By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond
Clarion Herald – 1/29/11 – English; 2-5-11 – Spanish
You have made an interesting parallel between the earthquake in Haiti and the Roe vs. Wade decision 38 years ago. Can you share that with us?
First of all, I do ask everyone to continue to remember the people of Haiti in prayer and with their sacrificial offerings. The earthquake in Haiti in 2010 lasted 43 seconds. Layers of the earth moved, and the destruction caused by those seismic movements wasn’t restricted to the epicenter of the quake. The quake had rippling effects throughout the entire country. That serves as an image of what happened on Jan. 22, 1973, in our own country. The Supreme Court of the United States of America bestowed a legal right to abortion. That decision is commonly known as Roe vs. Wade. The earth shifted. Not only did the earth shift on a very, very important issue, but the earth also shifted in such a way that it allowed us to call into question other issues of life. The very fact that in our country a woman has a right to bring to death her unborn child – the very fact that we have the right to take from an unborn fetus its human life, which is a gift from God and parents – has had incredible rippling effects for nearly 40 years.
You celebrated a Mass for Life at St. Angela Merici on Jan. 21 and then went to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. How was that experience and what can Catholics do to share in these efforts?
I would implore all of us to be people of prayer and to pray for the dignity and the respect of human life that God intends for us. We need to pray that we can have the same reflection on human life that God has for us. For the first time this year, we held a state pro-life rally by marching to the state capitol in Baton Rouge. I was privileged to be in Washington last weekend with about 500 or 600 young people from all dioceses in the state of Louisiana. The students were there to learn more about pro-life issues, to march and to ask God’s blessings upon our efforts to be voices for life. That’s what this is all about – not only being people of prayer but also being voices for life for those who have no voice. We need to be willing to proclaim with courage and boldness that we believe in the dignity and the life of the unborn, but not just the unborn. That’s why I say the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision had rippling effects. Because we can justify taking the life of the unborn, it is much easier to justify taking the life of someone who is terminally ill, engaging in embryonic stem cell research that destroys embryos or taking the life of someone on death row. We call that capital punishment, but it’s really the death penalty. It becomes much easier to justify taking those lives when we say we can take the life of an innocent human being.
You have stressed the multiple dimensions of the pro-life issue.
For us as Catholics and Christians, we certainly start with saving the unborn child. Pro-life also means we are concerned about those in poverty, those who do not have a place to live, those who live under I-10 in New Orleans, those whose families are affected and divided by immigration law, those who exploit women and children through pornography and the recent increase in bullying in our schools and communities. In the city of New Orleans, we have multiple murders every day. These are all pro-life issues. When we talk about being pro-life people, hopefully we are talking about the whole gamut of pro-life issues, which starts with the unborn child and then goes through many stages and culminates in taking the life of someone who is terminally ill.
What can we do?
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the Proudly Pro-Life dinner in our archdiocese, and I applaud what courageous women and men are doing on the local and state level to promote the sanctity of life. I ask everyone to do two things: first, to include pro-life activities in our prayer and ask for God’s guidance, and, second, to reach out if there is someone in their lives who is struggling with a life issue. It could be someone thinking about an abortion, someone who is terminally ill and has lost hope, someone who is distraught because someone they know is on death row. We need to be present to that person and allow God to work through our words, comfort and encouragement. May God bless us with peace in our very violent time. As I said at the annual Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on Jan. 8, the new “Battle of New Orleans” is murder, racism and violence. Let us commit ourselves to being the peacemakers that God calls us to be.
Archbishop Aymond welcomes questions from readers. Please e-mail questions to [email protected]