Vigil Mass for Life: 'Every human being, at every stage of life, should be treated with respect'

Vigil for Life Mass 12115 CNA Addie Mena The Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2015. | Addie Mena / CNA.

Catholics must work to promote a culture of life and work to support mothers, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said in his homily at the Opening Mass at the Prayer Vigil for Life on Thursday. 

“As we celebrate this pro-life vigil Mass, we are deeply conscious that the Supreme Court is weighing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” said Lori, the lead celebrant at the annual Mass on the eve of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20. 

Lori is the newly-installed chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. 

“This case gives the High Court an opportunity to undo the grave injustice it did in 1973, when in Roe v. Wade it was decided that a whole class of human beings, namely, the unborn, are outside the protection of the law, and thus ‘non-persons,’” he said.  

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns the legality of Mississippi’s law banning abortion after the 15th week of a pregnancy. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, it will be the first pre-viability prohibition on abortion since Roe v. Wade found a legal right to an abortion throughout the entirety of a pregnancy. 

Should the court overturn Roe, Lori explained, states would be permitted to write their own laws on the legality of abortion. 

“If legal protection is accompanied by more care for mothers and children, then it will be more and more clear to more and more of our fellow citizens that choosing life does not hinder happiness and does not burden society,” he said. 

“On the contrary, choosing life creates a society that looks to the future with hope, a society where a woman is never forced to choose between her future and her unborn child,” said Lori. 

For Catholics, said Lori, justice is a matter of reason, not faith. 

“And reason tells us that every human being, at every stage of life, should be treated with respect, protected, and cared for,” he added. 

If the Supreme Court does move to overturn Roe, Lori implored Catholics to be a “clear and united voice” saying that “our society and laws can and must protect and care for women and their children.”

Lori said it was a “matter of fundamental justice” legally to protect the unborn, as well as to “redouble our efforts to accompany women and couples who are facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, offering them loving and compassionate care.” 

During his 45 years of priesthood, Lori said he has met with many women and men who were considering abortion. 

“Almost without exception, these women and couples were deeply conflicted,” he said. “Most experienced a very deep and real anguish.” 

He said that for many of these people, “it seemed their only option was to have an abortion, but deep within, they knew it was a tragic choice with lasting consequences.” 

“What is needed so badly in all such situations is a witness to love and to life,” said Lori. 

That witness, he said, is provided through the work of pro-life ministries. 

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The archbishop praised these ministries, singling out the USCCB’s “Walking with Moms in Need,” the Sisters of Life, pregnancy centers, and Project Rachel. Project Rachel assists women and men who are post-abortive and seeking spiritual healing and renewal. 

“In all these ways and more, the Church seeks to bring light, healing, and hope, thus witnessing to the beauty of life, and ‘building a culture of life,’ one mother and child at a time,” he said.

Lori then spoke to those attending the Mass, telling them to “go forth from this Mass with renewed resolve to reach out to a family member, a neighbor, or a fellow parishioner, to encourage them to join in this great cause for life,” and to “reach out in a personal way to help a mother and a child in need.” 

“This is our time to create a new culture of life in America,” he said.  

The opening Mass at the Prayer Vigil for Life was celebrated in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, were among the dozens of bishops and priests present. 

While the Mass was being said, the dissenting group Catholics for Choice projected messages supportive of abortion rights on the basilica’s bell tower.

The Prayer Vigil for Life concludes at 8:00 a.m. on Jan. 21, with a closing Mass. That Mass will be celebrated by O’Malley.

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