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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Right to life: The preeminent priority

By Bishop David Ricken | September 30, 2020

Last November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to make the right to life the “preeminent priority” of the Catholic Church in the United States. Why would the conference want to make the protection of life such a high level value? One answer is this: 65 million. Sixty-five million innocent lives have been taken in the womb since 1973, when the Roe v. Wade decision in the Supreme Court sanctioned and legalized abortion.

The most fundamental, foundational human right is the right to be born and the right to live. Without this right, no other right applies. There are some signs of hope. The younger generations, who are more and more aware of the science behind the aggressive action against life in the womb, clearly see that life in the womb is not just fetal tissue, but is a little girl or a little boy. Little children who see the ultrasound pictures of a tiny baby in the womb recognize what they are seeing. When asked, “What is this a picture of,” they respond, “It’s a baby.”

This new generation of young people claims for themselves, “We are the pro-life generation.” I hope and pray for these young people, who gather by the tens of thousands in Washington, D.C., every year for the March for Life, to have more and more courage and conviction to insist on change. May this movement grow and may the voices of these young people resonate and reverberate for a robust change of opinion and action in this country.

Also, there is a fairly new movement of women who have had abortions and want to do something positive with a decision they made in the confusing fog of an unplanned pregnancy. They have decided to channel their regret and the gift of mercy from God to helping young women to make a choice for their child to live. What a wonderful way to help young women to find a different path for the gift of life!

Unfortunately, there has been little taking of responsibility by the fathers of these children. Labeling this challenge as a “women’s health issue” has been sometimes an excuse not to even tell the father or a complete shunning of responsibility by the father of the child. The movie, “Unplanned” has brought a new awareness of the evils and the lies of the abortion industry. Thank God for the courage of Abby Johnson to tell her story.

The best solution would be if families would educate their children to save themselves for the safety and sanctity of marriage and not to engage in sexual activity before the protection of a marital commitment and a covenant with God through the sacrament of marriage. This would reduce the number of young women faced with the temptation to seek a simple but fatal solution, by having an abortion.

Pope Francis spoke very clearly to us bishops when we met with him last year for our ad limina visit, that the choice to make the protection of life as our preeminent priority is most important and very laudable.

With regard to the upcoming elections, the bishops have provided the resources of “Faithful Citizenship” as our primary resource for the formation of conscience before entering the polls to vote or voting by absentee. Every vote counts and your vote as a Catholic is very important. Every Catholic should vote.

Abortion is an intrinsic evil that takes the lives of innocent unborn children. It is time for this barbaric practice to end and for the government to stop sanctioning this kind of activity. It is time to give a gift to the next generation of clarity of direction, for the church to teach the beauty of marriage as a covenant of love between God and a man and a woman, with an openness to the beautiful gift of children.

Sixty-five million innocent lives since 1973, many black and Hispanic innocent lives, have been taken by this barbarism and the lives of so many have been nearly destroyed as the aftermath of this evil is still wreaking havoc in people’s lives. The trauma produced is almost palpable. Priests hear it in the confessional and we beg Divine Mercy be poured out upon the victims, who too often in a vortex of confusion are pushed to make this regretful choice.

We must help our beautiful young people to discover the beauty of their sexuality and its proper expression in the context of a loving commitment. Yes, the mother has a right, a “dominion” over her own body, but she also has a “trust dominion” over the child within her for whom she and the father and those around her have a grave responsibility.

Please vote and when you vote, remember the right to be born and the right to live are the most fundamental and foundational of all human rights. Without the protection of these rights of the most vulnerable and the most voiceless of all human beings, no other rights are possible or even tenable. As St. John Paul II wrote in “The Gospel of Life”:

“To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.”

In other words, the right to be born and the right to live are THE social justice issues of our day. Let’s not add any more to the 65 million lives that we have already taken. We must repent of our collective sins in this area, ask for forgiveness from the God of mercy and forgiveness and intercede to the “holy innocents” to help us change our attitude, our actions and our laws.

Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter,@BpDavidRicken

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