Bishop Edward Malesic celebrated the annual diocesan Mass for Life Jan. 21 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Because of the continuing high rate of COVID-19 transmission, attendees were asked to make a reservation for the liturgy, which was concelebrated by about 10 priests, including Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries and seminary faculty. (See photo gallery above.)
Mary von Carlowitz, director of the diocesan Office for Human Life, said about 300 people pre-registered for the Mass, including groups from 10 high schools, about six elementary schools, homeschooled children and seminarians from Borromeo and Saint Mary seminaries. She said many schools took advantage of the fact that the Mass was livestreamed, opting to carry the stream in their buildings.
“It gives me great joy to look out over this magnificent cathedral and see the faces of all of you who clearly understand that each life is a gift from God and ultimately belongs to him. He has sole authority over life and death, and so we are called to reverence and love every person, loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is our responsibility to care for and protect human life, especially the lives of the most vulnerable among us,” the bishop said in his homily, which can be viewed here.
He told those gathered in the cathedral and those listening to the livestream or viewing the Mass on demand that we come together as a faith community to pray for the legal protection of unborn children and to pray for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. “We pray because only with prayer – prayer that storms heaven for justice and mercy, prayer that cleanses our heart and souls – will the culture of death that surrounds us today be replaced with a culture of life.”
Abortion directly attacks life, takes place within the sanctuary of the family and has resulted in more than 65 million human lives destroyed, the bishop said, adding it leaves wounds that are deep and painful. “Parents grieve the loss of their child through abortion decades after the fact,” he said. “In abortion, someone always dies.”
To be pro-life is to be pro-science, said Bishop Malesic, who studied biology before answering the call to his priestly vocation. He said science has given us a view of the reality of an unborn child and let us know that each human life is genetically distinct from the moment of conception. “And science has given us the ability to peer into the womb to see the face of the unborn child.”
As a bishop, he has blessed many ultrasound machines, including one just a few months ago. “The more we proclaim the truth that comes to us from science in a loving way, the more we can save lives,” he said, mentioning Sidewalk Advocates for Life – which ministers outside Preterm in Cleveland, a local abortion facility – offering women the choice of life. Volunteers offer to show women the face of their baby through a free ultrasound, which has resulted in saving the lives of more than 65 babies in the past year. Three more babies were saved last week.
The group also offers to find housing for women who need it, offer an ear for those who don’t know where to turn and continue to offer God’s healing to women and men who have been scarred by abortion. “Thanks to all persons, Catholic or not, who stand up to the right for life,” the bishop said, noting this first right “holds all the others together.”
Bishop Malesic also shared the story of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion advocacy group. He performed or presided at more than 60,000 abortions in New York hospitals before beginning to have doubts. As science advanced and ultrasounds became clearer, he began seeing the faces of the babies he was aborting and became an advocate for the unborn. On Dec. 8, 1996, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dr. Nathanson was baptized in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He worked tirelessly for the rest of his life for the legal protection of the unborn.
“Science is good enough to prove that our cause is worthy. But we take it one step further. We have faith in God that lifts our cause to another level,” the bishop said, pointing out we celebrate the Immaculate Conception because Mary’s life began when she was conceived. And we celebrate the Annunciation because we believe that Jesus began his life on earth when the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive Jesus.
“We are all a part of God’s plan. Every unborn child is a part of God’s mysterious plan, too,” he added.
The bishop referred to the Roe v. Wade decision, in which the United States Supreme Court established a woman’s right to choose abortion throughout her pregnancy, as “a flawed judgment in 1973 and it remains flawed in its interpretation of the Constitution, the obligations we have to the most vulnerable among us and the facts of life itself. But we have hope,” he said.
In addition, he aid pro-life advocates are paying close attention to another court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which prohibits abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy. This case and its pending Supreme Court decision are important to the pro-life efforts, he said.
“Although overturning Roe v. Wade would not necessarily end abortion in the United States, it would return the final decision on abortion to the states,” Bishop Malesic said.
We can change the laws, but unless we change minds and hearts, the bishop said we will not advance very far to be a type of society that mirrors God’s kingdom. He said people will not be converted to the Gospel of life “by arrogant voices of judgmental people, but by the persuasive power of love and forgiveness that we have found for ourselves in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And women will choose life only when we give them a way to choose it, alleviate their fears and give them a safe place to give birth.”
We proclaim a Gospel of forgiveness, compassion and care, he said, adding there are two sides to the debate of abortion. On one side is death, the other side is life. There is an ugly and a beautiful side; a side that despairs and one that hopes; a side that screams and one that prays and offers solutions; the side that rejects science and the side that accepts science and lifts it even higher with faith, hope and love.
“Keep those prayers coming for the unborn. More things are brought about by your prayers than this world can dream of – and we do dream big. But we also must act. Our children are counting on us,” the bishop said.