“O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”
As I walked down Constitution Avenue with hundreds of thousands of joyous, eclectic, fervent, solemn, loud, costumed, bundled, dancing, leaping, and loving pro-life marchers on the Thursday of the March for Life, I thought that this must be a glimpse of Heaven. I would meld into an enthusiastic group reciting the Rosary in Spanish, and then float near a harmonic chorus of “Hail Holy Queen,” pass through a reverent group quietly praying in English, before bumping into a bouncing battalion of high school students shouting out, “Hey Obama, your Mama chose life!” Interspersed the entire way were warm greetings and introductions by marchers from all over the United States (and Canada), and, indeed, in every possible state: moms and dads with babies, monks in sandals and cloaks, Eastern rite priests with their hats and embroidered robes, secular pro-life marchers, high school students with varsity jackets and florescent hats, teams of walkers and wheelchairs, old, young, and every age in between. The common denominator was the clearly evident joy of publicly proclaiming our message: Live is very good! We were celebrating the penultimate gift given to each of us: Life! Many of us were all buoyed earlier in the day by the tweet sent to his 13 million plus followers by Pope Francis:
Every Life is a Gift. #marchforlife
It immediately had received over 15,000 retweets and 22,000 favorites. We understood, throughout the rallies and Masses and Eucharistic Adorations and concerts and gatherings of thousands the night before, that we were working for a good and just cause.
As we approached Capitol Hill, the clamor subsided. We were passing by jumbo screens which portrayed the act and aftermath of abortion. We all stared in silence as we saw the videos of dead fetuses—the perfectly formed, uniquely made, creations of human life that were now limp and lifeless in surgically-gloved hands. We saw the photos of containers filled with tiny body parts. Some of us turned away. Some of us wished we hadn’t seen it. But this was the horrid, wicked truth of abortion. One teen, carrying a sign which stated “One Third of My Generation is Gone,” wiped away a tear.
Later in the day, we learned that President Obama had sent a tweet of his own, celebrating the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade as it “protects a woman’s freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health.” The longer press release made no mention of the babies who had no choice at all. It was then that I thought of the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, and sought to understand.
How can our President celebrate an act which holds that one person has the right to determine that another’s life is “not worthy of life?”
How can he promote a procedure which denigrates and darkens the hearts, minds, and spirits of millions of women each year?
How can he, a constitutional lawyer, not see that the right to life is paramount to any other right?
How could he look at those videos and not perceive the tragedy of the destruction, the waste, the heinous sacrifice of a beautiful face, a uniquely fingerprinted hand, a mind already understanding her mother’s voice?
Then I pondered what Mr. Obama would say to Pope Francis when he visits Washington this September. Just as he was during his visit to the Vatican, the President will be eager, like so many others, to have photos with the Pope and to try to shine in the reflection of his holy glow.
I am also trying to understand Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, a “Catholic mother of five,” who refused to answer a CBS News reporter’s question regarding the status of a 20 week old fetus. “When it comes to the matter of whether or not an unborn child is a human being at 20 weeks gestation, what is your personal take on it? If it is not a human being, then what do you believe it is?” Rather she challenged the reporter’s right to ask the question. Pelosi, upon voting against the recently passed bill to prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion, claimed that such a bill “undermines the health of America’s women.” I wonder what Nancy will have to say when His Holiness comes to Congress in September. Won’t she be eager, as the Catholic mother of five, to be photographed with His Holiness?
In truth, I am trying to understand Vice President Joe Biden and the many other politicians and public figures who call themselves Catholic, who claim that they are “personally pro-life” but vote pro-abortion. I have never understood the phrase “personally pro-life.” How can it be wrong to kill one baby but right to kill another? Like Civil War Northerners who “personally” could not own slaves but supported the Southerners right to do the same, these men and women speak out of two sides of their mouths and have no credibility. Do they not see this? Yet those same “Catholic” politicians will be eager to be photographed attending Mass in which Pope Francis is celebrating or to be standing by his side.
Pope Francis is not a stupid man. Those politicians who believe that they can quote his words for their political agenda or claim to be part of the Church while holding fast to policies which are contrary to the heart of Christ’s teachings will be surprised this September.
Meanwhile, we can take heart in the words of Cardinal O’Malley in his homily to thousands of marchers this week. Noting that more Americans than ever are pro-life and support policies to limit abortion, O’Malley gave hope to all those assembled to continue our work with love and joy. We understand that we march for the truth, an eternal truth, and because of that, we shall overcome.