Tuesday, we will once again mark the anniversary of Roe v Wade. Living as I do in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., the March for Life is a local event. Father challenged us to avoid complacency about the pro-life cause. We cannot grow accustomed to the culture of death in our society any more than we could grow accustomed to racial discrimination in our society. We cannot wearily sigh and lament the evil of abortion. We must energetically and publicly oppose abortion. We must ardently pray and sacrifice for the conversion of our culture to a culture of life. Like John the Baptist, we must leap at the opportunity to point out the presence of Christ in the unborn, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and all those who are vulnerable and subject to being marginalized.
Now here is what I think is the most courageous part of the sermon. Father publicly and emphatically connected the widespread use of contraception with the eventual acceptance of abortion. Pope Paul VI did this forty years ago in his encyclical Humane Vitae:
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Limits to Man's Power
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the "principle of totality" enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII. (21)
Pope Paul VI was prophetic. He warned us that the acceptance of artificial contraception would pave the way for the degradation of human dignity, for forced sterilizations, and for forced abortions. Imagine the state of our world and the state of the family in society if we had heeded his wise words.
I must also say that while Father did not mince words he also did not condemn. He ended his sermon with a call to each of us to repent and accept God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. He reached out to those who had been touched by abortion in any way to accept the healing power of Christ. He reached out to those who were using artificial contraception to trust in God’s providence. Rather than being burdensome or constricting, aligning ourselves with God’s plan is truly liberating,