By Kathleen Gilbert

NEW YORK, October 27, 2009 ( – While the American Catholic Church once failed to diligently promote human dignity in the era of slavery, Catholics can now take pride that its leaders are taking a stand against the civil rights atrocity of abortion, said New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan last week.

In his column at Catholic New York Online, Archbishop Dolan reflected on October as Respect Life Month by pointing out the similarities between slavery and abortion in America – two assaults on human life, he notes, that were both deemed “constitutional.”

Dolan writes: “That ‘right’ to own a slave was even upheld by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (whose Chief Justice at the time, Roger Brooke Taney, was a Catholic, ‘personally opposed’ to slavery!) in the infamous 1857 Dred Scott Decision, declaring that a slave who had escaped and claimed freedom had to be returned to his ‘master,’ because he had no rights at all.

“Tragically, in 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court also strangely found in the constitution the right to abortion, thus declaring an entire class of human beings – now not African-Americans, but pre-born infants – to be slaves, whose futures, whose destinies, whose very right to life – can be decided by another ‘master.’ These fragile, frail babies have no civil rights at all.

“Our faces blush with shame as we Catholics admit we did so little to end slavery,” Dolan continued, “but we can smile and thank God that the Church has indeed been prophetic, courageous and counter cultural in the right to life movement.”

“The most pressing life issue today is abortion,” he emphasized. “If we’re wrong on that one, we’re just plain wrong.”

The archbishop indicated that the amount of vitriol aimed at the Church for its counter-cultural stance against abortion is a good measure of success.

“When our critics – and their name is legion – criticize us for being passionate, stubborn, almost obsessed with protecting the human rights of the baby in the womb, they intend it as an insult,” he said. “I take it as a compliment.”

Dolan said that he would “give anything” to be able to claim “that Catholics in America prior to the Civil War were ‘passionate, stubborn, almost obsessed’ with protecting the human rights of the slave.”

“To claim such would be a fib,” he said. “But, decades from now, at least our children and grandchildren can look back with pride and gratitude for the conviction of those who courageously defend the life of the pre-born baby.”

Click here to see Archbishop Dolan’s full article.