The announcement last month that Canada’s largest abortion provider, Henry Morgentaler, would receive the nation’s highest honor, the Order of Canada, was deeply offensive and hurtful to millions of Canadians.
But we are not discouraged. We will never waver in our efforts to protect innocent human life. And we need no greater honor than to know that we have stood beside our most vulnerable brothers and sisters in their hour of need.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court preempted the democratic process in 1973 and forced abortion on demand on the American people by judicial fiat, the Knights of Columbus has been at the forefront of the pro-life movement. We have long been the backbone of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of people come in January each year, in cold and wind, in rain and snow, to march up Constitution Ave., past the Capitol Building, to the Supreme Court where this terrible injustice was committed.
In recent years, groups of Knights and their allies have begun to sponsor marches and walks in other cities, such as San Francisco, where this year’s Walk for Life drew more than 20,000 people, including Knights from all over California.
And the marches and rallies aren’t limited to the United States — Canadian Knights have been actively involved in the rally held each year in Ottawa since 1998. And this year, Knights all across Canada, in seven of the ten provinces, conducted their own regional marches in concert with the national march. More than 8,000 marched in Ottawa, and in its first effort, British Columbia drew more than 1,000 people to the steps of the provincial capital.
State Deputy Dan O’Hara was so moved by the experience that he sent me a note describing in detail this “moving and memorable event.”
“Today in Victoria,” he wrote, “we have finally come out of the silence and pushed open the doors to educate, to change hearts and to save lives.”
After the rally, O’Hara was approached by a 76-year-old man he had never met before. “With tears in his eyes,” he told O’Hara his story. When his mother was 26, she became pregnant out of wedlock, and her father tried to make her have an abortion. When she efused, he kicked her out of the house. When he was six months old, his mother put him up for adoption. “Today, he is the proud father of two and grandfather of six. And he credits his good fortune to ‘the tenacity of my mother for toughing it out’ and to God’s grace.” O’Hara says that hearing the man’s story “made all the months of planning and preparation” for the march worth it.
Thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade, opposition to abortion on demand in the United States isn’t going away — it’s getting stronger every year! Twenty years after Canada’s Supreme Court decision in Morgentaler v. Her Majesty the Queen, opposition to abortion in Canada isn’t going away — it’s getting stronger! And a year after the government of Mexico City legalized abortion, opposition to abortion in Mexico isn’t going away — it’s getting stronger!
We will never waver in the cause to ensure legal protection for every human being, from conception to natural death.
Once again we meet during a presidential election campaign in the United States and once again the question confronts us: “How should Catholics exercise their responsibilities as citizens?”
Our fundamental responsibility is to build a culture of life. And to do this requires a new politics.
Today we constantly hear about change. We must remember that real change means building a culture of life and a civilization of love, and that means truly transforming our politics. In this process of change, dealing with the abortion issue is fundamental. While there are certainly many issues that are important to Catholic voters, none has caused more damage to our society than this taking of innocent human life.
We are a nonpartisan organization, and Knights belong to a variety of political parties. We do not endorse candidates for public office, although many of our members are elected officials. But we do take a strong interest in certain critical issues that affect our most fundamental values as Catholic Christians and as citizens.
As the bishops of the United States recently stated, “The Church’s obligation to participate in ‘Faithful Citizenship’ shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith.”
“As Catholics,” the document says, “we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group.” And at the top of the list of Catholic moral convictions, the bishops put “defending the inviolable sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death,” and “defending marriage.” In today’s world, defending life and defending marriage constitute two of our most urgent tasks.
Once again the bishops of the United States have provided important guidance through their statement on “Faithful Citizenship.” This is especially important since Catholics often confront a dilemma in deciding how to vote: Can we support a candidate who may be attractive for many reasons but who supports abortion? Some partisan advocates have sought to excuse support for pro-abortion candidates through a complex balancing act. They claim other issues are important enough to offset a candidate’s support for abortion.
But the right to abortion mandated in the United States by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is not just another political issue; it is in reality a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths. Imagine for a moment the largest 25 cities in the United States and Canada, including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Vancouver suddenly empty of people. This is what the loss of 40 million human beings would look like. In fact, 40 million is greater than the entire population of Canada.
What political issue could possibly outweigh this human devastation? The answer, of course, is that there is none. Abortion is different. Abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.
It is time to put away the arguments of political spin masters that only serve to justify abortion killing.
