October has arrived. For many crops, this is harvest time – especially for pumpkins. Pumpkin spice now permeates coffee shops and carved pumpkins are on display. Pumpkin pie will soon follow.
Harvest time reminds us of the cycle of life that starts from a seed. I did not grow up on a farm, but I am fascinated by the rhythm and cycle of the process of seed to planting to harvesting. According to the farmer’s almanac, pumpkins do best when the seeds are planted directly in the ground provided the plant soil is 70ºF or more. Indoor seeding can begin in early April, but outdoor seeding waits until the end of May.
If at any of these stages, someone comes and digs up all the seeds or destroys the seedlings, a farmer would be furious. The farmer would recognize that the crop would be lost completely. No pumpkins. All would be gone. It would hardly be a satisfactory answer for someone to say, “But those were just seeds, not pumpkins.” We would all recognize that pumpkins don’t magically appear, they come from a seed that is planted, nurtured, and allowed to grow until it bears fruit.
This natural part of the life cycle is also respected by the way our environmental laws protect endangered and other species from the earliest moments of their existence. It is a crime to destroy or even disturb the eggs of a sea turtle or of a bald or golden eagle. We understand that to destroy a seed is to destroy the fruit that would come forth. To destroy the egg is to destroy that creature – which is deemed worthy of care and protection. These laws treat the egg and the fully formed animal the same.
October is also Respect Life Month. Every year, we as a church reflect upon the gift of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. It is more than ironic that environmental laws make it illegal to harm or kill certain animal eggs, yet human beings are not afforded the same protection. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, over 62 million babies have been killed through abortion.
As a Church we work against all threats to the dignity of the human person. We are fully pro-life, defending human life from the womb to the tomb, regardless of the color of one’s skin or country of origin, whether in a nursery, a nursing home, or death row.
As we enter the election season, this passage from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (revised November 2019) provides guidance on the primacy of the threat of abortion:
The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. (Emphasis added.)
The beauty of our pro-life stance is that it is very inclusive. Pope Francis reminds us to look to those on the peripheries, the margins. The greatest of civil rights initiatives over the years have sought to expand the circle of protection to those on the margins. We expand the care to those in our society who might be written off, considered worthless, less than human.
Those in the womb quite literally have no voice to be heard. Many consider these young lives disposable, expendable. As Catholics, we say everyone counts. We’ll stand up for you. We will do whatever it takes materially, emotionally, and spiritually to offer continued support to the mother and child.
All other rights depend upon this first right to life. Of course, we do not stop at birth. Our arms of inclusion extend well beyond to the full spectrum of life. As the USCCB states: “[W]e cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.” We seek to love and care for victims of racism and discrimination, the handicapped, COVID patients, the lonely, immigrants, people who look and sound different than us, the elderly, and those on death row. Yet, if the very beginning of the spectrum of life is cut off, then no other rights even have the chance to be realized. Jesus tells us, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto Me” (Mt 25:40). Everyone counts.
These principles remain in effect year-round and life-long, during election seasons and outside of election seasons. However, during election season we have a special obligation to reflect upon whether there can be a reason to vote for candidates who reject this most basic of rights, the right to life. To do so, one would need what the church describes as “proportionate reasons.” What could be proportionate to 62 million lives lost since 1973? I cannot think of anything that is proportionate to such a mind-boggling and intentional loss of life.
Join with me in praying that we will have elected officials and civic leaders who recognize and fully embrace a culture of life. Let’s do our part to protect the cycle of life from the earliest moments. During this Respect Life Month, let’s allow this season of harvest to remind us that the very beginnings of life are worthy of protection.
Jesus, I Trust in You!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us…
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary