Cardinal Dolan: If sanctuary of the womb is violated, no one is safe

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York warned that if the sanctuary of
the womb is violated, then other sanctuaries are at risk.

any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and
most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny
life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked in his homily during the Jan. 26
opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the
Immaculate Conception. The vigil always precedes the annual March for Life, which takes place on the National Mall.

Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the womb “a sanctuary which beckons us, where we
are safe and secure in our mother’s tender yet strong embrace, where the
Creator himself assures us of protection and life itself, a sanctuary God has
designed for us to protect our lives now and in eternity.”

summoned up a montage of sanctuaries throughout human history, including those
used by the Israelites, the sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem where Mary and
Joseph took Jesus each year, the use of cathedrals and churches as sanctuaries
from violence, and the United States — first as a sanctuary for the Pilgrims fleeing
religious violence in England, later for Catholics with little to their name but
“clinging within to that ‘pearl of great price,’ their faith,” and today’s
immigrants and refugees.

life in the womb is threatened, “should it shock us” that “such a society would
begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump;
would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries
where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor
as bothersome instead of brothers,” Cardinal Dolan lamented.

Shrine officials
estimated that 12,000 attended the Jan. 26 Mass, which was shown on three cable
channels and broadcast on two radio networks. Among the faithful were 545 seminarians,
90 deacons, 320 priests, 40 bishops and five cardinals in a 20-minute entrance

faithful were squeezed more tightly than usual as pews in the left transept
were blocked off so work crews could continue work on the shrine’s Trinity Dome, which should
be completed by next year’s March for Life. The blockage resulted in the loss
of “several hundred” seats, according to shrine spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes.

Bishop Barry R. Knestout of Washington received hearty applause when he
announced near the end of the Mass that the starting times for three pre-March for Life
Masses elsewhere in Washington the next morning would be moved up an hour to allow
for longer lines in security checkpoints at the pre-march rally, as among those
speaking at it now included “senior White House officials and a special guest.”
No name was mentioned, but earlier in the day it was announced Vice President Mike Pence would address the March for Life rally in person. After a lineup of speakers, rally participants then march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

weather changed overnight from the low 50s at the start of the Jan. 26 Mass to
a more typical near-freezing temperature with stiff winds before a Jan. 27
morning Mass at the shrine celebrated by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New
Orleans, USCCB secretary.

Aymond’s homily sounded a similar theme to Cardinal Dolan’s in terms how
acceptance of abortion is “used to justify” other disrespect for life at
various stages, citing assisted suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty and the
rejection of immigrants. Quoting from that day’s Gospel, Archbishop Aymond
said, “Jesus says, ‘Let them come to me, let them come to me.'”

received applause from a Mass attendance estimated at 3,500 when he cited the
results of a recent study that showed “the abortion rate in the United States
has hit a historic low since Roe v. Wade.” Archbishop Aymond said the study
speculated on various reasons for the decline, but “one was not” mention.

reason was “the witness of so many people for life,” he said. “Youth and young
adults are strongly pro-life in our world and in our church,” he added to
applause. “You are making a difference in the United States. You are changing
our culture from a culture of death into a culture of life,” the archbishop said
to still more applause.

the March for Life, and afterward in the marchers’ parishes and neighborhoods,
Archbishop Aymond said, “we will continue to witness, and with God’s help, we
will continue to be strong voices for the respect and the dignity of human

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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