We have all heard a great deal this year about the need for change. But we are told that one thing cannot change — namely, the abortion regime of Roe v. Wade. It is time that we demand real change — and real change means the end of Roe v. Wade.
Real change is possible, but it is difficult.
First, we need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians. Catholics should no longer be asked to be partners in the abortion regime by voting for politicians who support abortion.
We will never succeed in building a culture of life if we continue to vote for politicians who support a culture of death.
It is time that Catholics shine a bright line of separation between themselves and all those politicians who defend the abortion regime of Roe v. Wade.
Imagine if this year millions of Catholic voters simply say “no” — no to every candidate of every political party who supports abortion.
It’s time we stop accommodating pro-abortion politicians and it’s time we start demanding that they accommodate us. This is the only decision that offers a real chance for real change. What candidate or political party can withstand the loss of millions of Catholic voters in this election or the next?
Catholic voters have the power to transform our politics. Faithful citizens can build a new politics — a politics that is not satisfied with the status quo but one that is dedicated to building up a new culture of life. There are more than 150 million Catholics in North America, and if we stand together and demand better from our politicians, we could transform politics. If we truly hope for a culture of life and a civilization of love, then we must first think, and then act, in new ways.
In the United States there will be at least three initiatives on the ballot this fall that seek to limit abortions in California, Colorado and South Dakota. The battle for life must be waged on many fronts. Earlier this year, we sponsored a conference in Rome on the aftermath of abortion and divorce, and in San Francisco on the effects of abortion on men. These events not only establish a record of solid academic and intellectual support, they also help pastoral and other responses and motivate greater grassroots action.
They also enable us to make the case for preserving marriage — the lifelong bond of a man and a woman — as society’s indispensable institution for begetting and raising children. The case for marriage is the case for family. And no one is more suited to pursue that goal than the world’s largest family fraternal organization: the Knights of Columbus!
Voters in three U.S. states will have the opportunity this fall to approve state constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. The stakes are highest in California, the second state in which supreme court judges have taken it upon themselves to ignore the will of the people and impose a radical new interpretation of the law. Adoption of the California constitutional amendment is now the only way that the people can be heard and the institution of marriage protected. Two other states — Arizona and Florida — will also vote on constitutional amendments protecting marriage.
My brother Knights, just as we have been at the forefront of efforts to defend the sanctity of human life, we must be in the forefront of efforts to defend the sanctuary of human life — the institution of marriage. This is an issue of the greatest importance. In this cause we shall be resolute; we shall be determined. And in so doing we will make our own the words of Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”
As with abortion and the other life issues, our work to preserve and protect marriage does not end with legislation and referendums. Last year, we cosponsored a major men’s conference with the Archdiocese of Boston. It was enormously successful, and this fall, we will cosponsor a similar conference with the Archdiocese of Chicago. Knights also supported a men’s conference in the Archdiocese of Houston. In each case, we focus significant attention on our responsibilities as husbands and fathers.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that we launch today a Knights of Columbus initiative called “Fathers for Good.” Like marriage itself, fatherhood is a vocation. When we are faithful to our calling as husbands and fathers, we are ultimately being faithful to ourselves. This new initiative, with its own special Web site, www.fathersforgood.org, will become a valuable resource for you and your families, and for Catholic husbands and fathers everywhere.
We Knights have always helped one another to grow in faith and to navigate the turbulent waters of modern society together. With “Fathers for Good,” we will add a new structure and new resources to our efforts to strengthen families and provide the tools and encouragement we all need to realize our potential as husbands and fathers.
My brother Knights, this has been a great year for us and for the Church. But even greater challenges are on the horizon. We have before us both opportunity and responsibility.
We strive to be a people of life and a people for life committed to building a culture of life. We resolve to protect the basic building block of society — the family based upon the marriage of a man and a woman. We continue our works of charity to aid those in need and who suffer, bringing them hope and comfort. In these ways and many others, being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we will continue “Building the Civilization of Love Through Charity, Unity and Fraternity.”
It will not be easy, but it is our mission, our vocation, our solemn duty. In this task let us take to heart and make our own the words of Benedict XVI, spoken just two weeks ago at World Youth Day: “Being ‘sealed with the spirit’ means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think, and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love….” Let us pledge ourselves to “follow him,” disciples of the One who has first loved us, so that with St. Paul we may say, “the love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14). Let us begin now.