Policy Briefs

Roe vs Wade 1998

January 22, 1998

Recently, the Catholic Bishops of the United States issued a pastoral statement: “Light and Shadows: Our Nation 25 Years After Roe v. Wade.” In it a somber and dark remembrance of the legalization of abortion and its aftermath is blended with a hopeful and affirmative anticipation of the reversal of this violent assault on human life and the dignity of the person. We, the Catholic Bishops of the State of Iowa, want to offer this national statement to the faithful of our own dioceses and to people of good will for their reflection and action. We also want to emphasize the importance of its contents and the truth of its diagnosis of our current situation. We urge all to work both for the end of abortion and for solidarity, aid, and challenge to pregnant women in need, to the men who fathered these children, and to families in distress.

A compelling biblical image of “Light and Shadows” is that of the Good Samaritan. In the Gospel of Luke a lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by quoting the principle of the Law, to love God, and then adds that one is also to love your neighbor. When the lawyer persists with a further, more cunning question: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers him with the parable of the good Samaritan. In it, a figure usually perceived as despised and counter-cultural is held up as a model of character and right action. Further, Jesus concludes the parable with a reversal of the question posed to him. He asks: “Who proved neighbor to the man fallen among robbers?” He did not ask whom one chooses to be a neighbor but, more radically, to whom is one a neighbor. In fact, there is no limit on the solidarity, the neighborliness we owe to others, particularly to the vulnerable and to those thought to be of little account.

It must be admitted that many convictions of our common national heritage as well as of our faith are perceived today by some as counter-cultural or passé. In the case of abortion a notion of private choice is heralded as a public right, and the unbounded act of choosing is said to put traditional moral questions in a new light. To such analyses as these the principles of our nation’s founding documents and the anchor of our faith keep insisting: It is not just the act of choosing but also what is chosen that counts for moral life. The right of every human being to life is a primary good to be respected to the highest degree. Further, one can put things in a new light by dimming the lights. Such a dimming has taken place in the last 25 years within our nation. The universality of the call of the Good Samaritan has begun to fade.

The pro-life voice, however, has not ceased speaking in these years. The hopes it has kindled, especially among many of our young people, and the modest successes it has accomplished give us reason to look ahead with sober optimism.

As shepherds of the local Churches in Iowa, we ask our people to reflect and pray carefully on the Bishops’ national statement and reinvigorate their efforts for a culture of life and solidarity.

January 22, 1998