The Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day (SOLAUD) Mass is held annually in New Mexico on the Wednesday in January closest to the date of the original Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. Normally, the three bishops of New Mexico and Catholics from across the state gather for Mass at the Cathedral in Santa Fe, followed by a march and rally at the Roundhouse, where state politicians gather at the beginning of each year for a legislative session.
But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the three Bishops – Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup – instead celebrated the 2021 Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup, NM.
Bishop Wall delivered the homily, noting that nearly 50 years have passed since abortion was legalized in the United States.
“There are some in our country who will refer to this as a ‘landmark decision’ and they will refer to it, sadly, with a sense of celebration, or as an anniversary…anniversaries are things to be celebrated…they’re joy-filled events in one’s life. We don’t celebrate this infamous decision.”
Instead, Bishop Wall said, the date should be one of solemn remembrance.
“It was a day when the law would allow an all-out assault on human life at its most vulnerable stages – in the womb…which is supposed to be a place of nurturing, of all a child needs for life. A child who is a distinct human being, created in the image and likeness of God, distinct from his or her own mother, who is also created in the image and likeness of God.”
The bishop referenced other infamous – and immoral – Supreme Court decisions, such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, which in 1857 ruled that black people did not inherently have their rights and privileges enshrined in the Constitution.
“Dred Scott, like you and I, was created in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Wall noted, before quoting the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable rights.
“The government isn’t to define who is created equal or not, who is created in the image and likeness of God or not, who has certain inalienable rights or not. Rather, the goal of government in a democracy is to protect these rights for all people.”
And some judicial cases, the bishop said, are now recognized as being decided unjustly.
“To enslave a person is not to allow for these inalienable rights. Thank God, our country eventually came to its senses – sadly following much bloodshed and lost lives. We were able to abolish slavery, opening the way for individuals such as Dred Scott and his family to no longer be counted as property, but as a person – created in the image and likeness of God.”
The United States, Bishop Wall recalled, has been able to sometimes recognize errors and rights past wrongs.
“So I would say, if we’ve done it once, we can do it again. The child in the womb has the same inalienable rights as you and I – God-given rights. The government is to protect these rights – not just for a few, but rather…for all people.”
Just as slavery was once the main moral issue for America, so too is abortion now a preeminent priority, Bishop Wall said, before quoting a passage from Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”
A society that recognizes the inherent dignity of the unborn child, Bishop Wall said, is also a society that will recognize the dignity of all peoples.
“The right to life is foundational. And it is the foundation on which everything else is built. So if we respect life at its conception and protect it in the womb, then what will happen is we will become a much more compassionate society. We will become a society who loves and cares for the poor, the immigrant, the migrant, and those on death row.”
Bishop Wall said one of the greatest sins of modern society is the “sin of indifference”, and much of this indifference can be traced back to the legalization of abortion.
“We know it is a life – those for and against abortion. But now, we’ve moved into the realm of ‘I don’t care’, the realm of indifference. We refuse to hear the cry of the poor, the cry of the child in the womb.”
Warning that “Our Lord has very strong words for those who are indifferent”, the bishop quoted Christ speaking in the book of Revelation: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
These words, said Bishop Wall, are harsh for a reason – they call us to look beyond ourselves.
“Don’t sit on the fence of indifference when it comes to care for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most vulnerable – and as we know, no one is more vulnerable than the defenseless child in the womb.”
Christ has similar words in the Gospel of Matthew, when He describes the corporal works of mercy, Bishop Wall said, as does Pope Francis, who has spoken numerous times on the value of human life:
“Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Bishop Wall closed his homily with an exhortation to act, to continue to fight for the recognition of the inherent humanity of each person, born and unborn.
“Friends in Christ, for those who cannot speak, for the voiceless, let us speak on their behalf. For those who cannot act – the most vulnerable – let us act on their behalf.”
Watch the homily here: