Do you not know me?
There has been a debate of late, dealing with the issue of what does it mean to be truly pro-life. I’m thankful for the input and thoughts of Calgary’s new Catholic bishop, Bishop Fred Henry, for his helpful and insightful remarks, made public, delivered to a convention of Alberta Pro-Life last month.
I won’t repeat those remarks here. Others much wiser than I will, no doubt, report on his happy thoughts conveyed to us via the press. However, I have to admit my confusion when I heard the bulk of those comments. I say that, because it has become painfully obvious that Calgary’s Bishop seems not to have ever met a real pro-life individual.
The bishop seems to feel that those in the pro-life movement neglect other social issues near and dear to his heart. Because of that, pro-life folks lack the credibility that he feels is necessary to add legitimacy to true social activism.
To say that Bishop Henry is short on facts would be an over-simplification, and add nothing to the debate. However, there is some data that was neglected in the rush to label the pro-life movement, and I will mention some of it here.
In 1989, at the prodding of numerous friends, I began a very humble pro-life ministry. At that time, a number of us felt a call to a challenge the culture. We did that by embracing the pro-life cause, but also by realizing that anyone who was downtrodden was part of this mercy ministry.
An organization was set up that dealt with the issue of social housing. To that end I am pleased to note that this organization, filled with pro-life activists, is now one of the largest social housing groups in our community, working to provide those with little or no place to lay their head a place to call home.
In 1992, I was able to lead a group of about 30 people to the former Soviet Union. Our task was to deliver Bibles and much-needed medicine to hospitals and orphanages in various cities throughout the country. We wanted to avoid the cities that the typical tourist was frequenting. Kazan and Yekaterinburg were on our list, communities neglected by many Western relief agencies.I returned on two other occasions to bring in materials to a children’s hospital that our pro-life group “adopted,” and am planning a fourth visit.
I bring these two small initiatives up to point out that these are the regular activities that pro-lifers engage in as they continue their work. In community after community, it is those brave and caring individuals who are challenging the culture of death, by the most effective means possible.
In fact, the book of Micah has the ultimate challenge to those who value life. “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) All this, and more, is taking place in towns and cities across North America every day. It is members of the pro-life movement that love justice and do mercy. My community is no different from Halifax, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Fredericton or Charlottetown. In each of these cities, love and concern are the qualities displayed by those who many would brand as irrelevant or “rude,” as Bishop Henry put it.
In the spirit of humility, Mother Teresa is our inspiration, for we take our marching orders from the Micah mandate. This reality, this work will continue. We can do no other. In the face of unwarranted criticism, the true pro-life movement continues its work – unacknowledged and often unknown. As it should be.