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In his column in the week before both Martin Luther King Jr. day and the March for Life, Archbishop Joseph Naumann linked the two events as both important in the fight for civil rights.
“Martin Luther King Day and the March for Life celebrate equally self-evident truths,” he wrote. “1) the sacredness of every human life, no matter age or stage of development; and 2) the dignity of every human person, no matter race or ethnicity.”
Archbishop Naumann, a frequent visitor to Benedictine College who gives senior theology and philosophy majors a yearly “fireside chat,” on topical issues, said just as you don’t have to be Catholic to see how wrong racism is, you don’t need to be Catholic to see how wrong abortion is.
“The evil nature of both institutionalized racism and legalized abortion are accessible to everyone through reason alone and are not dependent on the moral teaching of any particular religion,” he said. Nonetheless, “Our Christian faith adds to what reason reveals. Christians believe that every human being is made in the divine image and every human life is of such worth in God’s eyes that Jesus gave his life on Calvary for each one of us.”
Archbishop Naumann said the Church has apologized for its pre-Civil War failures with regard to racism, and noted the Founders of the United States also failed with regard to racism.
“Sadly, this failure of the founders to address the human rights abuse of slavery postponed an inevitable conflict within our nation that eventually resulted in a bloody Civil War,” he said. “Tragically, for almost a century after the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, the Congress, state Legislatures and the courts permitted racial discrimination in our laws and public policies.”
Archbishop Naumann fears that the same errors are being made with regard to the right to life today.
“Similar to proponents of slavery who predicted economic and social disaster for our nation if slavery was banned, legalized abortion advocates today make dire predictions of a negative impact upon women if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states greater latitude to regulate, much less prohibit, abortion,” he wrote.
He said it is important to look at the needs of both the unborn and their mothers.
“Abortion advocates pit the welfare of women against the lives of their children. In truth, once a child is conceived in the womb of a woman, the welfare and best interests of mother and child are intimately linked,” he said.
The Church has led the way in this, Archbishop Naumann said.
“Catholics in the United States can be justifiably proud that for the past 50 years their church has been a leader in efforts to protect both mother and child from the abortion industry,” he added. “At the same time, the Catholic community has also been a leader in developing practical resources to help and accompany women with difficult or untimely pregnancies.”
Both the U.S. bishops and Pope Francis agree that abortion is the “pre-eminent” political issue of our time. Naumann was chair the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee when, in a visit with Pope Francis, the Holy Father “was truly kind of stunned” at the sheer number of abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade — more than 60 million — and said that it is certainly the pre-eminent issue.