Church risks ‘Pyrrhic victory’ without ‘radical solidarity’ post-Dobbs, warns new USCCB vice president
BALTIMORE (OSV News) — U.S. Catholics should seek to foster a unified message of “radical solidarity” for a culture of life in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life committee said Nov. 15.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities said at the USCCB’s fall assembly that the Church faces a “long and difficult struggle” to build a culture of life.
In remarks to the conference, Archbishop Lori, who was elected the incoming vice president of the USCCB that day, said the recent Dobbs ruling may amount to a “Pyrrhic victory” — one where losses substantially outweigh the gains — if the Church fails “to win the minds and hearts of our fellow Catholics.”
“Even as the Church seeks to win minds and hearts to the cause of life,” he warned, “we must continue to strive to win legal protection for the most vulnerable among us, confident that winning for them does not mean losing for others.”
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June overturned its previous rulings in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992) that found abortion access to be a constitutional right, and instead returned the matter of restricting or permitting the procedure to the states.
However, on Nov. 8, voters in five U.S. states with ballot measures concerning abortion either rejected moves to restrict abortion access or voted to codify it, despite Catholic efforts to protect the right to life for unborn children.
Archbishop Lori said some Catholics may identify with the term “pro-choice” because they support narrow exceptions for abortion in law, such as when a mother’s life is at risk. He emphasized in both remarks to OSV News and to the conference that the Church “loves both mother and child.”
In his Nov. 15 address to the conference, Archbishop Lori said the Church “cannot remain silent about abortion” but added that the Church also “cannot ignore the deep social problems that push women toward having an abortion.”
“Our commitment to help mothers bring their babies to term is wholly compatible with our commitment to work for a society in which both mother and child can flourish,” he said.
Archbishop Lori said the bishops and the Church should communicate a message of support to women facing pregnancies under difficult circumstances alongside the Church’s efforts to help them.
“We bishops cannot pretend to understand what women in such circumstances are going through,” he said. “But this much we do know: they are our sisters, we are their brothers. They are our neighbors and we are their neighbors.”
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said in an address to the conference that the USCCB’s Walking with Moms in Need initiative takes on “a new importance” in the wake of the Dobbs ruling. The year-long program aims to help parishes compile an inventory of local resources for women in need who are pregnant or parenting, and information about the Church’s teachings on life for parish use.
But Leah Jacobson, founder and CEO of The Guiding Star Project, a pro-life women’s health organization, said that while the Church’s message of support to mothers is vital, it should also reach out to women who may not “identify with the term ‘mother.'”
The Church should also advocate for things like parental leave policies as part of a wholistic pro-life approach, Jacobson added, making clear that they are “not an extraordinary accommodation, it is the expectation.”
“Our laws are not going to save us, we have to address the heart of the culture,” Jacobson said.
Archbishop Lori told OSV News in an interview that “radical solidarity,” which he explained was best defined by St. Teresa of Calcutta as “we belong to one another,” is “a part of the gospel of life.”
“It should be an easy message to proclaim on the one hand, because it’s so much at the heart of the gospel,” the archbishop said. “But it is a challenging message, on the other hand, because it often requires that we love — and love heroically and selflessly.”
Kate Scanlon is a National Reporter for OSV News covering Washington.