by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Each year, the anniversary of the passage of the Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973 is truly a day that will go down in infamy and should never be forgotten. This ill-advised decision by the Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution to give an almost absolute right to abortion. There are those who would argue that it is not the taking of a human life, but for others who look at the medical evidence, it is clearly deducted that human life begins at conception. Here is the crux of the problem — the interpretation of the beginning of human life.
Human life should never be terminated at its beginning or end by human intervention. If this sacred principle is not protected, all human life can be put into jeopardy. Unfortunately, in our society, many equate the legal with the moral. This we know not to be true. Legality is hardly a measure for morality. It is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to bring to the attention of our society the great moral evil of abortion which must be eliminated as an absolute Constitutional right.
The possibility of overturning this decision at this time may be remote, but there will come a day when the proper case may be brought to the Supreme Court and re-visiting the decision may be in order. Just as the laws protecting slavery were overturned, so too, someday must this anti-life law be overturned.
However, in the meantime, our responsibility is to work and pray diligently for this to occur. The anniversary of Roe vs. Wade this year is being observed on Jan. 23 instead of Jan. 22 which falls on a Sunday. On Jan. 23, the annual Right to Life March will occur in Washington. On that same day, everywhere in the Catholic Church in the United States a Day of Penance for the Violations to the Dignity of the Human Person will be observed in the liturgy and also in the practice of our people. This Day of Penance reminds us of the violation of the human dignity which abortion is at its very core.
Because abortion is immoral and intrinsically evil, we are obligated to work and teach against it. We need to work through social and political actions; however, as a matter of faith the means of prayer and penance are also significant. In the Scriptures, we find the words of Jesus Himself who gave us the example that certain forces of evil can only be expelled by prayer and fasting. Inspired by this, we harken to the words of John Paul II in his great encyclical Evangelium Vitae where he tells us, “Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love.”
To this end, I am asking the priests, religious, deacons and faithful of the diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens to observe a Day of Penance on Monday, Jan. 23. The liturgy allows for the celebration of the Mass for Justice and Peace, but besides attendance at the Eucharist, there are many other ways that this day can be observed. Some will attend the March in Washington while others will pray peacefully outside abortion clinics. The schedule of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants is published on the diocesan website. Others may fast; pray a rosary for the unborn; pray for those who have been wounded by abortion, both men and women; visit and pray before the Blessed Sacrament; and/or reflect on Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.
We cannot forget our responsibilities toward life even when it seems that our own individual efforts are like putting a drop of water in the ocean. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer and fasting.
I urge you to put out into the deep waters of the ocean where even one drop of pure water can make a difference — not in the salty environment of the water, but in the life of the person who contributes that drop of water in all sincerity. God listens to our prayers and takes account of our works of penance and fasting.