In a recent homily, I cited 139 attacks on Catholic Churches in the United States in the past two years, saying that these events are going to get worse depending on the Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v Wade. After Mass, a lady approached me and asked me if I ever preach on gun control and banning AK47’s. My response was from the heart – there are 23 elementary and three high schools in our diocese and along with our various parish-based PSR programs. I am sure that all parents send their children to the parish school with the expectation that while they are at the parish, they are safe. And, we do our best to provide a safe environment for religious formation and education. At the same time, we all read the headlines and know of the recent devastating loss of 19 young lives and two adults at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX, along with the broken families. Am I wrong to say that all parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles want a safe environment where students can grow in the faith and learn?
And it is not only in schools. Recently just going to the store for groceries or anywhere in public can expose us to violence. Bishop Shawn McKnight, the Bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, in his column in The Catholic Missourian, the Catholic paper of the Diocese of Jefferson City, stated, “While the root causes of these recent tragedies are legion, society has every obligation to improve gun safety as prudence would dictate.” Does anybody disagree with that statement? If you do, you probably don’t have children or grandchildren. And while I don’t have children or grandchildren, I have just under 7,000 students that come to our parishes on a weekly basis for religious formation, to say nothing of the families who come to a parish on weekends for Holy Mass and other events.
With the various shootings in our country, people have begun to criticize the Hollywood entertainment industry for glorifying the use of weapons in movies. When we see so much violent carnage on film, we can easily become desensitized. Then, when we see the actual devastation of war in Ukraine, or hear of actual acts of violence in our own country, we become so immune that it does not affect us. It is very easy to see the images of war in Ukraine and think it’s a videogame. It is not a videogame! This is real life—life and death—played out in the lives of people who were devastated at the loss of loved ones.
The same can be said about abortion. Over the past 49 years since the 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion, we have become desensitized to this loss of life. It is not a “health care” procedure – it is the taking of a human life. And I am reminded on a regular basis of the quote of Ronald Reagan on a billboard along Highway 55 in southern Missouri, “All of those for abortion have already been born.” When we fail to see the dignity of human life in the womb, and when we fail to protect life when it is the most vulnerable, we will continue to go down the slippery slope where we all lose our dignity, all of us become impoverished and human life — whether in the womb, or special needs, or the elderly—is all the more vulnerable to being part of a throwaway culture.
The Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau does so much to help women in need. In a recent column, I outlined the many programs throughout southern Missouri such as LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home in Springfield, LifeHouse being built in Cape Girardeau, Mother’s House in the Bootheel, Whole Family and Whole Kids Outreach and Casa Guadalupe in Ellington, and more. I have challenged our parishes to be “islands of mercy” to respond to women in need. And, regardless of the decision of the Supreme Court, we will continue to offer not just services and goods to those in need, but more importantly, the dignity and respect that all humans deserve. Life is victorious!