2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 19, 2014
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
This Wednesday 100s of St. Raymond’s parishioners,
along with me and Fr. Kenna,
will join 100s of 1000s of Americans in the March for Life
on the Washington Mall,
commemorating the terrible day 41 years ago when the Supreme Court
discovered a mother’s right to abort her unborn baby.
Sadly, some Catholics will discourage participation in this March,
and similar public outspoken opposition to abortion.
Some will do so because they are actually pro-abortion,
and so not very good Catholics.
And some will do so because, although they are pro-life,
just don’t think it’s a good idea to participate in such public displays
—maybe they think it’s a waste of time,
or they think it’s a counterproductive strategy;
maybe their right, I suppose it’s arguable.
But some Catholics will discourage us simply because
they think we’re making too big a deal about abortion
when we should be focusing on other issues.
They buy into the talking points of the pro-abortion secular media,
that too many Catholics are “obsessed” with abortion.
They even believe the false reports in the media that
Pope Francis criticized some Catholics for being “obsessed” with abortion.
As I have written and preached about before,
what the Holy Father said was that the Church
“cannot be obsessed with the transmission
of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.”
In context, it wasn’t entirely clear that the Holy Father was actually talking
But even if we apply what he says to abortion, what it would mean is that
when we talk about the sin of abortion we can’t treat it
as some doctrine uniquely separate
from all the other Catholic doctrines:
as if abortion had nothing to do with the rest of the Gospel.
Rather we have to remember, and proclaim, that the teaching on abortion
is intimately related to and rooted in the doctrine
that God radically loves us,
and commands us to love our neighbor.
Whether we’re rich or poor, sick or healthy, righteous or sinful, young or old,
born or unborn,
He “who formed me as his servant from the womb,”
formed each of us and all of us from the womb
in his own image
so that He could love us and we could love Him in return.
So we don’t speak of abortion as a disjointed doctrine,
but one that flows directly from the first doctrine of all, the love of God,
and the second as well:
we are created to love not only God,
but all those created in his image.
Some would say we should follow Pope Francis’ supposed example
and focus not on abortion, but on poverty.
But our love for the poor is also not a “disjointed doctrine”:
it also flows from that same doctrine of God’s love for all created in his image,
and is also intimately related to the doctrine of love of neighbor.
And so, as Pope Francis explained in his recent exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium,
we cannot speak of loving the poor
if we don’t first speak of loving the unborn.
As he wrote:
“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes
to care with particular love and concern are unborn children,
the most defenseless and innocent among us.”
And we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking our stand against abortion is somehow
inconsistent with the Church’s message of love and forgiveness
–a “disjointed doctrine.”
As he wrote:
“Precisely because this involves
the internal consistency of our message
about the value of the human person,
the Church cannot be expected to change her position.”
And he warned us not be intimidated by those who say we’re
out of step with the times, or even out of step with him, as he wrote:
“…Frequently, as a way of ridiculing
the Church’s effort to defend [the] lives [of the unborn],
attempts are made to present her position
as ideological, obscurantist and conservative….
…I want to be completely honest in this regard.
This is not something subject to alleged reforms
It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems
by eliminating a human life.”
And when we think of how we should understand and proclaim
the doctrine against abortion as part of our pro-life/pro-love doctrine,
how can we forget the master of this beautiful, rich and positive teaching
on the “Culture of Life”: Blessed Pope John Paul II,
whom Pope Francis has announced he will declare a saint
4 months from now.
In particular we remember Bd. John Paul’s 1995 masterpiece,
Evangelium Vitae—“The Gospel of Life.”
And we recall how in his book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,”
published just a few months later,
he answered critics who claimed he was “obsessive” about abortion, writing:
“[I]t is very difficult to speak of obsession in a matter such as this,
where we are dealing with a fundamental imperative …
– the defense of the right to life of an
innocent and defenseless human being…
Therefore, …I categorically reject every accusation or suspicion
concerning the Pope’s alleged “obsession” with this issue.
We are dealing with a problem of tremendous importance, in which
all of us must show the utmost responsibility and vigilance.”
My friends, there is nothing “ideological” or “conservative”
about protecting the very lives of the poorest, most innocent among us: unborn babies.
And there is nothing “obsessive” about being incessantly “vigilant” and vocal
in demanding the simple guarantee of the most fundamental right
of every innocent human beings: the right to life.
It’s not obsessive: it’s simply fundamentally Catholic, and fundamentally human.
