| By The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss

Beginning Anew

The Work of Creating a Culture of Life

As Christians, we are people of the Good News. But on Nov. 9, we woke up to terribly bad news. Michigan had voted to enshrine in the state constitution the right to legally take the lives of preborn children right up to the moment of childbirth. Even though my reflections about this bad news may be challenging, as your bishop I ask that you kindly take time to read my words because they truly concern matters of life or death.


How can this be?

How could the people of our state choose to support Proposal 3? I am still trying to digest the decision of Michigan voters to enshrine into our state constitution the right to take the life of an unborn child. When I woke up the next morning after the election and saw the results of Proposal 3, it made me sick to my stomach and brought deep sadness to my heart. To think that a majority of Michigan voters have embraced, as a fundamental right, taking the life of an unborn child in the womb through all nine months of pregnancy – and at the same time have taken away parental rights in the process – is beyond rational belief.

Did voters really know what was in this proposal? Did voters comprehend its extreme positions? And then still choose to vote for it? There is so much wrong with this decision that I can’t begin to explain it all in this column. But, we must recognize that this is a battle between good and evil, between God and Satan, between the Creator of human life and the Destroyer of human life.

As I reflected in my previous statement, “Today, Jesus looks over the State of Michigan and weeps. We weep with him.” Though this is a very heartbreaking and difficult defeat in protecting human life, and a devastating setback in our defense of the unborn, we will not be discouraged nor deterred from our ongoing efforts to defend life at all stages.

A grave concern

What saddens me the most is that Catholics played an important role in getting this proposal passed. Pre-polling data a few days prior to the election showed the overall Catholic support for Proposal 3 to be 47 percent. For those who said they attend Mass once or more a week, the polling showed 30 percent support. That is an abomination to the God of Life, the God of all creation. I am heartbroken by the reality that many Catholics who regularly receive the Bread of Life at Mass chose to legalize the taking of innocent life on Nov. 8.

To think that this percentage of people who proclaim to be Catholic, and who practice their Catholic faith, would participate in an intrinsic evil act by voting to destroy human life, is beyond the pale. How could a person in good conscience support Proposal 3? Apparently, they have bought into the lies. I would ask these individuals to seriously reflect upon their choice in taking such an extreme position, a position that goes against the teachings of the Catholic faith. To freely, knowingly and deliberately support the right to abortion in our state constitution is grave sin – mortal sin. It violates the fifth commandment – which is also a commandment written on every human heart: “You shall not kill.”

If Catholics have freely, knowingly and deliberately voted in support of abortion rights contained in Proposal 3, they should NOT present themselves for the reception of Holy Communion until after they have repented from this mortal sin and participated in the Sacrament of Penance to receive God’s mercy. Not to do so would only have a deeper grave effect on the state of their souls. I share this because, as their bishop, I am concerned about their salvation. And so is Jesus.

Where do we go from here?

In reflecting on the percentage of Catholics who voted for Proposal 3, there is obviously a disconnect between the Catholic faith they profess and the way they live it in the culture of today. As people of faith, hope and love, we must continue to spread the Gospel of Life in our diocese and defend Catholic Church’s teaching in advancing the cause of life in these challenging times and circumstances. We continue to pray for the conversion of hearts and minds, opening them to the Church’s vision of the life and dignity of the human person.

Many Catholics, Christians and people of good will fought for the protection of the unborn by spreading awareness of the dangers of Proposal 3. I thank them for their heroic efforts. Surely our Blessed Mother and her Son look kindly upon their important work. Though the election is over, the work continues.

Renewed efforts must be made to create a culture of love. Abortion deeply wounds both the women and men involved. Therefore, it is important for us to “shift the paradigm to what St. Pope John Paul II described as ‘radical solidarity,’ making the good of others our own good, including especially mothers, babies (born and unborn), and families throughout the entire human lifespan.” This includes addressing the underlying causes that makes a child unwanted as well as building a world in which women are esteemed, children are loved and protected, and men are called to their responsibilities as fathers.1

Through their preaching, priests must continue to engage this moral issue of our times, taking the opportunities to present a Culture of Life in the face of the Culture of Death, sharing the truth, beauty and dignity of human life. Our Catholic Social Doctrine, in particular the Church’s outreach to those most in need, reveals her merciful and maternal face.

God loves each human life from the moment of his or her conception and entrusts this gift to the protection of a mother and father. Our ultimate goal is to make abortion unthinkable, and to give women in crisis pregnancies a place to receive help, support and encouragement so that they will choose life.  Abortion weakens the fabric of society. We must win the hearts and minds of our Catholics.

Ministries such as Walking with Moms in Need and Project Rachel take on new importance in showing forth the maternal tenderness of the Church for all her children, demonstrating that the priority is mercy instead of judgment. [See cover story.] Parish and community initiatives, including pregnancy resource centers and post-abortion counseling facilities, must also be fully engaged in this new reality for the State of Michigan.

Each of us was made for love and friendship. We belong to one another and if one person suffers, all suffer with it.2 Therefore, we must live and act in radical solidarity with mothers, children, and families in need. That means doing whatever we can to provide them with the care and support necessary for their flourishing throughout the entire path of life’s journey. None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. Through our collective and individual efforts, we can build a culture of life and civilization of love in America. It is time to begin anew.

1 Statement by Archbishop William E. Lori, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Building a Culture of Life in a Post-Roe World

2 1 Cor. 12:26

The Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss is the seventh bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.