Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


To End Abortion Christians Must Raise Voices, Pray

By PRISCILLA GREEAR,Staff Writer | Published February 2, 2006

As rain clouds amassed outside of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, inside Bishop-emeritus William G. Curlin of Charlotte, N.C., challenged Catholics attending the Mass for the Unborn on Jan. 23 to pray and strive without ceasing to live in Christ’s love, with concern and advocacy not only for the rights of the unborn but for the plight of the oppressed and the poor, if they really want to be heard and not ignored.

“What if people looked at us and said, ‘these people are on fire for Christ, concerned about the people in the soup kitchens, the poor suffering in the world—they shine with the goodness of God.’ Then they’ll listen to us—if they listen to our voice and our voice is like the voice of Jesus Christ.”

The bishop asserted that even if Roe v. Wade is someday overturned, that will not be the final end to abortion. Rather, it will remain critical that pro-life supporters be shining lights of Christ, as they carry onward in condemnation of the sin of abortion and advocacy for the inalienable right to life, working to change attitudes of heart and mind.

He asked those present to examine their consciences, saying, “Our life is what’s needed to change the evil of abortion. What about your life speaks about surrendering totally to Jesus Christ?”

Girls in plaid Catholic school uniforms, knee socks and saddle shoes, elderly couples, and mothers holding their young children by the hand all hunched under their umbrellas on the drizzly morning as they crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and poured into the shrine to mourn the 33rd anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions to legalize abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. For pro-life advocates across the United States it was a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion and prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.

The annual Mass, concelebrated by about 10 archdiocesan priests, was sponsored by the archdiocesan Pro-Life Office. It preceded the annual Together for Life Memorial Service and Walk sponsored by the nonprofit Georgia Right to Life organization on the steps of the Capitol, which featured this year a proclamation by Gov. Sonny Perdue declaring it National Sanctity of Human Life Day in Georgia and a passionate speech by former governor and former U.S. senator Zell Miller about changing his position to pro-life.

The outdoor memorial service drew an estimated 3,500 people despite the rain, ranging from Catholics to evangelical Christians to others of good will, including two leather-jacket clad, motorcycle-riding women who regret their abortions. Both were in town from Augusta to give witness to another group of bikers.

Marist School students assisted as ushers during the Mass while Mary Welch Rogers served as cantor, singing songs including “Rock-a-by-baby in Jesus’ Arms.” Alan Brown and Greg Holland played the organ and trumpet, respectively.

Bishop Curlin, a slender man with a long, narrow face and white hair, told the story about when he gave religious instructions for two years to a Buddhist man who was a lawyer with the U.S. State Department. The man loved Jesus. The bishop asked if he wanted to become a Christian. “He said, ‘no.’ I was shocked because I poured my heart out for two years for this man.” The man wouldn’t become a Christian, the bishop said, because of the kind of example he saw from Christians he worked with.

Even when he ordains a man to the priesthood, Bishop Curlin said he believes “he’s not going to do anything to change the world unless he is a shining example for the world of Jesus.”

At one time Bishop Curlin served as president of the board of Catholic Charities in the Washington Archdiocese and in that capacity and as a parish priest befriended Blessed Mother Teresa as he helped her to open convents and homes for the suffering in the Washington area, working with her for 25 years. She believed that she was a pencil through which God wrote love letters to the world.

“When she walked in a room, it’s like Jesus walked in a room. … The light of Jesus shined through this old lady,” he said. “She was so committed to prayer, not just once in a while. Every day she was at the Eucharist, not just on a Sunday. Every day she sacrificed her life in hidden ways. … She was so committed to Jesus that she became the light of Jesus in the world.”

One time Bishop Curlin was with her when someone, not realizing who she was, spit on her and she blessed the person.

“We must seek to be so one with Christ through the Eucharist and prayer and sacrifice and charity and love and kindness,” he concluded. “Let us realize that the words we speak today must come from a heart that is totally united to Jesus Christ.”

Students prayed during the petitions for those in nursing homes and that Christ might lead them to all the world’s forgotten people—for unwanted children, for women haunted by abortion, and for medical researchers to be coworkers with God in fulfillment of his divine plan.

Robert Watson, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Atlanta, was moved by Bishop Curlin’s words, as “you did feel that he was talking to you personally. He had a beautiful delivery.”

Schoolgirls Glad To Rise Up For Life

St. Catherine of Siena School sixth-grade student Mary Elizabeth Grace Murphy, wearing a plaid uniform tie around her shirt collar, said she’s been studying pro-life issues for about a month at school.

“I like being a part of society (coming together), about how it’s very important to speak about what’s supposed to be done—(stopping the) killing of innocent souls for doing nothing at all.” But she agreed with the bishop’s message that if pro-life activists don’t live holy lives others won’t see them as voices of justice but “they’ll think they are hypocrites.”

She values her faith. “It’s very important to your life and will get you closer to heaven. It helps me on making goals and with tests. It helps me to do a lot more things. With sports it helps me to be more confident and try to win.”

Her father Michael said that the family attends a Baptist church but that he is glad to send his daughter to St. Catherine’s in Kennesaw where she is getting a great education and faith foundation to make good choices through her teen years and to live a good, Christian life. A Catholic married to a Baptist, Murphy also believes it’s important for churches of different denominations to unite and strengthen their voice for life.

