Spiritual Reflections

Reexamining Right to Life in Light of Our Chapter Commitment to Bold Discipleship

We need to speak, write, and work vigorously to correct and lift burdens that cause the right to life to be challenged in any way.

by Sisters Kathy Kurdziel, IHM and Susan Hadzima, IHM

The image of Jesus flipping the tables in the temple strikingly resembles the recent action of the Supreme Court in ultimately flipping the decision on Roe vs. Wade. This decision overturned an amendment in place for 49 years and returned to the states the onerous task of resolving the legal questions left hanging by the Supreme Court’s decision. The Court’s judgment divided the country leaving the more established right to life norms in political, legal and moral shambles. Such chaos should force us into a deeper reexamination of what we believe and for what we are willing to pay the price. 

All of the questions of the right to life are being challenged in this 21st century by science, war, climate change, nuclear weapons, and global pandemics. The issues of right to life extend beyond the legalities of Roe vs. Wade. In his 2016 encyclical, Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis firmly acknowledged that our defense of the unborn needs to be clear, firm, and passionate for at stake is the dignity of all human life. We, Sisters of IHM affirm our traditional belief and the clarity of Pope Francis’ statement about the sacredness of human life. But Pope Francis continues, “equally sacred are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned, the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm, the elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”1 It is a moral imperative for each of us to continue grappling with the mystery and privilege of human life which is participation in the life of God. The complexities involved in decision making require us to scrutinize carefully our attitudes, judgments, and perceptions, and to examine what informs the beliefs we hold and the choices we make. 

The flipping of the tables has revealed new perspectives often encountered for the first time. More and more evident are voices previously silenced by powerful and dominant influences. Flipping the tables has forced us to consider the plight of the migrant, the underserved, marginalized, mentally ill, abused, disabled and abandoned. Shown in this new light, the disparities of our culture and our privileged lives become more evident. 

An example might help. Situation: Tina, the mother of a three-year-old child with special needs becomes pregnant with a second child. The father of both children is jailed for a second offense. The mother, struggling to maintain housing after extensive homelessness, faces alone an unplanned, financially difficult, complicated, and anxiety-producing pregnancy. How does she consider the options on the table? How can she choose life in this instance? Suffering herself from mental health issues, she would need to dangerously reduce her medications for the safety of her unborn child. Despite the many obstacles, Tina struggled to complete her pregnancy and gave up the child for adoption. Those choices were very costly, particularly struggling with her mental health needs in order to protect her unborn child, while risking her own stability and the welfare of her little girl. The residual impact remains. The birth of the child given up immediately for adoption brought on painful emotional issues of abandonment and guilt. Tina remains haunted by the nagging question, “Should I have kept my baby?” To complicate matters, the father, soon to be released from jail, is threatening to fight the adoption and seek custody of the baby. The mother chose life for her unborn child at great sacrifice. The question remains, in choosing life for her unborn child, was she able to assure the fundamental right to life for herself and her little girl? Undeniably, the decisions required in choosing life contain numerous conflicting goods. What can we learn by carefully considering the broader, very complex picture? 

Whom do we believe has the right to life? A conscripted eighteen-year-old sent unprepared into active combat? An uninsured mother of three unable to access treatment for advancing cancer? A homeless man wandering the streets in dementia? An undocumented immigrant stranded in the desert fleeing a gang threatening to kill his family? A grandmother sheltering three orphaned grandchildren in a car behind Walmart on cold winter nights? Migrants shipped like cargo to unprepared locations? Victims of racism and hate crimes? Sometimes claiming the right to life comes at a huge cost. Only soul searching, advocacy, political and social action, community solidarity, deep prayer and thoughtful dialogues, and the will to justice have the capacity to lead us to compassionate action and graced solutions. 

In our new IHM Direction Statement, we challenged ourselves to embrace the bold call to discipleship. As a community we pledged to intentionally fight for the right to life at all stages and for all people! Could we commit more of our financial resources? Use our influence to speak out in corporate stances? Follow up with concrete actions? Model the courage and hospitality of our Sisters of St. Casimir in Lithuania who have opened their home to sixteen families fleeing Ukraine? Insist on healthcare for every person? Ensure adequate sex education? Assure pre- and post-natal care for all pregnant women? Lobby for effective gun control? We need to speak, write, and work vigorously to correct and lift burdens that cause the right to life to be challenged in any way. Sincere, consistent, intentional, long-term commitment IS truly pro-life; this is the way to bold discipleship, protecting the gift of life—together—in harmony and in prayer as bold disciples and faith-filled people of God. 

When Jesus flipped the tables in the temple, he wanted to restore his Father’s house as a place of life and holiness. Might Jesus be inviting us to create a world where all people can achieve dignity and wholeness and where needless suffering and destruction of any life become unthinkable. Might we participate in table flipping in a valiant effort to restore the right to life and dignity for ALL. Let this be the moment when goodness, conviction, generosity, support, reverence and right relationships turn our world back to the God who gave us the right to life. 

Sister Kathy is Delegate for Religious for the Diocese of Scranton and an Editorial Consultant for the Sisters of IHM publications. 

Sister Susan ministers as the Program Director at the Catherine McAuley Center in Scranton, PA, which serves women and children experiencing homelessness. 

  1. Vatican responds to Supreme Court overturning Roe,” July 22-Aug 4, 2022, NCR Vol. 58 # 21 pp 1, 8.  ↩︎

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