In Reverend Michael Fitzpatrick’s Mother’s Day sermon at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis on Sunday, he noted the irony of abortion headlining.
Since Politico released Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr.’s May 2 draft opinion, the topic has been front and center on print and digital media platforms. He arrived just in time for the country’s annual spring rite: Mother’s Day.
Fitzpatrick used what he called this “convergence of world events” to speak to the message of Alito’s draft opinion, as well as the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to abortion.
“The Catholic Church has always stood firm against abortion,” he said from the pulpit.
Catholic doctrine holds that human life begins at conception and that abortion is against the moral law. The doctrine is supported by teachings dating back to the first and second centuries, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Diocese of Fall River comprises 256,000 people in southeastern Massachusetts, including the Cape and the Islands, according to the diocese’s website.
After the release of Alito’s draft opinion, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore urged Catholics to fast and pray for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the Catholic News Agency. The church has been behind marches to overturn the decision, outreach efforts to support pregnant women, and prayer events featuring the Rosary, a set of prayers meant to be meditations on God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and Mary.
St. Francis Xavier will continue to sponsor events where the Rosary is prayed. Last Saturday, parishioners were at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis where outreach efforts continue, according to Fitzpatrick.
Pastor Gary Armstrong of the New Testament Baptist Church in West Yarmouth said there was nothing biblical about abortion. Armstrong has been ministering to churches since 1970, three years before the Roe v. Wade.
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He calls the West Yarmouth Church an independent Baptist church, which does not belong to a national convention. As a result, Armstrong said, his church does not receive direction from an ecclesiastical hierarchy on doctrine.
“Abortion is murder,” he said
Armstrong is unaware of any concerted group effort planned among members of his church, but he is not averse to joining others should there be continued protests against abortion.
“If you look at the life that is taken, who is responsible for it?” Armstrong said. “Sometimes on the road, each of us will have to give an account to God for what we have done in life.”
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Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, shared the statement her group released after Alito’s opinion was leaked. The organization is nonpartisan, nonsecular, and attempts to influence public policy at the local, state, and national levels through educational and political activities, according to the group’s mission statement.
“If the Court’s opinion is upheld, Massachusetts Citizens For Life (MCFL) will be very pleased that the justices have recognized that our Constitution does not imply or authorize abortion on demand,” the statement said.
The opinion, as written, would reverse Roe, but would not ban abortion. That would send the matter back to the states for them to decide, according to the statement.
Flynn said the organization remains focused on “efforts to protect the dignity of the human person, to extend human rights to all, born and unborn.” She acknowledged that the decision would be a historic victory after 49 years of effort.
She cited a 2021 Marist poll where 76% of respondents opposed abortion on demand and said they would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy.
Other polls have shown more nuanced, or at least more complicated opinions among those who generally oppose abortion. A 2021 Gallup poll found that only 19% of those polled thought abortion should be illegal under all circumstances.
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According to the non-profit organization Catholics for Choice, 52% of Catholics think abortion is morally acceptable in some cases. Twenty percent of white evangelical Protestants support legal abortions, according to a 2019 Pew survey.
Father Fitzpatrick said Alito’s reasoning in the opinion — that the constitution does not confer the right to abortion — makes sense.
“It challenges Roe/Casey’s logic and reasoning,” he said.
This 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – upheld the 1973 Roe v, Wade decision, but introduced allowing restrictions on abortions. Some states have introduced time limits for obtaining abortions, waiting periods for women seeking them, parental and spousal consent requirements, and in some cases required counseling.
There were restrictions under Roe, but not during the first trimester of pregnancy.
If a majority of justices agreed with Alito’s opinion, that would return the abortion issue to the states or, in Alito’s words, “to the people and their representatives.”
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Adam Lange, founder of the United Cape Patriots and chairman of the Brewster Republican Town Committee, said the Patriots agreed with Alito’s opinion. The right to abortion is not a constitutional freedom, Lange wrote in an email.
“Our founding fathers wrote the constitution specifically to prevent this, by decentralizing control to the states,” Lange wrote. “Voters can then select lawmakers who best represent their values.”
It should be up to states to decide on abortion rights, Fitzpatrick said.
“It’s hard to argue that this isn’t a fairer approach,” he said.
Contact Denise Coffey at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.