Bishop Conley: Courageously be open to, protect human life
By Nissa LaPoint
"Child sacrifice in 21st-century America"
Photo by James Baca/DCR
After attending a Mass remembering the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Debbie Nowak, a mother of 10 children, shared what she would tell a contracepting couple or a woman considering abortion.
“‘Be not afraid,’" Nowak said Jan. 21 outside the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. "God provides."
There was a time when Nowak and her husband found themselves in what seemed like a desperate situation, she said. When her husband quit his job and moved her and their five children to Denver in the ‘90s, Nowak discovered she was pregnant again—and was afraid, she said.
They sought help from Our Lady of Guadalupe—and her husband was hired six months later. The experience, Nowak said, showed her that difficult situations can end up being the greatest blessings in life.
This year, Nowak and her family were among the faithful gathered for the annual “Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life”—formerly called the Mass of Remembrance—at the Cathedral Basilica.
Nowak's sixth child, Clare, presented gifts to Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator for the Denver Archdiocese, who presided at the Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Conley shared Catholic beliefs on abortion, contraception and the importance of the next generation's witness to life.
"Every gift of life is willed by God and is therefore precious is his sight," Bishop Conley said to a nearly full church. "It's incumbent upon us to protect and safeguard every human being. So we have this special Mass dedicated to that thanksgiving for human life."
He spoke about the need for Catholics, who have the fullness of truth about human life, to be able to articulate the science and truths that point to its God-given dignity. Part of the task is also to welcome and love those who've been affected by abortion.
Today, one out of four women under the age of 40 has had an abortion, he said.
"They're all around us," Bishop Conley said. "I'm not condemning women who have chosen to abort their children. In fact, my heart breaks for them and we need to reach out to them in love and compassion to let them know that Jesus and his Church are here for them through Project Rachel and other programs for reconciliation and healing."
Choosing life is not always easy and oftentimes circumstances surrounding abortion lead women to believe they have no other choice, he continued.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion, an estimated 54 million children lost their lives, based on reports from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit sexual and reproductive research organization.
Pro-life advocates gathered across the nation last weekend and Monday to march against abortion and speak for the unborn.
Louise Saindon, 72, of St. Dominic Parish in Denver, said she has attended pro-life Masses and petitioned against abortion since its legalization in 1973.
At the Mass Saturday, she pinned bright pink signs to the front and back of her blouse that read "Unborn babies feel pain."
Saindon said being pro-life is the foundation to all other Christian values and acts of charity.
She attended the "Rosary for Life" held afterward in the Cathedral Basilica’s Marian Garden.
Some knelt and some stood as Bishop Conley led the joyful mysteries amidst the clamor and traffic of adjacent Colfax Avenue.
Robert Lederhos, of St. Anthony Parish in Sterling, said the pro-life message needs to be proclaimed more and more.
"If we don't stand up for those who don't have a voice, who will?" he said.
He gathered with his family after the rosary and said he believes contraception was really the beginning of abortion.
In fact, artificial contraception, like the birth control pill, can cause early abortions, said Lynn Grandon, director of the Office of Respect Life. The pill can prevent a zygote from implanting on a woman's uterus, which many Catholics may not know, she said.
Statistically, 98 percent of Catholic women reportedly used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning—the Church's approved birth regulation for grave circumstances—and nearly 70 percent use sterilization, the pill or an IUD, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Only 2 percent of Catholic women, even those who attend church once a month or more, rely on NFP, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Bishop Conley told the faithful to be open to the gift of life.
"We believe very strongly that the gift of life is a gift to be welcomed by mothers and fathers," he said. "That contraception is a moral evil and those who choose to contracept—which comes between God's gift and the human person—is wrong. It's a sin."
According to Church teaching, to contracept is to impede God’s will—openness to life, is openness to God’s will, trusting that he will provide.
Kaitlyn Evensen, 16, of St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, said Bishop Conley's homily helped her solidify the arguments for respecting life.
He petitioned the crowd and particularly the youths at the Mass, to be confident, joyful and hopeful.
Even if people think Catholics are "out of their minds," Bishop Conley said, it's important to be brave and witness to life.
"We need to be convinced that we're on the right side of this issue no matter what the rest of the world says," he said.