By Steve Jalsevac

  MANOTICK, Ontario, October 5, 2007 ( – On Sunday, Sept. 23, a week before Canada’s Life Chain Sunday, Fr. Geoff Kerslake gave what was seen as a powerful sermon encouraging his parishioners to take part in the local Life Chain the following Sunday. Fr. Geoff is the young pastor of St. Leonard’s parish in Manotick, Ontario, located on the fringe of Canada’s capital city of Ottawa.

  Fr. Geoff’s sermon so encouraged one couple who heard it that they had the text re-printed in the bulletin of their own nearby parish the following Sunday. In turn, an enthusiastic reader forwarded it on to LifeSiteNews. We called Fr. Geoff and he gave permission to have his pro-life/Life Chain homily published on LifeSiteNews. We do so especially with the hope that it will provide inspiration to US pastors who will also be delivering pro-life homilies this Life Chain Sunday in the United States.

  Homily for Pro Life/Life Chain Sunday 2007
  by Fr. Geoff Kerslake

Fr. Geoff KerslakeMother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” The greatest challenge facing the western world is not violence from without, but the tragic decision to take a life within.

  Forces at work in society today argue that human beings are only worth loving and protecting if they are wanted. Each year people make the decision to end a human life in its most vulnerable stage of growth in the womb under the banner of ‘freedom of choice’. 

  We tell ourselves that the debate about access to abortion is the same as improving waiting times for hip replacement surgery. Society has done a masterful job of selling abortion as a human rights issue. But society ignores that framing the issue of abortion as a freedom issue is done at the expense of another human being’s existence.

  Debate on this subject often is silenced with the assertive quotation of catchy slogans such as “my body, my choice” or by arguing that this is a private medical matter and has nothing to do with ethics or morality. To question whether or not the developing human person in the womb has a right to life labels a person ‘anti-women, patriarchal and undemocratic’.

  This is an emotionally loaded subject and it needs to be approached rationally and compassionately. Many people within the Catholic Church have first hand experience with the trauma of abortion or have lived through its aftermath with family or close friends. The message they need to hear from the Church, from you and me, is not one of judgment or condemnation, but empathy, and compassion. Victims of this trauma, female and male, need to know that the Church is there to listen, to support, to counsel and through the sacrament of reconciliation, to forgive and to begin the process of healing.

  Too often, we as a Catholic community remain silent on this issue because we fear causing upset or division. Pretending that abortion does not happen or that we can just ignore it is like what the rich man in today’s gospel did with Lazarus. He was wilfully blind to the tragic circumstances of someone literally on his doorstep. Pretending that the struggle to recognize the right to life of all human beings does not affect us, or that it is someone else’s issue or problem, is to be as deliberately ignorant as the rich man – and today we see clearly how God looks upon wilful blindness. We must never forget that before there can be a right to freedom of expression or conscience, we must safeguard a human person’s right to life.

  That abortion is an intrinsically morally evil act has been a core tenet of the Church’s belief from its very beginning. There is no wiggle room on this issue and no ability to ‘opt out’ of the Church’s teaching.

  We forget sometimes that the first recognition of Jesus as the Messiah was by John the Baptist, leaping for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, at the approach of Mary, pregnant with the child Jesus. The inherent worth and dignity of the human person, the right to be treated as a person and not an object, is what Jesus Christ proclaimed and suffered for in his ministry. And his death on the cross eloquently shows us the redemptive value of suffering.

  In an effort to avoid giving offence or stirring the pot, we sometimes dance around the truth that the Church safeguards and teaches. Today let us be clear. We have a right, as a Roman Catholic, to the truth, even when it challenges us or upsets us, or causes us to question things we take for granted as ‘given’ in our post-modern, post-Christian society: Roman Catholics cannot support the destruction of an innocent life and remain in solidarity, in harmony, in communion with the church.

  A ‘pro-choice Roman Catholic’ is an oxy-moron. This flies in the face of society’s claims that abortion is a private matter of choice. One of the things that makes us who we are as Catholics is our willingness to go against the grain and to speak the truth, regardless of how well it will be received. To do anything less is to betray our ancestors in the faith and ultimately our Saviour. Doing the right thing, choosing the narrow door, is hard but the alternative is to risk losing everything. Jesus reminds us: “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world, if they lose their soul?”

  But we must do more than preach and teach about the damaging physical and psychological effects of abortion on women and their children. We must recognize that often women faced with an unexpected pregnancy are overwhelmed by their circumstances and are bereft of material and emotional help. Tragically, boyfriends, husbands and other family members add to the confusion by counselling a ‘quick fix’ so that life can get back to normal. As well, abortion providers often minimize the health risks inherent in abortion, both short term and long term, and fail to provide all the information to patients. For example, it was only recently that the American Psychiatric Society recognized “Post Abortion Trauma Syndrome” as a real, crippling consequence for many women (and men) that requires real, medical, treatment.

  The good news is that there is a support group that is gaining strength and a public voice, “Silent no More” by women, for women, to address this very issue of being misled or of having all the relevant information withheld in an effort to supply an immediate ‘fix’ to a life changing situation. And in the bulletin today you can find contact information for several agencies here in Ottawa who help women and men who find themselves overwhelmed by an unexpected pregnancy. Abortion providers are quick to tout an abortion as the solution to a problem, but they are often reluctant to share all of the possible consequences with their patients and they seldom want to help women and their partners deal with the emotionally traumatic aftermath.
  Mother Teresa, this great saint of our times who spent her life working among the poorest of the poor, the desperate, the dying, and the unloved, was a great champion of the dignity of human life, all human life. She was quoted in the New York Wall Street Journal as saying: “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters”. “And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”

  The church has true compassion and empathy for women who have had an abortion and their partners who are trying to come to terms with the devastating aftermath of that choice – through the sacrament of reconciliation and spiritual counselling, the church welcomes, loves and supports women (and men) who have had first hand experience of this tragedy and come seeking healing.

  There is no room for blame or self-righteous judgment in God’s church, but only mercy, healing and reconciliation. In justice, we must help women who find themselves forced to cope with a difficult pregnancy by providing more than prayers – we must devote more resources to support them and encourage them to choose life, not death for their children. And we must continue to support them and their children after the courageous decision to choose life as well.

  On our part, we have the opportunity to be a silent, visible sign to our city and the world that the God given dignity and sanctity of human life is not a matter of choice. Please join me this Sunday, September 30th, at 2 pm at the corner of Hunt Club and Bank Street for a silent witness to everyone’s right to life. I will join you as soon as possible after I have celebrated the sacrament of baptism with eight infant parishioners and their mothers, fathers and families.

  Pope Benedict, when addressing the government and diplomatic community in Austria said: “The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right—it is the very opposite.”