Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said that despite 41 years of legalized abortion in the U.S., the understanding of human life's value is deeply inscribed in our very identity as people.
“The truth about the dignity of the human person is burned into our hearts by the fire of God's love. And we can only deal with the heat of that love in two ways,” the archbishop wrote Jan. 22.
“We can turn our hearts to stone. Or we can make our hearts and our witness a source of light for the world.”
Archbishop Chaput's remarks were made for the National Prayer Vigil for Life Closing Mass on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Intense winter storms, however, prevented the archbishop's trip to the annual March for Life in Washington D.C., as buses carrying the delegations from Philadelphia got caught in the snow. His homily was instead delivered on his behalf by Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine.
“It's a wonderful irony that despite the cold and snow of January, there's no such thing as winter in this great church,” Archbishop Chaput wrote. “This is God's house. In this place, there's only the warmth of God's presence and God's people.”
“In this place, there's no room for fear or confusion or despair,” he added, “because God never abandons his people, and God's love always wins.”
The annual march draws massive crowds consisting primarily of young people from around the nation, as well as attendees of all religious backgrounds. At this year's event, pro-life lawmakers and cultural leaders voiced hope about the future of the pro-life movement.
Pope Francis also sent a tweet offering support for Wednesday's march, praying that all human life would be valued.
“I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable,” he told his 3.5 million English-speaking Twitter followers Jan. 22. The Pope sent the same message in Spanish to his Spanish-speaking Twitter followers, who number over 4.5 million.
In his prepared remarks for the closing Mass, Archbishop Chaput noted that 70 years ago, “abortion was a crime against humanity,” and that four decades ago, “abortion supporters talked about the 'tragedy' of abortion and the need to make it safe and rare.”
“Not anymore,” he lamented. “Now abortion is not just a right, but a right that claims positive dignity, the license to demonize its opponents and the precedence to interfere with constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly and religion.”
“We no longer tolerate abortion,” he said. “We venerate it as a totem.”
Touching on the need for authentic hope over simple “optimism” for change, Archbishop reflected that the “very existence of people who refuse to accept evil and who seek to act virtuously burns the conscience of those who don't.”
“And so, quite logically, people who march and lobby and speak out to defend the unborn child will be – and are – reviled by leaders and media and abortion activists that turn the right to kill an unborn child into a shrine to personal choice.”
Archbishop Chaput noted that over the past 41 years, the pro-life movement “has been written off as dying too many times to count. Yet here we are, again and again, disappointing our critics and refusing to die.”
“And why is that?” he asked. “It's because the Word of God and the works of God do not pass away. No court decision, no law and no political lobby can ever change the truth about when human life begins and the sanctity that God attaches to each and every human life.”
“Our lives matter to the degree that we give them away to serve God and to help other people. Our lives matter not because of who we are,” he wrote. “They matter because of who God is.”
“His mercy, his justice, his love – these are the things that move the galaxies and reach into the womb to touch the unborn child with the grandeur of being human.”
“And we become more human ourselves by seeing the humanity in the poor, the weak and the unborn child and then fighting for it.”