Courtesy photo At the Pro-Life Rally at the State Capitol in Charleston Feb. 24, Bishop Mark Brennan gathers with Tom Linder of St. Monica Parish in Lubeck, Leo Walters and Katie Walters of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Parkersburg, and Angie Moretto, secretary at St. John Parish in St. Marys.
By Colleen Rowan
CHARLESTON—From all walks of life, different religious denominations, and from all corners of the state pro-life advocates gathered at the state Capitol to be a voice for the voiceless.
They came together at the annual Pro-Life Rally Feb. 24 calling for an end to abortion and for the protection of life from conception to natural death. The rally is sponsored each year by West Virginians for Life (WVFL).
Bishop Mark Brennan spoke at the rally and offered the invocation on the steps of the Capitol, where the rally was held that day.
In his remarks at the rally, Bishop Brennan told those gathered that in the past year he has walked in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., spoke at a rally supporting the rights of immigrants, gone on a “Peace Walk” in a violent neighborhood, given talks against assisted suicide, and now present with them in the pro-life rally.
“What holds these different activities together in my mind?” the bishop asked. “The thread that unites them is a consistent ethic of life, one that values the unborn human being and the one already born, the person born here and the one who came from somewhere else, those of other races and those of my own. My Catholic faith has formed me to believe in the inviolable dignity of the human person who is always situated in a community.”
Bishop Brennan then spoke of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin of Chicago, who spoke of a “seamless garment” of life issues. He took the phrase right from the New Testament, the bishop said, where the garment that Jesus wore, and for which the soldiers on duty at his crucifixion cast lots, was described as one without seams. Using this image, the cardinal argued that all human beings at all stages of development and in all circumstances deserve respect and assistance, the bishop said.
“It is important to consider, however, that the seamless garment had a hem,” Bishop Brennan said. “Probably made by folding over the edges, the hem kept the garment from fraying and likely coming apart.”
“In the range of life issues, I believe that respect for the life of the unborn child is the hem,” Bishop Brennan said. “You could stand over an aborted child and say, ‘Society should assure you decent housing, a job, health care and a good education,’ but none of these things would benefit the child because that child is dead. The hem that keeps the seamless garment together and gives to a person the opportunity to access these other personal and social goods is respect for that person’s life from the moment of conception. Take away that right and nothing else matters. Respect for the unborn child’s life is the foundation of all other rights.”
No one, the bishop noted, can give equal time to everything. He told rally goers that he knows a man who spends most of the day praying and talking to women before they enter a Planned Parenthood clinic, where abortions are performed, and another who walks the streets of her neighborhood hoping to settle disputes between neighbors before they turn violent. Neither one, he explained, can do with the same intensity and commitment of time what the other does, but each of them can esteem what the other is doing and, when possible, offer support.
“I urge you, then, to see the broad spectrum of life issues,” Bishop Brennan said. “You cannot do everything, but you can support others defending the dignity of human beings at other points on the spectrum while you concentrate on what you are better suited for. The seamless garment with a hem around the edges protects the fundamental right to life at all stages and keeps together all the other goods that human beings need to survive and thrive.”
WVFL President Dr. Wanda Franz also spoke at the rally lauding the passage of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in the West Virginia State Senate Feb. 10.
“Today, West Virginians for Life joins with all pro-life West Virginians in celebrating the passage of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill puts into West Virginia law the position that babies, who survive abortions, will be protected,” Franz said. “This reflects the law approved by the U.S. Congress in 2002 that states: ‘every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any state of development’ is a ‘person’ for all federal law purposes.”
Among others speaking were National Right to Life Political Director/WVFL Legislative Coordinator Karen Cross on “Elections Have Consequences,” and WVFL Vice President Mary Tillman, J.D. on “Options in Living Wills Bill.” Tillman is also the West Virginia Alliance for Ethical Health Care Legislative coordinator.
Rally goers also had a chance to meet with their legislators. There was also an introduction in the House/Senate galleries of WVFL chapter leaders and the pro-life crowd. Before the rally, participants walked in a prayer processional in the Capitol and outside to the rally carrying small white crosses in memory of babies killed by abortion. According to the latest figures from the National Right to Life, roughly 2,500 unborn babies in the U.S. are lost to abortion each day, WVFL officials said prior to the rally.
For more information about WVFL call (304) 594-9845 or visit the organization’s website at WVforlife.org.