One of my very favorite messages delivered by Pope Francis during his recent visit to the United States was given at the evening prayer service at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  Speaking “off script” and from the heart he said:

“Some things we really need to take care of: the children, and grandparents. Children, whether young or older, they are the future, the strength that moves us forward. We place our hope in them. Grandparents are the living memory of the family. They passed on the faith.  They transmitted the faith, to us. To look after grandparents, to look after children, is the expression of love. A people that doesn’t know how to look after its children or grandparents is a people that has no future. Because it doesn’t have strength or the memory to go forward.”

He delivered a message along similar lines to the Sant’Egidio Community in Rome some months earlier.  He addressed there what has become a frequent and important theme in our Holy Father’s teaching.  It is the “throw-away” culture in which much of the world, especially the West, is now living:

“The children, the young rightly have their biological strength. The elderly offer their memory. But when a community loses its memory, it’s over, it’s over. It’s awful to see a community, a people, a culture that’s lost its memory. The 90-year-old grandma who spoke — brava! — she told us that there was this tendency to toss aside, this throw-away culture. To maintain a balance like this, where at the center of the world economy there are no men and women, but where money is an idol, it’s necessary to throw things away. Children are thrown-away, no children. Let us consider only the birth rate in Europe: in Italy, Spain, France... And we throw away the elderly, behind which are attitudes of hidden euthanasia, a form of euthanasia. They aren’t needed, and what isn’t needed gets thrown away. What doesn’t produce is discarded.”

During this month in which we commemorate with great sadness the tragic Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, these words come back to our minds and hearts. Since that decision, which opened the way for abortion on demand, there have been nearly 58 million unborn children who have lost their lives in the womb of their mothers.  That is about 14 times the total population of Oregon. Think about that.  That is like “throwing away” the entire population of Oregon 14 times.

One of the things I have learned about the wonderful state in which we live is that the environment, our common home, is very important and precious to the people of Oregon. And that is great!  I love the outdoors, and the pristine and clean environment of much of our state is a joy to behold and celebrate.  But side by side with that goes a very pro-abortion culture, acceptance of physician-assisted suicide, and the death penalty. There seems to be an inconsistent ethic of life.  

Around the time of my first “Roe v. Wade Memorial Rally and Walk” back in 2014, one of the local news programs carried a live broadcast from an event trying to promote the adoption of dogs and cats, so that we could reduce animal homelessness.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a dog lover (sorry cat fanciers). But extensive coverage was given to this event, and yet the same news channel gave zero coverage to the well over 1,000 people who gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square in witness to the dignity of the unborn.  It was as if it didn’t even happen.

We need a consistent ethic of life in our society. Yes, the environment and all God’s creatures have value and should be protected, but what about the human person, the crowning work of God’s earthly creation, the ones created in his own image and likeness? Will we have the same passion for protecting human life, especially the unborn and the elderly? Or will we continue to throw them away?

Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter Laudato sí, issued a clarion call for all of us to wake up to the dangers facing the earth, our common home.  But he also said this about abortion in the same letter:

“Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”  (LS, #120)

Amen, Holy Father, amen!