Last week, Archbishop Gomez delivered the closing address to the National Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference, held in Kansas City. The following is an excerpt. The full address can be found online at www.ArchbishopGomez.com.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Evangelium Vitae, the magna carta of the modern pro-life movement. But St. John Paul II’s words still ring true: “The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message.”
The Gospel of life is not only the heart of the Gospel — it’s also the heart of the Church’s social witness. Everything we do is rooted in the beautiful truth that every human life matters — because every human life is sacred and created by the loving plan of God.
In the United States, we are a long way from the “new culture of life” that St. John Paul called us to build.
We are living in a culture that is deeply confused and conflicted about the meaning of creation and the meaning of human life. And so we find ourselves more and more indifferent to the cruelty and injustice that we see all around us.
This includes grave crimes against human life — widespread abortion at every stage, even in the final hours of a pregnancy; experimentation with human embryos; the “quiet” euthanasia of the old and sick.
But we can also talk about the injustice of racial discrimination; unemployment and homelessness; the pollution of our environment — especially in poor and minority communities.
We can talk about the violence in our neighborhoods; the epidemic of drugs; the crisis of hope among our young people. The scandalous conditions in our prisons; the death penalty.
One issue that we deal with every day in Los Angeles — the heartbreaking deportations of fathers and mothers; whole families, including young children, being held in immigration jails; people dying in the deserts outside our borders — all because of our broken immigration system and our failure to fix it.
I am not trying to say that all of these issues are “equal.” They are not. And we always need to be clear about that.
The fundamental injustice in our society is the killing of innocent unborn life through abortion and the killing of the sick and defenseless through euthanasia and assisted suicide. If the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of — then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights.
As the Church, we must call our society once more to rediscover the sanctity, the dignity and the transcendent destiny of the human person, who is created in the image of the Creator.
We need to show our neighbors — by our words and by our actions — that every human life is sacred and precious, because every human life is created out of love by God, who calls us to a personal relationship, to the vocation of being God’s children.
The servant of God Dorothy Day, the great apostle to America, tells the story about how one day she was walking down the streets of New York City praying her rosary. She was on her way to a meeting of some union workers who were on strike.
And this is what happened, she said:
“As I waited for the traffic light to change … suddenly like a bright light, like a joyful thought, the words ‘Our Father’ pierced my heart. To all those who were about me, to all the passersby, to the longshoremen idling about the corner, black and white, to the striking seamen I was going to see, I was akin. For we were all children of a common Father, all creatures of one Creator. And Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Christian, Communist or non-Communist, were bound together by this tie.
“We cannot escape the recognition of the fact that we are all brothers. Whether or not a man believes in Jesus Christ, his incarnation, his life here with us, his crucifixion and resurrection; whether or not a man believes in God, the fact remains that we are all the children of one Father.”
In these words we have a beautiful summary of the Gospel of life, which is the beautiful truth of God’s plan for creation and for every life.
Dorothy Day called us to overturn the false idols in our lives and in our society — the idols of the flesh and the idols of the marketplace; the idols of individualism, nationalism and racism.
But she also knew personally the tragedy of abortion and also the despair that leads people to try suicide. She did not speak much publicly about abortion. But when she did, she wrote with empathy and compassion for the pain of the women who were caught up in it.
In her tender approach, she gives us a model for our own preaching and ministry — teaching us how to speak on this delicate issue in a way that brings forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.
She gave us a beautiful line that should become our pro-life motto: “Make room for children, don’t do away with them.”
But Dorothy Day also reminded us that as a public policy, abortion and birth control are “social sins” — crimes against creation and our common humanity. She believed that “birth control and abortion are genocide” against the poor and minority peoples.
These are strong words. But they have credibility because of her own experience with abortion and her lifetime spent at society’s margins, serving the poorest of the poor.
This is the beautiful challenge, the beautiful duty that we have. To serve the vulnerable and the poor. To plead God’s mercy and forgiveness, his healing and peace.
So let us to continue in our mission — to build the new culture of life in our times. Let us work to open people’s eyes to the beauty of creation, to the beauty of every human life, and to the source of all life in the love of our Creator.
And may Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas and Mother of Life, watch over all of us in her tender love!