The March for Life annually is meant to help form public policy, and motivate Catholics - especially young Catholics - to fight the good fight.
On January 19, 2018 the 45th annual March for Life took place in Washington, D.C. The gathering, which is held to both remind the citizenry of the horrors of abortion and protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, drew tens of thousands of supporters. This year’s march was met with a special livestream address by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In it, Trump affirmed his administration’s commitment to the right to life. Additionally, Trump took the further step of officially declaring January 22—the day Roe v. Wade was decided—National Sanctity of Human Life Day. The move has been met with applause for those who stand against legalized abortion, though the practical ramifications of the declaration remain to be seen.
While the March for Life participants should be commended for their good intentions, the fact that abortion is still legal in the United States after 45 years should give every Catholic cause to lament. In 1973, when the Supreme Court manufactured a right to abortion out of thin air, where was the Catholic Church to take the hard but necessary stand against this horror? Yes, while many American bishops and priests spoke out against the decision and, in the subsequent decades, the widespread availability of abortion services, the Church had a duty to call upon the faithful to resist this moral outrage—and instead did nothing.
Hinging too much hope on liberalism and the so-called democratic process, American Catholics were encouraged to elect the “right leaders” who would pass the “right laws” to end abortion, ignoring all the while that the Supreme Court in 1973 (and in subsequent decisions) stripped state and federal legislatures of any meaningful ability to curtail access to abortion. Governmental authority, instead of becoming a means of stopping the slaughter of innocents, quickly turned into an enabler by allowing federal funding for abortion under certain circumstances.
And again, where was the Church? Was it standing up heroically for the social rights of Christ the King? Was it informing Catholics that they were under no obligation to support laws—or the power that upholds those laws—that clearly violate natural and divine law? Consider the words of Pope Leo XIII from Libertas Humana: “Where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest while obeying man we become disobedient to God.”
To begin to understand why the Catholic Church in America let the legalized spread of abortion get out of hand, consider the times. At the moment Roe vs. Wade was decided, the Church was busy stripping its altars, sidelining the sacraments, and shortchanging the faithful on sound catechesis. The feminist movement, without which the legalization of abortion would hardly have been possible, had entered the Church and contraception, while long condemned by the magisterium, was widely practiced by American Catholics at that time. If the Church could not be bothered to tend to her own garden, how could she be expected to resist the outside world as it took a dark turn?
Today, the American Church’s response to abortion remains tepid. Why has she not reminded Catholics that they may not participate in the abortion industry and its protection, from government and municipal officials to healthcare workers at all levels? Why has she not called on Catholics to eliminate any and all financial support, direct or indirect, for abortion? Liberalism and the democratic process have not put an end to abortion, and neither have tepid statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Abortion is a great scourge that has flooded the American landscape in blood. That grisly reality and that reality alone should be front and center every time the American Church directs the faithful to resist this terrible revolt against God and His creation.