our society whose task it is to defend and protect life. We gather to build a culture of life: One by one; year after year; talking to one person after another; promoting educational endeavors to reach young people in their formative stage; to tell the truth about abortion and its ravaging effects on individuals and society; and to build a culture of life.
While we remember the unborn today, we should not forget all vulnerable life – from conception to natural death.
Our development of a culture of life begins with ourselves as individuals. This culture of life is not an idea or an ideology but in reality itself. We can take those moments to construct a pseudo-reality that we might think is useful for us, if we want. At the end of the day, reality imposes itself upon us. We must recognize it and acknowledge it and view it as a tremendous gift to us.
This past week, I stumbled upon this explanation that helped me understand a little more the challenge we face today, especially between the pro-life movement and the anti-life movements. It is framed within the context of life, freedom and the good. Somehow, deep down we sense that life is fundamentally good. “Yet we have a hard time relating to many aspects of life: family, work, politics, society, even our own bodies and the very food we eat. We should be masters of our destiny, but often don’t know what to do with ourselves, and rely on experts to face all kinds of problems. We want to be independent in our decisions, and yet we live in fear of missing out and afraid of really committing ourselves to anything. We claim to be in control of our time, but are constantly anxious about the future. We think we know how to love, but repeatedly feel tossed around by our emotions. We look for ‘beautiful experiences,’ trying to capture the moment, but are left wondering if we are truly experiencing life.
“In the end, since life does not bend to our desires and its meaning remains elusive, we use our ingenuity to construct our own reality and give sense to life. We believe this is the pinnacle of human dignity and freedom. But the reality we try to create, when put to the test of experience, does not deliver on its promises, and too frequently the ensuing frustration turns into anger and violence. Why do we often perceive reality as disappointing?
“Yet, Reality as it emerges in experience is so positive that it presents itself as …[something so promising].” (cf. New York Encounter 2017)
Our aim in this movement is to stand up for, to educate ourselves and protect life. It is a friend of reality as it proposes itself to us. It does not try to create an alternative world – one in which I am a creator alone apart from this world. Rather, it is an attempt to acknowledge the world around us as something beautiful and good – a gift given to each of us by God for our own happiness and fulfillment.
As we listen to the other presenters today, may we be especially mindful of gifts that we have received, particularly the gift of life. Our aim is to reach out in love and always seek and embrace the truth so that we can live happy and joyful lives as we strive to protect those in our human family that are most vulnerable, especially the unborn.
May God bless you all!
Most Reverend Steven J. Raica
Bishop of Gaylord