Some of my faithful readers may have noticed there have been no new articles from me lately, and wondered where I’ve been over the past week. Well, guess no further. I was in Washington D.C., along with thousands of other Americans and a considerable amount of Chicagoans.
From the kind of coverage we got from the mainstream media, you might have noticed only two events from the past week where “thousands of Americans” showed up at the national mall on Capitol Hill: a rally for gun control, and of course, President Obama’s inauguration. Was I present for either of them? Nope. I was in Washington D.C. for the March for Life.
Over 500,000 people came to stand in solidarity with me. This might come as a shock to many readers, since the mainstream media practically avoided all coverage of the event. A poster circulating around Catholic parishes in Chicago this week summarized the media’s attitude: “A college football player with a fake online girlfriend is national news for a week, and 500,000 people marching on Washington D.C. is not worth a mention”. Pro-life forces have often noted that not one of the major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, or NBC -- covered the March for Life in past years, such as 2011. This year was a much bigger milestone than past marches, however, and marked 40 years since Roe v. Wade. Even pro-abortion organizations have estimated over 55 million babies – over the population of 12 states – have been aborted since 1973. So did the 40th anniversary milestone increase the coverage from the mainstream media? Nope. The New York Times, as usual, did not report anything about the March. Instead, their “Happenings in Washington” section included a White House visit by NHL Stanley Cup champions and the signing of an Environmental Cooperation Agreement with the South Korean ambassador to the U.S. MSNBC said nothing about the estimated 500,000-650,000 people marching for life, but decided that the turnout of 3,200 people to march for gun control in Washington was worthy of front page news on their website (see: http://twitpic.com/byhzop for an example of this)
Because of this non-story from the mainstream media, I’ve decided to give my faithful readers a firsthand account of the March. My trek to Washington was part of a four day event, which involved the trip sponsor, the Eparchy of Parma, having the marchers stay overnight in sleeping bags in a Cleveland area cathedral. We slept for a few hours and then awoke at 4:00 a.m. to make the journey to Washington in time for the 1:00 p.m. Friday March. Our delegation had about 60 participants, including 11 from my parish, and took the bulk of the marchers in a tour bus named “Precious Cargo”.
Elsewhere, the Archdiocese of Chicago was busy preparing the faithful for the March. Chicago area Catholics left on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, and included parishioners from dozens of parishes around the Chicago area. Many other Chicago Catholics wanted to attend the March, but simply count not afford the $275 fee for the four-day event, described by the Archdiocese as a “national pilgrimage for life”. Those who missed out on the archdiocese’s pilgrimage went with other Catholic dioceses (as yours truly did), with the Mundelein Seminary, (for those who were studying for the priesthood), independently, and over 21 college students went with a University group (including students from Loyola, Dominican, UIC, University of Chicago, and Lexington College) that sponsored the march, allowing them to be a witness for life when they could not afford to go with the Archdiocese.
Those unfamiliar with the pro-life movement might presume the crowd in D.C. was “older white males”, and/or “Christian fundamentalists”, as is often the portrayed by the mainstream media. Upon arriving in our nation’s capital (our group met up at the Smithsonian Castle), the sea of marchers turned out to be exactly the opposite. Most of the rally participants were teens – those ages 13-19 made up probably 70-80% of those marching on Washington, and it was split evenly between male and females. The marchers came from all different faith backgrounds, races, and creeds. Some who marched for life had no religious faith at all – as the “Secular Pro-Life” delegation made it clear when they gathered near us at the Smithsonian, carrying their banner that read “For the embryology textbook tells me so”. They pointed out that the fact that unborn babies are human beings capable of feeling pain is “simple biology, not religious dogma”.
