The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade is, without question, an answer to prayer. In its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,
the Justices ended the Court’s nearly fifty-year nationwide regime of abortion on demand; a regime that was based on
the indefensible view that the U.S. Constitution implicitly forbids government from protecting the preborn child in the womb
from the violence of abortion. The Supreme Court in Dobbs concluded
that there is nothing in the Constitution’s text, history, American legal tradition, or the Court’s precedents
that justified the extreme holding of Roe. Therefore, it returned
the issue of abortion to be decided by the people’s elected representatives, who had exercised such authority
from our natin’s founding until the Roe decision of 1973. In so doing, the Supreme
Court in Dobbs cleared the way for a
paradigm shift in American law, allowing it to enlarge its boundaries to again welcome a segment of the human family
that had been outside of its protections for close to half a century.
then, is a victory for justice, the rule of law, and self-governance. But
for those of us who have prayed for this moment to arrive, it is the time for a renewal and rededication
of our efforts to build a culture of life and civilization of love. Justice
is, of course, essential to this end. But it is not sufficient.
To build a world in which all are welcome requires not only justice,
but compassion, healing, and above all, unconditional love.
In a post-Roe
world, Catholics must now work together for another, even deeper paradigm shift.
We must move beyond a paradigm shift in the law in order to help the people of our nation better see who we can be
as a nation by truly understanding what we owe to one another as members
of the same human family. To build a world in which all are welcome, we
must heed the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and remember “that we belong to one another.”
Abortion is a gruesome sign of how we have forgotten our mutual belonging. The logic of Roe v Wade has framed our national discourse on the issue
of abortion as a zero-sum conflict among individual strangers. But the truth
of the matter is that mother and child are not strangers; they are already bound together by flesh and kinship.
The new life that is developing under the heart of the mother is already situated in a network of relations including
family, neighbors, and fellow citizens. The logic of Roe, in the
name of autonomy, offers the woman only to right to see lethal force used against her child, but it otherwise abandons her.
To the contrary, the logic of the culture of life recognizes
that the pregnant woman and her child are not alone – they are fellow members of our larger human family whose interwoven
vulnerability is a summons to all of us, but especially to Catholics because of the teaching of Jesus and his proclamation
of the Gospel of Life. Indeed, Catholics see in the life of the Holy Family,
a lesson for all society: Mary, who not only said “yes” to life but who accompanied and cared for her child throughout
his life; Joseph, who met the unexpected challenges and threats to the child with fortitude and compassion; and Jesus himself,
who came into the world not with power and majesty, but with the vulnerability, dependence, and humility of a child.
In a post-Roe world, then, we must shift the paradigm
to what Saint Pope John Paul II described as “radical solidarity,” making the good of others our own good, including
especially mothers, babies (born and preborn), and families throughout the entire human lifespan.
It is a call to friendship and compassion rooted in the truth that we are made to love our neighbor as ourselves.
What does this mean concretely
How do we practice radical solidarity and unconditional love in a post-Roe world?
First, by speaking
the truth that abortion not only unjustly kills a preborn child, but also gravely wounds women, men, families, and
the nation as a whole. It degrades the practice of medicine and corrupts
the law. We must speak these truths with compassion.
We must extend the hand of compassion to all who suffer or are in need in the aftermath of abortion, including those
who do not yet see the truth in its fullness. Moreover, the call to love
compels us to practice civility and charity when we speak to and about those with whom we disagree.
Words alone are not nearly enough to bring about the revolution of love necessary
to create a world where all mothers, children, and families are welcomed and protected.
For this we must have the courage to love – to act and bear witness by caring for the least
among us, without condition or expectation of recompense. It is only through such radical witness that hearts will be softened
such that they can receive the truth of the Gospel of Life.
as Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in his letter to the Fourth World Conference on Women of the United Nations, “a radical
solidarity with women requires that the underlying causes which make a child unwanted be addressed.”
Twenty-five years after, Pope Francis echoed the same sentiment in this 2020 address to the United Nations.
Abortion is a brutal result of our failure to care for one another. Building
a world in which women are esteemed, children are loved and protected, and men are called to their responsibilities as fathers,
requires us to understand and address the complex and tragic tangle of affliction and strife that culminates in the violence
of abortion. This is a massive and daunting undertaking.
[Conclusion next week]