[Is it obsessive to breathe? But you keep doing that! No, it’s just human.
And it’s human to defend human life.”]
But there is more here as well.
There are always two victims in every abortion:
first and foremost the baby,
but also the mostly forgotten victim, the mother.
Yes, I understand that mothers choose abortions.
But many do not do so completely freely,
or with sufficient reflection or knowledge.
Many—most—are forced or pressured by others who should know better,
who should be helping them to think clearly in their confused distress:
first their doctors, but also husbands, boyfriends,
and even their parents.
All these who don’t have to deal with the torturing guilt
that plagues these post-abortive mothers for the rest of their lives.
As a priest I’ve worked with many such women, trying my best, with God’s grace,
to bring them to know the mercy of Jesus Christ.
I remember one woman in particular, many years ago.
She came to my office and told me how she had, from day one,
felt a terrible hollowness after her abortion,
and how her life was never the same again.
And then she told me how about seven years after her first abortion,
her life began to fall completely apart:
she divorced, became promiscuous, an alcoholic,
and constantly depressed and anxious.
And she told me how she went to counselor after counselor,
but none could help her,
because they refused to admit that what she had done was wrong.
To these counselors, it was her guilt that was the problem, not the abortion.
None of this was shocking to me, much less surprising.
I’d heard it so many times before.
But then she did shock me: she told me she was not a Catholic,
but had come to me because she knew the Catholic Church
clearly understood that what she had done was evil,
and she hoped that finally someone help her deal
with the terrible sin she knew she’d committed.
It was a day of great healing for her, and of great conviction for me.
No one believed her, but the Church.
No one understood her pain,
but the Catholics who understood what she had done.
But in context of the great doctrine of the immense love of God,
our creation in His image,
and the need of man to love God and his neighbor.
And so just as we would see and love the aborted unborn baby
as a human being whom God loves and created in his image,
we also see and love the mother as a human being
whom God loves and created in his image.
But the world, the popular press, and political ideologues and activists do not.
Instead, they mock post-abortive women for guilt,
and encourage and even proclaim as a good thing
the very behavior that destroys their lives.
Think of this.
Last year Dr. Kermit Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison
for 3 counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter
related to “unsuccessful late term abortions”
at his Philadelphia abortion clinic.
At the trial witnesses testified ad nauseam about
the unsafe and unhygienic conditions of his clinic:
the a total lack of concern for his female patients.
And think of this.
For years, medical studies have been establishing
a statistical link between abortion and the incidence of breast cancer.
Then this last year, in 2013, a study was released
by a professor at the City University of New York,
that did a meta-analysis of 36 Chinese studies of Chinese women,
which showed at least a 49 percent increase
in the risk of breast cancer in post-abortive women.
And what was the reaction to all of this?
The press hardly reported on either of these stories.
And pro-abortion activists doubled down in their hypocrisy:
blaming Dr. Gosnell acts on “antiabortion attacks on abortion access.”
And right in the middle of that trial, our president addressed
the national convention of Planned Parenthood,
the number 1 provider of abortions in American,
concluding his speech: “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.”
And the current administration calls the right to abortion
necessary for “women’s reproductive health.”
Who is obsessed?
Who is so obsessed with defending abortion at all costs,
that it not only embraces the killing of unborn babies,
but also denies the pain and physical risks to women themselves?
Who is obsessed, and who is simply convinced, resolved and outspoken
in its defense of the unborn and their mothers?
And so we march for life this week in Washington,
or we do whatever we can for life
wherever we are this week,
convinced that the Lord has called us to be, as Isaiah tells us today,
“a light to the nations,”
so that Christ’s “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
And we go out in the tradition of John the Baptist,
announcing the good news of the love and mercy of Jesus:
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
But also we remember that John was executed
not so much for identifying the Lamb of God,
but for publicly decrying the immorality of the King of Judea, King Herod,
…and so we also boldly decry
the immorality of the laws of our government.
Let us never be intimidated by those who accuse us of being outdated, or cruel, or “obsessed.”
But rather let us remember the words we read in today’s Psalm:
“I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.”
And so let us go out to boldly proclaim the beautiful, rich and positive teaching of
the Gospel of Life:
the good news of dignity of every human life
and of God’s love for each of us,
born and unborn, child or mother, saint or sinner.
And to proclaim the great news of incredible joy that He has come into the world
to show us his love by conquering sin, and forgiving repentant sinners:
“Behold, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world.”