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Pro-life advocates mustn’t lose hope and joy amid struggles, English bishop says

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury preaches at St. Columba’s Church in Chester, Feb. 15, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Shrewsbury. / null

Norwich, England, Oct 25, 2021 / 18:19 pm (CNA).

There will be many pro-life battles this century, but foes of abortion, assisted suicide, and other crimes against human life cannot give up joy and hope, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has told a pro-life pilgrimage.

“In this century we can expect a protracted struggle and we must be ready for repeated assaults on both the laws and the social environments of care, which have long protected and cherished the lives of our society’s weakest members,” Bishop Davies said Saturday. “Yet, this struggle is the opportunity to give witness to the value of every human life and to announce once more the Gospel of Life with joy.”

The bishop spoke Oct. 23 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk during the noontime Mass of the National Pro-Life Pilgrimage, now in its 38th year.

He looked back at the legalization of abortion in the Abortion Act 1967, when pro-life advocates thought they could find easy success.

“If we were confident at the time, that a ‘culture of death’ would be quickly overcome; that public opinion would never long tolerate the killing of the unborn on an industrial scale; if we thought that rational argument must surely prevail; and that to move consciences it would be sufficient to expose the cruel reality of abortion, we soon came to see how a culture of death advances remorselessly, precisely by dulling human consciences,”

This process has made it possible “to propose that pre-born children with disabilities be killed up to the point of birth,” Davies lamented.

He praised the “brave voice” of Heidi Crowter, a woman with Down syndrome who had helped lead an unsuccessful challenge to abortion law in England, Scotland, and Wales for discrimination against the disabled. Abortion law allows broad permission for abortion after 24 weeks if there is a substantial risk that the unborn child would be born with “physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

“‘The law does not respect my life,” she had told reporters in July.

“Remarkably, this cry barely elicited a moment of public concern,” said Davies.

Legal assisted suicide is again being debated, a fact the bishop said was among the “many contradictions” on a path to pro-life victory.

“How are we to understand that in Britain today, a society that mobilized itself in a pandemic, making many sacrifices to protect the lives of the vulnerable, is now considering assisting the suicide of some the most vulnerable members of society?” he asked.

“Dismayed by such contradictions, we must never lose the joy and hope that is the hallmark of the cause of life,” Davies continued.

He criticized “the euthanasia lobby” for repeatedly advocating for bills “to break the legal protections surrounding the care of the sick and the dying.”  He noted this movement’s history dates back to the 1930s and the crimes of the eugenics movement.

“It advocates opening the way for assisted suicide theoretically, in carefully regulated cases. Yet, experience in other jurisdictions shows that in practice this culture of assisted suicide extends rapidly to include those with mental illnesses and even young children,” the bishop warned.

Christ’s words, “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me,” means that “In today’s proliferating attacks on the lives of those most vulnerable, we are witnessing nothing less than a rejection of God-made-man.”

Davies drew on St. John Paul II’s teaching that every rejection of human life is “really a rejection of Christ” himself. As a counterexample to this rejection, he praised the motherhood of the Virgin Mary as “the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for.”

In the Book of Revelation, “Death shall be no more,” is “the promise that every fearful manifestation of evil which threatens to overwhelm humanity and thwart God’s purpose will finally be dispelled by the total victory of life.”

He closed his homily with an invocation of the Virgin Mary as the “Mother of the Living,” entrusting to her “the cause of life.”

The National Pro-Life Pilgrimage to Walsingham also offered chances for confession and Eucharistic Adoration, as well as organized recitations of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and other prayers, the pilgrimage website said.

Walsingham was a major pilgrimage site in English Christianity, dating back to the 11th century. The original shrine and a nearby Augustinian priory were destroyed in the 16th century during the English Reformation. Covert Catholic pilgrimages to the site continued until they were legalized once again in the 19th century.

The pro-life pilgrimage concluded with an afternoon walk to the ruins of the priory.