By Judie Brown
The state of Massachusetts just enacted a tragic law that provides for the decriminalization of abortion after 24 weeks for any reason. The law also approves abortion for females who are 16 years or older. This means that teenagers can now access abortion without parental notice or consent. It is, in other words, another step toward the legal acceptance of abortion-on-demand in a state with a near majority of citizens who claim to be Catholic.
And therein lies the rub. The Massachusetts Catholic Conference of Bishops appears to have dropped the proverbial ball in a huge way. They are marshmallow men. They spoke words but never rallied their people to action.
The Massachusetts bishops said they “call on our elected officials to carefully consider the consequences that these bills would bring to the lives of infants, parents, families and the citizens of the Commonwealth. We urge all people of good will, regardless of what faith they practice, to vigorously oppose these extreme measures.”
But what followed was a disaster with a predictable outcome: more killing.
None of the Catholics who voted for this life ending measure will suffer a word of rebuke from any priest or prelate in Massachusetts. There will be no articles or editorials critical of them in the Catholic press. No one will be denied Holy Communion. No one will be expelled from the Knights of Columbus.
If any serve on the board of a Catholic institution, they will continue to do so. Like Representative Kevin Honan, they will still be eligible to receive awards from Catholic religious orders. All will be treated by the hierarchy, clergy and religious as respected members of the Catholic community.
Silence implies consent. Given the silence of the Church on Catholic participation in expanding the slaughter of the unborn, no rational person can reasonably be expected to take seriously Catholic opposition to abortion in Massachusetts.
The ineptitude of these bishops is sad. That’s why it’s important to recall these words of St. Boniface: “The Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship, but to keep her on her course.”
The Church is the body of Christ, and that means that each of us has a responsibility not only to hold our Catholic leaders and their bureaucratic machines to account but to be engaged in our community. We are Catholics, and that means standing up for truth, in defense of the weak and in opposition to the forces of evil in our midst.
What happened in Massachusetts is a tragedy, but it is also a lesson. Rather than complaining about the failure of Church leaders, we should pray for them and encourage the wonderful priests and bishops in our midst. Never forget these profound words of St. Thomas More: “[If a leader allows weariness to so grip] the mind that its strength is sapped and reason gives up the reins, if a [leader] is so overcome by heavy-hearted sleep that he neglects to do what the duty of his office requires . . . —like the cowardly ship’s captain who is so disheartened by the furious din of the storm that he deserts the helm, hides away cowering in some cranny, and abandons the ship to the waves—if a [leader] does this, I would certainly not hesitate to juxtapose and compare his sadness with the sadness that leads as [Paul] says, to hell.”
Without the help of grace, as the Catechism teaches, any of us could surrender to such cowardice. I only hope these bishops and their bureaucrats realize the stakes, because right now the devil is having a field day. And the babies are dying.
Now is the time for soldiers for Christ, not marshmallows.