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NOTE: The following letter was published in the January 25, 2018 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This past week, I was able to join tens of thousands of others from across the country at the events surrounding the 2018 March for Life which is held annually in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in our land. This year marks 45 years since this tragic decision.
I was so impressed by the number and diversity of youth in attendance. While recent surveys show that Millennials (ages 18-31) are increasingly opposed to abortion, I was able to experience first-hand their infusion of enthusiasm as I saw scores of teenagers and college-age students praying for life at the National Prayer Vigil at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Youth Mass at the Capital One Center. Students from our own high schools as well as young adults from Rutgers Catholic Ministry and our parishes were among the many young people chanting “We are the Pro-Life Generation!” as they rallied at the March for Life.
Perhaps it is the development of technologies such as 3-D ultrasound, which shows the beautiful reality of human life growing in the womb, which has contributed to the shifting opinions and attitudes regarding life. Whatever the reason, the March for Life, with its youthful presence, has become a symbol of hope for an abortion-free America. No doubt, the prayers of many are having an effect!
The theme of this year’s March for Life was “Love Saves Lives.” We know that as Christians ‘love’ is our mission. I am grateful to so many of our faithful from across the Diocese of Metuchen who put this mission into action every day serving life at all stages and in every condition. Here are just a few examples of the good work being done by members of our local Church:
Working to build a culture of life and love also means speaking up to advocate for public policy, which protects all human life, especially the innocent unborn child in the womb, but including all those who are vulnerable – the frail elderly, the sick, the dying, the homeless, the imprisoned and the immigrant.
This March for Life was historic because the President of the United States addressed the crowd for the first time ‘live’ via satellite from the Rose Garden at the White House promising his support for the babies in the womb and their mothers and pointing to several legislative measures which have been taken in the past year for their protection. Progress is being made in this pro-life area and our voices matter.
This past December marked the 10th Anniversary of the Elimination of the Death Penalty in New Jersey. Ten years ago (Dec. 19, 2007), I was able to be present when the Colosseum in Rome glowed in honor of New Jersey with the words, “There is no justice without life.” While we recognize the horror of violent crimes and grieve for the victims, we believe that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, who alone is the absolute Lord of life from its beginning until its end (Genesis 1:26-28). The death penalty diminishes us as a society. We cannot teach respect for life by taking life.
In the same way, we need to oppose the pending legislation in New Jersey that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in our state for those who face terminal illness. As St. Pope John Paul II stated in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, “True ‘compassion’ leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear.” Suicide is always a tragedy. Love saves lives. When life is difficult, we need to turn to Jesus who can deliver us from the power of darkness.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Jennifer Ruggiero, director of our diocesan Office of Human Life & Dignity, and all those from around the diocese who helped to organize bus trips so that pro-life pilgrims, young and old, from our diocese could join so many others in witnessing to life.
I encourage all who attended the 2018 March for Life events to share your experiences on social media and in conversations with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. In this way, as missionary disciples of Christ, we can work at changing hearts and minds about the injustice of abortion and other attacks on human life. Nothing is more convincing than a joyful witness! With God, who is Love, we can help to transform the world.
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen