Cardinal Law's Statement Asking For A Moratorium on Pro-Life Demonstrations

Author: Cardinal Bernard Law


Cardinal Law

We have lived these days in the dark shadow of violence. Our hearts are filled with heavy sorrow as we remember the events of last Friday. May the God of love and mercy bring those who were killed to that place where every tear will be wiped away, and may the compassionate Lord console all those who knew and loved these two young women.

Violence manifests itself early in human history with the story of Cain and Abel. Cain killed his brother, Abel, out of jealousy. When God inquired of Cain the whereabouts of Abel, he answered: "Am I my brother's keeper?

The rhetorical question was really a repudiation of the counsel of the prophet Isaiah: "Turn not your back on your own flesh." Cain's fratricide was rooted in that primordial violence, the original sin of our first parents' disobedience. Their willful rupture of their relationship with God set the course of a fallen human nature.

If we are to root ourselves effectively in the way of non-violence, it is essential to recognize that violence has its beginning in a turning from God and a turning from our neighbor. That vision of human solidarity which flows from Christ's teaching is foreign to the violent heart. Jesus said that we would be known as his disciples by the love we show one another. His teaching is not restricted to a small community of beloved disciples but rather implies a solidarity embracing every human being from the first moment of conception until the last moment of natural death. He taught us that in serving the needs of others we serve him.

Inspired by this message of universal love, St. Paul wrote in the Letter to the Romans: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.... Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.... Never avenge yourself.... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12).

There are few persons who would claim that abortion is a moral good. For most persons who champion the right to an abortion, it is seen as the only way out of a painful and difficult situation. While this is an unacceptable view for those of us who hold all human life as sacred, it does present the possibility of some common action among persons who are not agreed on the question of life.

If abortion is seen by a pregnant woman as the only way out of a difficult situation, then do we not have a responsibility to present alternatives to abortion to that woman and the child she carries?

Is this the only thing society can say to such a woman: "We will help you have an abortion? Surely we can do better than that. Adoption should be presented as the positive alternative which it is. Existing residential programs for unmarried pregnant women should be more widely known and celebrated. Governmental programs and tax policies should be reviewed as to their impact on unmarried and married mothers and their children. The media could be of inestimable value in helping present realistic and holistic alternatives to abortion.

In calling for a moratorium on pro-life demonstrations outside of abortion clinics, I do not imply that such demonstrations are poorly motivated, or that they are not peaceful, or that they are illegal. It is, for me, a matter of prudential judgment. Prudence sometimes calls one to refrain from something that is good in itself. That is the case here. I have in mind peaceful, prayerful, legal demonstrations. Any demonstration characterized by violence would, of its very nature, be out of order.

My motive in asking for this moratorium is to avoid, on the side of the pro-life movement, anything which might engender anger or some other form of violence. The pro-life message cannot be heard in the midst of violence whether that violence be in thought, word or deed. We need to focus calmly and prayerfully on the pregnant woman and the child she bears. In this calm, perhaps our society will hear more clearly the words of Isaiah: "Turn not your back on your own flesh."

Within the next several weeks I will designate a church in each of the five regions of the archdiocese where there will be scheduled times of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for pregnant women and the children they bear. Hopefully, those who have engaged in prayer before abortion clinics will accept this as an appropriate way to heed the advice of St. Paul: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Rom. 12).

These have been most difficult days in which we have seen the tragic complexity of evil. May we not lose heart as we seek to affirm life and reject all forms of violence.

This statement appeared in "The Pilot" on January 6, 1995.