My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
On Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 7, I ran the marathon in Long Beach, Calif., with the LIFE Runners, a pro-life running organization with 8,800 teammates in all 50 states and 35 nations. I finished in 4 hours, 59 minutes and 44 seconds, achieving my goal of running under five hours with 16 seconds to spare! I was running on a sore ankle, so I was happy just to be able to finish.
The sore ankle developed a few weeks ago when I ran long runs of 17 miles, 19 miles and 20 miles three weeks in a row. That made my training and running of the marathon more painful than usual. The pain was a gift from God as I offered my suffering in repentance and atonement for my sins and the sins of all bishops, priests and deacons.
During one of my training runs, after I finished praying the rosary, I kept holding the rosary in my hand with the cross of the rosary between my index finger and my thumb. I felt the Lord say to me, “Hold fast to the cross. Embrace the pain.” During the last few miles of the Long Beach Marathon I kept repeating that to myself like a mantra: “Hold fast to the cross. Embrace the pain.”
Oct. 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. While running the marathon, I prayed over 200 Hail Marys while meditating on the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. I offered these prayers for the pope and for all the clergy, religious and laity of our diocese, as well as for family members and friends.
This was my 24th marathon in 24 years! The charitable cause that I designated for the 2018 LIFE Runners Marathon was the Divine Mercy Senior Living Community that we are planning to build in Glen Carbon. I am grateful to all who generously supported this cause.
My weekend with the LIFE Runners included praying in front of a Planned Parenthood facility, followed by celebrating the Saturday Evening Mass at Holy Innocents Church in Long Beach. As we continue to celebrate Respect Life Month during the month of October, I offered some reflections on the 50th anniversary of the encyclical letter of Blessed Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae. While this document is best known for its condemnation of artificial contraception as contrary to God’s divine plan for spouses to give themselves totally to each other, Humanae Vitae also makes clear that abortion is an unacceptable form of contraception.
Abortion, of course, was at the heart of the matter in the recent Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kanavaugh for the United States Supreme Court, even when it was not explicitly mentioned. With all the recent focus on the unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct against him, people may have forgotten an important exchange on the topic of abortion that came up earlier in the hearings.
The context for the discussion of abortion was Judge Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion in an appellate court case where he referred to the Obama administration’s mandate issued through the Department of Health and Human Services requiring insurance coverage for contraceptives and “abortion-inducing drugs.” Senators and supporters of abortion rights such as Planned Parenthood jumped all over this phrase as evidence that Judge Kavanaugh was not only opposed to abortion but also contraception. Judge Kavanaugh explained that the reference to “abortion-inducing drugs” was a quote from the legal brief of the appellant group Priests for Life, but were not his own words. That allowed Judge Kavanaugh to side-step the issue, but it also avoided confronting the reality that some drugs ostensibly used as “contraceptives” are indeed abortifacients or “abortion-inducing drugs.”
Those who object to calling these abortifacient pills “abortion-inducing drugs” accuse pro-life people of bad science, but it is not so much a question of science as it is of semantics, that is, the use of words to convey a particular meaning. The difference comes down to defining when human life begins and therefore whether the destruction of a fertilized egg is contraception or abortion.
The key distinction is between fertilization and implantation. There are many people who do not understand the difference between the processes of fertilization and implantation. This is often because abortion advocates conflate the two in order to confuse people on when life begins. Fertilization, also often referred to as conception, is when the sperm enters the egg. This is the point at which the mother’s genes in the egg (or ovum) and the father’s genes in the sperm combine to create all the genes for this new individual. At this point, a completely unique new human being is created.
Implantation is when the new human created at fertilization implants in the uterus. The newly created offspring, technically referred to as a blastocyst, travels to the uterus through the fallopian tube and implants in the wall of the uterus. Abortion rights advocates argue that pregnancy does not begin until implantation and therefore destroying a fertilized ovum prior to implantation is not abortion, but contraception.
From a pro-life perspective, the description “abortion-inducing” refers to methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Fertilization occurs within about 24 hours of ovulation whereas implantation of a fertilized ovum is most likely to occur about nine days after ovulation, but can range between six to 12 days. Since the Catholic Church teaches that human life begins at conception, which is when fertilization occurs, methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus are indeed abortifacients or “abortion-inducing drugs.”
Catholics should keep these distinctions in mind if and when we are challenged by our use of the term “abortion-inducing drugs.”
May God give us this grace. Amen.