An article in today's Tribune made it abundantly clear why we have been asked by the US Catholic bishops to observe January 22 as a day of penance in reparation for the sins committed against human life. The article focused on a "charity" that provides funds for poor women to have abortions. You see, poor women are the ones who need abortions, but they can't afford them the way middle-class women can. And the poor women need the abortions, because they lack jobs and child care.
Wait a minute. If jobs and child care are what are most needed, why is there an organization that claims to recognize the need focusing instead on funding abortions?
Oh, of course. That's a lot easier than training people for jobs, helping them find reasonable employment, and making sure that children are raised in a secure and loving environment. Makes a lot of sense.
But abortion is only the most heinous example of a sin against human life. I saw in yesterday's headlines that a science lab has successfully created human clones, viable embryos, from people's skin cells. The goal is not to bring the clones to birth, but to eventually develop a type of farming system, so that embryo-clones can provide stem cells and tissues that are genetically identical to a patient's. For the patient's advantage, not the embryo's. The embryo gets to die. Or maybe stay frozen.
So January 22, we are asked to put our own bodies on the line, in fasting and prayer, to implore a much-needed change of mentality in life issues. It's not a matter of giving preference to either/or: "women or babies" ; "embryos or desperately sick patients." All human life that deserves profound respect, the same that we recognize should be given to any person, rich or poor. Social structures and support have to match the respect we claim to have. We need to pray for enlightenment in that regard, too.