Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Jan. 22 for the annual Mass for Life in Little Rock.
This is my first time in eight years as your bishop to celebrate this Mass for Life at a time when we have a realistic hope of a change in the Supreme Court that may lead eventually to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
We have just inaugurated a president who promises to nominate anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. He already has one vacancy to fill and there may be others in the course of the next four years. Moreover, we hope he will reverse the contraceptive mandate of the Department of Human Services and other measures which impinge on our freedom to follow our conscience in matters of morality. Three months ago, many of us would have doubted that this turn of events, so favorable to pro-life efforts, would have been possible.
In the words of today’s Gospel, at least in this matter: “upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown.” We were gloomy about reversing abortion laws and now we have hope. Now our task will be to demand that those whom we have elected actually fulfill the promises they made during the campaign.
You and I have had enough of elected officials who make promises that — for whatever reason — they do not fulfill. Sometimes this is because the opposition is too strong, but other times it is because they don’t try hard enough ... their heart isn’t really in it, or they don’t feel enough support. So let’s give them all the support and encouragement they need to roll back and, God willing, finally eliminate the scourge of abortion in this country.
Having said this — and amid our rejoicing over this favorable turn of events on the topic of abortion — it is important for us to remember on this Right to Life weekend that the right to life is a seamless garment encompassing all of life, from the first moment of conception to natural death, and that any violation of human life and human dignity is contrary to our faith and must be actively opposed.
And despite the positive points of both of our two political parties — and each of them does have some positive points — we have to face the fact that each of them also advocates numerous anti-life issues, such that whenever the party in power helps us make progress in one area of our pro-life agenda through the political process, we lose ground in other areas. And yet the message of the Church remains the same.
So today, as we seem poised to make real progress toward reducing and, God willing, eventually abolishing abortion after many years of opposition to the culture of death in this area, we must now at the same time raise our voices in opposition to other manifestations of the culture of death that have surfaced prominently over the course of this last year: demeaning and degrading references to women in the recent campaign that is apparently still acceptable to many Americans, threatening rhetoric demonizing undocumented immigrants — including those who came here innocently as children, fear-mongering against Muslims, insults against ethnic and racial minorities, people who struggle with same-sex attraction, anyone who can be marginalized and mocked, put down because they are different. Including people we don’t agree with, but whose human dignity we must defend.
Our defense of life doesn’t stop when the baby leaves the womb, nor is it limited to medical matters like euthanasia and fetal stem-cell research, nor matters of law like the death penalty, nor matters of compassion like the welcoming of refugees — though all of this is included. It is a seamless garment that embraces all of life, including our attitudes as well as our laws.
This may be our bigger challenge going forward amid the progress we have good reason to hope for on the abortion front.
And so I conclude with the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and there be no divisions among you, but that you may be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”
In our case, the defense of human life and human dignity from the first moment of conception all the way to natural death.
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