Over the past six months or so there have been some very interesting and significant happenings in the United States, relevant to the abortion issue. Christ and Caesar appear to be firming up for a “no holds barred” confrontation. A quote from the magazine 30 Days will put things into perspective: “The American bishops moved into battle formation…Meeting in Baltimore to mark the 200th anniversary of that first diocese in the United States, they took the strongest stand in the history of their two-decade campaign against legalized abortion. They served notice that they were marching into the political arena.”

The bottom line of the bishops’ discussions could be summed up in this statement, “No Catholic can responsibly take a pro-choice stand when the choice in question involves the taking of innocent human life.”

Excommunication?

The question of whether or not to formally excommunicate Catholic politicians who support abortion was discussed. A firm decision did not emerge but the mere fact that it was discussed means that the bishops consider the situation extremely serious. The imposing of excommunication would be left to individual bishops in their respective dioceses. I believe it will eventually come to that. Crozier rattling is not sufficient when the issue at state is the taking of the lives of millions of innocent human beings.

San Diego

As far as I remember, the bishops’ meeting ended on November 7, 1989. Within a week the bishop of San Diego took decisive action against a lady named Lucy Killea, a Catholic who was running for the State Senate on a pro-abortion platform. Bishop Leo Maher wrote as follows to Killea: “I regret to inform you that by your media advertisements and statements, you are placing yourself in complete contradiction to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Consequently I have no other choice but to deny you the right to receive the Eucharist.” The bishop continued, “No Catholic can responsibly take a pro-choice stand when the choice in question involves the taking of human life. I pray that you will receive the light to form a right conscience on the fundamental teaching of God. The right to life is a fundamental right. Without it there are no rights.” Canonically speaking this is not a formal excommunication. It is a refusal of the Sacraments. Lucy Killea did not retract. She said that she would continue to attend Mass but would not attempt to receive Holy Communion.

Of course the pro-abortion media went to town on the issue. The bishop was accused of interfering in politics. Lucy Killea won the seat against her much more powerful opponent. Both the opponent and the media claimed that the bishop won it for her. The people – they said – wanted to show their opposition to the bishop’s action. This may be true but it didn’t faze the bishop in the least. When asked by the press about his action influencing the election outcome he said, “It doesn’t bother me if she wins. I did this in a pastoral way as a teacher for her and other people in the public arena.” Sounds like a practical application of Mother Teresa’s dictum, “God does not ask us to succeed. He does ask us to be faithful.” The bishop was faithful to his duty as the shepherd of his flock. Unlike Peter walking on the water, he kept his eyes on Christ and did not “take cognizance of the wind.” I translate that Gospel sentence as “seeing how the wind is blowing.” A bishop is the shepherd of his flock. His primary duty is to stand for the truth, irrespective of the force of the prevailing political winds. Bravo Bishop Maher!

Cardinal O’Connor

But that wasn’t all. There’s more to come!  On October 1, 1989, Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York hit the headlines when he said he was considering personally taking part in a rescue. His auxiliary bishop (Austin Vaughan) had been arrested and jailed. The Cardinal has been perhaps America’s most outspoken anti-abortion prelate. At the bishops’ meeting to which I referred above, the Cardinal was elected chairman of the American Bishops’ Pro-life Activities Committee. This makes him the official spokesman for the Catholic Church in the United States on the issue of abortion.

The Mayor

Now a new cat has appeared among the pigeons. The newly-elected Mayor of New York is the ardent pro-abortionist, David Dinkins. On November 12, Dinkins announced to thousands of pro-abortionists that he will “vigorously arrest and prosecute demonstrators who block entrances to abortion clinics.” Dinkins was, of course, aware of the Cardinal’s statement that he is considering taking part in a rescue. The Mayor-elect’s remarks to the pro-abortionist gathering is considered as a veiled threat to the Cardinal. From what I have read of Cardinal O’Connor, I cannot imagine his backing away because of threats from “Caesar.”

Churches profaned

Two other incidents took place in recent months which are very significant and by no means merely coincidental. On December 10, 1989 a gang of protesters, under the banner “Stop the Church”, invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral during Mass and as Cardinal O’Connor was preaching. They attempted to disrupt the service but were removed by police. On the other side of the U.S., during the Christmas midnight Mass, a similar happening was perpetrated in the Los Angeles Cathedral during the sermon of Archbishop Mahoney.

Of course any Christian must be shocked at the profanation of a church service. But somehow the whole current scenario gives me hope. At the Last Supper Christ warned his Apostles – the first bishops – that they cannot be true to Him and at peace with the world, meaning the spirit of the world. And all through history the principles have remained the same. Whenever the world and the Church have been on “back-slapping terms” it is always the Church that ends up on the cross. It was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said “When the Church marries the World in one generation, she finds herself divorced in the next.” A situation invariably arises when the Church – in the form of the bishops – is called on to take a stand on a moral issue which will put Her in opposition to the government and society. If the bishops fail to take a stand for the truth – and it has happened in history – they are reenacting the scene from the Garden of Gethsemane, so cogently couched in the words of St. John, “Then all leaving Him they fled.”

If the Church in North America takes a firm and uncompromising stand against the power of Caesar, and in defence of millions of unborn babies, there will undoubtedly be “crucifixions.” But let us not forget this historical fact. If there had not been a “Hill of Calvary” there would never have been a “Garden of the Resurrection.”