In Defense of Life: US Bishops Speak Up for the Unborn Ahead of March for Life

Ahead of the virtual March for Life, Catholic bishops weigh in on the sanctity of life, reminding the faithful that life is a gift; and we are called to protect and defend the dignity of human life at all stages, from conception to natural death.

Thousands stand on the National Mall during the 2020 March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Thousands stand on the National Mall during the 2020 March for Life in Washington, D.C. (photo: Peter Zelasko / CNA/EWTN)

Editor’s Note: In light of the recent “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children” and events around the country rallying in support of the dignity of life, including the March for Life on Friday, we offer a sampling of statements from U.S. bishops about supporting and protecting life at all stages.  


Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila gave a homily at the “Respect Life Mass,” celebrated Jan. 23 at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, that reminded politicians and the faithful alike of Church teaching. Here is an excerpt:

“When it comes to human life and the dignity of human life, Pope Francis has spoken clearly about the dignity of the unborn child and about the evil of abortion. All you must do is Google, ‘Pope Francis sayings on abortion,’ and you will have a lengthy list of what he has stated — a list that the media does not want to look at, and a list that Catholics at times do not want to look at because it does not fit their image of Pope Francis. He is one who has always said, ‘the teaching of the Church is clear on abortion, and I am a son of the Church.’” 

“… But there are also many Catholics, unfortunately, who think Jesus is crazy, or some of his teachings are crazy, and especially when it comes to human life and the dignity of the unborn child. It is important for us as Catholics that both our hearts and our minds, that our words, thoughts and actions, are always conformed to Jesus Christ and to the Gospel, and not to the ways of the world. 

“… It is for the salvation of souls that Pope Francis, that bishops and priests, speak so ardently on the Gospel and the Gospel of Life. If we do not accept the dignity of the unborn child, then we will not accept, or we will find other ways to get around the dignity of other human beings, and we see that in euthanasia today.  

“It is important to give witness to the dignity of the unborn, [as well as] give witness to the dignity of the human being when it comes to immigration, when it comes to capital punishment, and other life issues. But we are also clear that the preeminent [concern], and the place dignity begins, is with the unborn child and the dying — at the beginning of life and at the end of life. If dignity does not exist at those two points — at the beginning and the end — it will not exist in between.  

“And so we too, today, when we speak out on the Gospel of Life, must clearly speak the truth, and do it with love, mercy and gentleness. We must never back off the teaching on life.” 


The U.S. bishops issued a statement Jan. 22 via Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas:

“I take this opportunity to remind all Catholics that the Catechism states, ‘Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.’ Public officials are responsible for not only their personal beliefs, but also the effects of their public actions. Roe’s elevation of abortion to the status of a protected right and its elimination of state restrictions paved the way for the violent deaths of more than 62 million innocent unborn children and for countless women who experience the heartache of loss, abandonment, and violence.

“We strongly urge the President to reject abortion and promote life-affirming aid to women and communities in need.”

 

And Archbishop José Gomez, USCCB president, reiterated in a Jan. 20 statement that life is the preeminent issue.

“For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority.’ Preeminent does not mean ‘only.’ We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter; it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.”

 

Bishop Michael Burbridge of Arlington, Virginia, also released a March for Life-timed statement, which read in part: 

“Each year, at the March for Life, we have the opportunity to draw closer to one another through our shared appreciation of the beauty and fragility of every human life. So, while this day marks a somber occasion, we celebrate the gift of human life, given only by Our Lord, and never grow weary of defending the right to life at every stage and condition.

“… As we advocate for laws to protect the unborn and join virtually in this year’s March for Life, may we, like St. Joseph, remain unwavering in our efforts to defend human life and accompany the most vulnerable among us. With prayerful support and compassion, may we also renew our commitment to women and men who have been deceived by abortion as they seek Our Lord’s healing love and divine mercy. May Our Mother Mary hold us in her arms and guide us to her son, Jesus Christ.”

For his part, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted: “Although many of the usual ProLife Marches are cancelled this year let us not forget that our most important effort is prayer. We must faithfully pray that our Culture of Death which embraces abortion will wake up to the Sanctity of Life from conception to natural death.”

 

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone also weighed in on “Why We March for Life”: “There is no scientific justification for failing to recognize that an unborn child is a human life, and therefore no legal, much less moral, justification for denying that unborn child’s equal human dignity.”

 

Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, also tweeted Jan. 22: Today, we pray for the legal protection of unborn children and a transformation of both consciences and laws to protect precious life in the womb. Pope Francis often decries the throwaway culture. Abortion throws away new lives on the threshold of their entrance into the world.”

 

And Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, issued a call to prayer for the unborn: “Today, Jan. 22 is the ‘Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.’ Join us in prayer: https://usccb.org/pro-life-prayer.” He also supported Archbishop Gomez’s statement: “But I also share @ArchbishopGomez’s deep concern for President Biden’s ‘pledge to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils that would threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender.’”

 

This support was echoed by Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico: “Thank you @ArchbishopGomez for your statement in your role as the President of the USCCB. Let us pray for President Biden, that he truly live out his baptismal call, especially in defense of human life #ProLife.”

 

In addition, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, preached on the dignity of life at Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Jan. 22, the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, stating in part “… the covenant God made with his people in and through the blood of Christ says that in every human person God’s image and likeness lives and thrives.”

 

Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, tweeted that same day: 

“Today marks a very sad day for the United States. On January 22, 1973, also the day LBJ died, SCOTUS basically took away the rights of the unborn and 70 million have died since …”


And, during the “Sanctity of Life Mass” held Jan. 20 in Oklahoma City, Archbishop Paul Coakley stated: ““Every life has value. Everyone was created by God out of love. Intended by God because he loves us.” 

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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“The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events …” (CCC 303)

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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“The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events …” (CCC 303)

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

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