Calling pro-life advocates and all Christians to courage and virtue, Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput provided a list of “dos and don’ts” for the pro-life movement on Tuesday evening. He urged an end to divisions and false oppositions, encouraging pro-lifers to be joyous and hopeful witnesses through public action and new technologies.
Delivering the keynote speech for Cleveland Right to Life's symposium "Bringing America Back to Life" on March 9, the archbishop said pro-life unity is a sign of God’s Spirit, while division is the sign of “Someone very different.”
“As a bishop, I've been baffled by the energy wasted on internal pro-life bickering. We can never allow our differences to become personal.”
“Don’t create or accept false oppositions,” he added, criticizing efforts to drop the legal fight to end abortion by seeking “common ground.”
In his view, Americans have not taken such gradualist approaches to reducing injustices such as racism or sexual assault.
“We make sexual assault illegal -- even though we know it will sometimes still tragically occur -- because it’s gravely evil. It’s an act of violence, and the law should proscribe it.”
If abortion is really an “intimate act of violence,” an end to it is necessary through law. Pro-lifers cannot be satisfied with “mere ‘reductions’ in the body count,” he continued, adding that a legal approach combined with support for pregnant women is needed.
“Don't hate the adversary,” Archbishop Chaput reminded his audience, saying that few supporters of abortion understand the “full gravity” of the act.
“Our enemy is the Evil One, not other human beings,” he explained. “We need to trust in the power of love; the true power of God.”
As positive advice, he urged his audience to become “martyrs,” that is, witnesses about human dignity in their daily actions.
“But public witness can be costly. We need to be ready to pay a price for our convictions. We may never be asked to bleed for what we believe. But we do see character assassination, contempt and calumny against good people every day in our public media. We need to prepare for that. Nothing, not even our good name, should stop us from doing what we know to be right.”
The Archbishop of Denver likened simplistic political slogans to viruses transmitted so quickly a person cannot respond to them intelligently.
He criticized a common complaint against those who “impose” their morals on others, explaining that all law is the public expression of moral conviction. The central question in public debate is which moral convictions of which people shall guide the laws.
“If you and I as citizens don’t do the shaping, then somebody else will,” he cautioned. “That’s the nature of a democracy.”
Citizens who fail to bring their moral beliefs into the public conversation and work for their advancement help ensure the defeat of those beliefs.
Efforts to wall off religious beliefs from political behavior are illogical and encourage self-deceit, the archbishop warned.
“God sees that our duplicity is really a kind of cowardice; and that our lack of courage does a lot more damage than simply compromising our own integrity. It also undermines the courage of other good people who really do try to publicly witness to what they believe. And that compounds a sin of dishonesty with a sin of injustice.”
“We can’t build a just society, and at the same time legally sanctify the destruction of generations of unborn human life. The rights of the poor and the rights of the unborn child flow from exactly the same human dignity guaranteed by the God who created us.”
“Do keep hope alive,” he continued, explaining that joy is not self-deception but the acknowledgment that God truly is on the side of “human life and dignity.”
“Nothing is more inspiring than happy warriors,” Archbishop Chaput commented. “I've never in my life seen a joy-filled pro-abortion event. And I've always found that instructive.”
He also encouraged the use of the “best means” for the pro-life message, especially new technologies.
“Many of the traditional, mainline media are losing influence. But blogs, social networks, and YouTube channels are thriving. They offer huge pro-life opportunities.”
His final exhortation reiterated that cultural renewal, not grasping power, is the real goal.
“Culture can be changed in small but powerful ways. But achieving that change demands from each of us a lifelong commitment to education; to studying and really understanding the issues that face us in science, medicine, technology and law; to deepening the character formation of our children and ourselves; and ultimately, to personal action and personal witness in the public square. Nobody will do these things for us.”
No defense of the human person, no matter how small, is “unfruitful or forgotten,” he commented. God loves the “ordinary, simple, everyday people” who keep His Word and are faithful to His commandments in leavening the world with goodness.
“If you speak up for the unborn child in this life, someone will speak up for you in the next, when we meet God face to face.”
He closed his comments by quoting an “unofficial motto” of the Texas Rangers: “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fella that’s in the right, and keeps a-comin.”
“Courage and humility, justice and perseverance, do have power. Good does win. And the sanctity of human life will endure,” Archbishop Chaput said.
If people remember that God so loved the world that He gave His only son, he noted, “then the odds look pretty good, and it’s worth fighting for what’s right.”