Last week, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco released a pastoral letter titled, “Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You,” which is focused on the dignity of the unborn, the holy Eucharist and Catholics in public life. These issues have weighed heavily on my mind over the years and, in particular, over the past several months.
I am very grateful for Archbishop Cordileone’s letter because it expresses very concisely and clearly in one document what has been on my heart and mind. His words are what I have tried to convey in my preaching and teaching on behalf of life over all my years as a bishop, and I strongly encourage you to read his letter (https://sfarchdiocese.org/inthewomb).
To express the teaching of the church very clearly about the obligation to protect every human life, especially the most defenseless and helpless of all human life, the child in the womb, is a grave responsibility which is constantly met with clouds of willful unknowing and fortresses of denial. This is not just a Catholic issue, this is a human issue, the most fundamental of all human issues; the right to be born and the right to live. Every child has these most fundamental rights given by the Creator, “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
When a Catholic assumes a public office, he or she cannot use the excuse that “personally I am opposed to abortion, publicly my party allows it.” These and other similar words are an attempt to hide one’s cooperation in the sin of abortion, just as Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after eating the forbidden fruit in the garden. But we cannot hide our hearts from God.
Now, some Catholics in very high positions are not only “passively allowing” abortion, but actively and aggressively promoting it. This is very dangerous because so often abortion providers prey on the fears and anxieties of vulnerable women. When Catholics in public positions of authority and trust provide active or passive approval, it contradicts the eternal truth that every life is sacred from the moment of conception and gives scandal to the people. Their willingness to deny this truth not only harms the unborn and the women and other family members impacted by an abortion, it puts their own souls in eternal jeopardy. Out of love for them and a desire to see them repent, I must speak up and share the truth!
The good news is that forgiveness is possible, even for those most caught up in the sin of abortion. The new movie, “Roe v. Wade,” depicts so clearly the role which Dr. Bernard Nathanson played in building the abortion industry. Persuading himself that he was saving women, he personally took the lives of thousands of innocent children, even one of his own. When he had the benefit of ultrasound technology as he was performing an abortion, and saw what he was doing to children in the womb, he broke down in repentance and turned to the Lord, begging for forgiveness. He then converted to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church and spent the rest of his life revealing what he and others had done to deceive the American people.
My prayer for all those in public life, especially Catholics, who espouse and promote the horrendous slaughter of the innocents, is that they receive an illumination of conscience from on high, and be moved to radical repentance and genuine return to real and humble Christian and Catholic witness. If Dr. Bernard Nathanson can experience conversion and healing, so can you.
For those of you who may have been caught up in the vortex of an unplanned pregnancy, and gave in to the lie that abortion would solve this problem, know that there is healing for you, too. If you have confessed this and asked for forgiveness from God, it has been granted. Please do not return to these painful memories. Walk instead into God’s superabundant MERCY and ask how you can be helpful in small ways or larger ones to help others who may be in similar circumstances. If you have not sought God’s healing and forgiveness, go to him, he is waiting for you with open arms. If you need assistance in walking this path, contact our diocesan Office of Pro-Life to learn more about Project Rachel ministry.
Friends, every child has been first known in the mind of God and then formed in the womb by the Creator. Every child deserves to be born, every child deserves to live. No matter where you have been on this issue in the past, turn to God now, ask for his forgiveness and mercy, and embrace the truth that all life is sacred!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.