Title: Abortion Is the Greatest Evil of Our Age
Author: Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt, Bishop of Wheeling, WV
Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
What is perhaps the saddest exchange between God and man occurred very early in salvation history: “The LORD asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He answered, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The LORD then said,‘What have you done! Listen: Your brother’s blood calls out to me from the soil!’” (Gn 4: 9-10). Cain’s response to God is certainly meant to cover up his murderous action. But Cain serves as a spokesman for much of humanity when he asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” From our earliest days, we are taught to take care of ourselves, to rely on ourselves first, and to not worry about what other people are doing. We learn, far too well, that each of us is his own keeper first and foremost.
And so, Cain’s question becomes almost natural, especially in a society which teaches tolerance as its greatest virtue: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is very simple: “Yes, every man is his ‘brother’s keeper,’ because God entrusts us to one another” (Evangelium vitae, 19). As a brother among you and a bishop for you, I have been made the keeper of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, in a very special way. It is my sacred duty to celebrate for you the sacraments of salvation and teach you the truth of faith and morals. Where I fail to do these, I have failed to fulfill my God-given responsibility to you and to all those in the world who are searching for the Truth.
These thoughts have been on my mind since I read data that indicate that Catholics are no different than the general population in their opinion on abortion or in their voting behavior. At the same time, I discovered that most Catholic legislators are no different from others in their lack of support for pro-life legislation; in fact, some Catholic legislators vote against any attempt to limit abortion on demand, and the culture of death it has created, with such regularity as to have a perfect record of opposition to this most innocent of all human life. I began informally asking members of the laity whether their pastors regularly preach the Gospel of Life and the Church’s opposition to abortion. Many told me that even on Respect Life Sunday this year (October 3, 2004), they had not heard a single word from the pulpit.
As my brother’s keeper, I feel guilty that I have said nothing to the priests of our diocese to encourage them to preach the Gospel of Life each Sunday and to make the defense of innocent human life a pastoral priority. I would hate to come before the Lord our God and say that I was a shepherd but that I did nothing to teach the people about the evils of abortion. Because I am my brother’s keeper, I never want it to be said that I was willing to tolerate evil or any cooperation in it. Therefore, I want to say, clearly and distinctly, as your brother and your bishop, that abortion is the greatest moral evil of our age. As the deliberate killing of an innocent human being, there is “no circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever” that can justify or excuse abortion. “It is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (Evangelium vitae, 62).