Nor were all the marchers social conservatives or right-wing Republicans. One pro-life delegation to the march was a gay rights group, who carried banners reading “Pro-Life & Pro-Gay”. Same sex couples who are pro-life seem to defy the media stereotype, so the media simply pretends they don’t exist. (Similarly, there are “gay people” out there who don't believe in changing the definition of marriage .But we'll probably never see them on the news, either) Openly gay pro-lifers feel there’s an obvious reason why all same-sex couples should all share their beliefs: if scientists ever do find a "homosexual" gene in an unborn baby that will mean the child would be “born gay”, you can bet that “LGBT babies” will be aborted just as fast as Down syndrome babies by their shocked parents.
The designated speakers at this year’s March for Life was considerably shorter from the endless list of politicians who spoke at previous March for Life rallies (we waited over an hour for the 2011 March for Life to begin). Speakers had an amplified audio that boomed over the entire national mall, and some had taped prerecorded remarks to the crowd. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, son of retired Congressman Ron Paul, was one of those who spoke in person and received a chorus of "No!" when he asked the crowd, "Can a nation long endure that does not respect sanctity of life?" Former Senator and 2012 Presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke about his youngest daughter, who was born with a serious genetic condition. Doctors advised the couple to abort her before birth, but he and his wife refused: "We all know that death is never better -- never better. Really what it's about is saying is it would be easier for us, not better for her," he said. "And I'm here to tell you ... Bella is better for us and we are better because of Bella." Congressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Chairman of the House Pro-Life caucus, summed up the rally by saying: “Know this, Mr. President — we will never quit". Speaker of the House John Boehner also addressed the crowd.
It was announced at the rally that Pope Benedict XVI had sent a personal message that morning to the marchers from his Twitter account, @pontifex, where he wrote: "I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life”.
And right when a light snow began in Washington, the March took off down Constitution Avenue toward the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill. We were undaunted by bitterly cold temperatures and squeezed down the Washington D.C. streets by the thousands as we slowly made our way to the Supreme Court. A West Virginia delegation sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, an African-American church chanted “We Love Life!” and yet another group played bagpipes as they marched in kilts. My delegation made our way to the other side of the street with a bishop, two priests, three nuns, and about 40 teenagers as we prayed the Akathist Hymn to the Virgin Mary facing the Supreme Court. The March concluded after the final group passed by the Supreme Court, dropping strings of hundreds of yellow balloons that read “LIFE”.
After the March, we took the opportunity of being in Washington D.C. to visit many important cultural sites, along with hundreds of other Catholic dioceses from around the nation that had converged on D.C. Among the stops my group made included visits to national Ukrainian Catholic seminary (right next to the famous Catholic University of America), the Lincoln memorial, the Jefferson memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial, the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Museum of Art, the Korean War memorial, the Vietnam War memorial (which unfortunately had to be cut short, although I had already seen it), and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is the largest Catholic Church in the United States (dozens of other Catholic groups from around the nation visited the Basilica at the same time, which led to considerable confusion as various Catholics kept accidentally wandering into the wrong Masses and finding themselves with strangers!) The lone photo I got someone to take of me in D.C. was at the Jefferson memorial. There I stood next to a 20 foot statue of Thomas Jefferson, the famous deist that secular crowds will invoke to claim that religious faith and morality has no place in government. Yes, the same Thomas Jefferson who said "It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately" and noted "I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”.
In short, the March for Life is an event which truly must be experienced firsthand to realize the magnitude of it all. I can truly say that my participation in the March was like no other rally I have ever experienced before, and is something that will stay with all of us until the day we die. When over 500,000 people show up in one place to campaign for social justice, it is no small matter as the mainstream media would have you believe. The March for Life shows that more and more Americans are realizing that the Roe v. Wade decision, thought to be harmless at the time and championed by its supporters as allowing abortion to be “safe, legal and rare”, has actually had a disastrous impact on America. The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found that four in 10 unintended pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion, and that one third of American women will have an abortion by age 45. People can scream about gun violence all they want, but the death toll pales in comparison to what unlimited abortion on demand has wrought for the United States. America, it’s time to get a life!