“You’ve got to teach kids from the beginning what’s right and wrong and instill that in them about life. You’ve got to do it young. They might leave church at one point and time, but if you instill it they’ll come back.”

Mary’s classmate Morgan Medeiros believes prayer for the pro-life movement is important, as God is making the unborn into His image and likeness and wants them to have a chance to live.

“Every person that will listen and pray for them is one more person that will help the pro-life movement, and more babies won’t die but will have a chance to live,” she said.

Former Governor Decries Abortion On Capitol Steps

After Mass participants gobbled down boxed lunches and then headed up the street to the memorial service. As rain clouds hovered over the Capitol, GRTL president Caryl Swift assured the crowd that the rain was “God’s tears” over abortion.

Miller, the keynote speaker, began by expressing his regret and repentance to God about his former support of abortion rights and told how he came to believe that abortion is murder after soul-searching, seeking divine guidance and reflecting upon a sonogram picture of his unborn great-grandchild. He spoke of how the tragic loss of human life in the past year has heightened awareness of its fragility and preciousness.

“In this mostly Christian country, we have allowed the most mass murder in history to happen in the name of a women’s freedom to choose. When our government condones something the Bible condemns, something is badly wrong with our government.”

He said that when his grandson brought in a sonogram of his unborn daughter “we studied it, we oohed and aaahed over it, and I thought about that. … I realized how wrong I’d been. … With modern science we can now see just how alive that little human being is, with a heartbeat and brain waves.”

That’s why House Bill 888, the Full Disclosure Ultrasound Act being introduced this legislative session, is so important, he continued. The bill would require that an ultrasound be performed on each unborn child before an abortion, and the mother would be offered an opportunity to view the image of her unborn child.

Miller believes the 14th Amendment “could not be clearer” in upholding the right to every human life in stating that no state shall deprive any person of life or liberty without due process of law. The retired politician said that “we have reasons to be encouraged” because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new chief justice and justice-nominee and because the court in January unanimously upheld New Hampshire’s parental notification law. He noted that many controversial rulings—including those upholding abortion and others preventing clergy from saying prayers in addressing schools—were made by five to four votes. “Five to four, you get the picture?”

He connected how Social Security will go bankrupt shortly due to a shortage of young workers, problems with illegal immigration to fill jobs, and the lack of recruits for the military all to the over 45 million people in the last 33 years who were never born.

“How could this great land of plenty produce far too few people? Here’s the brutal truth that no one dares to mention, that we’re too few in number because too many of our babies have been killed,” he said.

He reported that there are some 4,000 abortions daily in this country, and one every 30 seconds. “Our nation likes to think it has a heart but has torn these little bodies apart in the most horrible way imaginable.”

And he believes many great people in history, if they were conceived today, would never have seen the light of day. He spoke of one impoverished preacher and his wife in England who had 14 children, saying that had that family aborted number 15 they would have killed the founder of the Methodist Church.

“Thank God Planned Parenthood was not there to advise because the world never would have known John Wesley.”

As the drizzle turned into a downpour, Miller spoke forcefully, like an impassioned preacher, of the importance of their pro-life work, citing the two volume book published in 1835-40 of “Democracy in America” by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote that it was in the churches that he found America’s flames of righteousness.

“He wrote that ‘America is great because America is good.’ When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Bishop Curlin also addressed the crowd and told of how his mother revealed to him shortly before her death that when pregnant she had fallen and her doctor advised her to abort him. But he thanks God she refused. He praised his mother for her decision, for supporting and encouraging him throughout his life and for how she inspired him to be a good priest. “My mother was pro-choice—for life, not death.”

His message was that of gratitude to all mothers who generously give the gift of life and love. “When you look at your mothers remember God blesses mothers who give us a chance to live.”

Governor Vows To Protect All Georgia’s Children

Speaking to the crowd, Gov. Perdue said that he and his wife made it their first priority to protect all of Georgia’s children, including the unborn, a commitment which grew out of their service as foster parents to many newborns awaiting adoption.

“We all share a moral obligation to defend the weak and the innocent to the best of our ability. Our right to life is one of the founding principles of this nation. The right to life is one of those inalienable rights endowed to us not by the Supreme Court but by our Creator.”

While the culture of life is under assault, “in our nation and in Georgia there is a strong and growing movement of a national culture that cherishes life. … We do that by encouraging adoption and compassionate alternatives to women in crisis pregnancies,” he said. “We’ll continue to improve on our adoption and foster care and continue with our historic progress to reduce the number of abortions in our state.”

One sign of progress, he said, is the Woman’s Right to Know Act, signed into law last May, that requires women to have a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and for them to be given basic medical information about the procedure, other options and their rights to child support.

Following the talks, taps played and the crowd began to silently walk. Among them was Belinda McElroy, whose eyes grew watery as she remembered her abortion. A member of the Brotherhood of Jesus Christ Motorcycle Ministry, she said that the abortion provider had convinced her that “there was nothing to it” but five years later “it hit me that I had killed my child. … I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if not for the grace of God helping me to heal.”

She shared her umbrella with fellow biker Christy Reynolds. Both of these women pray that other politicians will change their position like Miller and be set free by the truth. Reynolds said that at the time she had an abortion she was working at a bar and didn’t feel she could support a second child. Having an abortion was commonplace among women she knew, she confided. While it seemed like the best solution then, she now believes, “I had made a child” and that “it’s not our choice. It’s God’s choice. He gave us that life. God would have provided.”