My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
President Barack Obama did not invite me to deliver the benediction at his second inauguration as president of the United States of America on Jan. 21. I didn't really expect him to do so.
Despite the fact that I am the Catholic bishop of Springfield in Illinois, where he first announced that he would run for president of the United States at the Old State Capitol building on Feb. 10, 2007, I am not his pastor, he is not Catholic, and we really don't know each other.
But even if I were his pastor, if he were Catholic, and we did know each other, apparently I would have been disqualified by a new litmus test for cultural acceptability in certain quarters.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 11, "Conservative Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio withdrew from delivering the benediction at President Barack Obama's Jan. 21 swearing in after a sermon he delivered in the mid-1990s against the 'aggressive agenda of many in the homosexual community' came to light."
As Pastor Giglio explained in his statement to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, "Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."
Imagine that! A Christian pastor gave a homily critical of the "aggressive agenda of the homosexual community" nearly 20 years ago. What does that say about religious leaders like me who spoke out on this very same subject just a couple of weeks ago?
As Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said in a news release objecting to Pastor Giglio's removal from the program, "Catholic, Evangelical Protestant and Orthodox churches all actively proclaim that sexual intimacy within the marriage of one man and one woman is the only biblically sanctioned human sexual behavior. What is shocking is the intolerance of the Obama team."
Now before people start writing to complain I am being political and divisive, please remember that religious leaders like me did not start this cultural battle. When social activists launch their attacks on moral values and societal norms that are immemorial, religious leaders and indeed all who hold these traditional moral values and abide by ageless societal norms cannot remain silent. Those who seek to redefine marriage would like you to believe that they just want for same-sex couples to be able to get married and that this will not adversely affect anyone else in any way.
Of course that's nonsense. If you do not accept their redefinition of marriage, you will be labeled a bigot, you will be marginalized and ostracized, you will be accused of "hate speech," and eventually you may be charged with a crime.
Another recent newspaper story proclaimed on the front page headline of USA Today on Jan. 11-13, "USA Faces Critical Adoption Shortage." The story said, "Even before Russia acted in December [to close its doors to U.S. adoptions], children available for U.S. adoptions had hit record lows, as countries restrict adoptions and fewer kids born in the USA are available."
The reason cited was that, as single parenthood becomes more acceptable, "there are just not as many women placing their children for adoption." The article never mentions that fewer children are available for adoption since abortion was legalized everywhere in the United States 40 years ago by the Supreme Court of the United States in its infamous decision, Roe v. Wade.
Since that dreadful day on Jan. 22, 1973, more than 55 million unborn babies have been killed in this nation, founded on the very principle that every person is given by their Creator the inalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
To put that number in some perspective, some 1.5 million Americans have been killed in every war in which this country has fought since 1775.
Put another way, the number of children killed by abortion each year in this country is greater than the present populations of the states of Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Tennessee combined.
To put it even more starkly, in the same span of time in which more than 55 million children were aborted in our land, just 133,115,440 were born. The number is staggering, and terribly sad.
Everyone who speaks out against the horror of abortion and seeks to give aid to women in crisis pregnancies is living out this Year of Faith. When Pope Benedict XVI opened this great year with his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (Door of Faith), he reminded us that "faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes."
Because we believe in the dignity of every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, we must speak out and call for a greater respect for life in society in general and in our nation's laws in particular.
Whenever the church teaches about the dignity of all human life and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, she does not teach merely her opinion, but the truth she has received from Jesus Christ. Because it comes from the Lord, it cannot simply be laid aside.
To have faith in Jesus Christ means "choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him" (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 9).
May God give us this grace. Amen.