Life Is a Civil Right, Cardinal Dolan Says at Mass Before the March

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Cardinal Dolan told pro-life advocates at a Jan. 18 Mass opening the National Prayer Vigil for Life in Washington, D.C., that the fight to end abortion is about civil rights.

Like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “our prayers and witness are about civil rights, the right to life and equal protection of the law guaranteed by our Constitution, for the most fragile, marginalized, and threatened—the tiny, innocent baby in the womb,” said Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The cardinal’s homily came three days after Dr. King’s birthday, which is marked as a national holiday in the United States. The civil rights activist was assassinated 50 years ago this spring.

Like Dr. King, the cardinal said, “our belief in the dignity of the human person and sacredness of human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever and however it is threatened, from racism to immigrants, from the war torn to the hungry.”

Cardinal Dolan used the refrain, “Why are we here?” from Dr. King’s speeches in addressing the congregation of 10,000 that filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“We are here to advocate and give witness, to advocate for those who cannot yet speak or walk with us, the preborn baby, whose future is in jeopardy and can be ended by a so-called choice by another; to give witness that millions, mostly young people, share a passion that the little baby has civil rights,” Cardinal Dolan said.

The cardinal explained all were present to fight the heavy temptation to discouragement, to lobby for life and to pray.

The Mass opened with a 15-minute procession including four cardinals, 37 bishops, 262 priests, 62 deacons and 456 seminarians from across the United States. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., offered welcoming remarks.

Phil Volkert, 17, was attending his second vigil Mass and March for Life with a group from Marquette University High School in Milwaukee. He credited Cardinal Dolan, who was archbishop of Milwaukee before his appointment to New York in 2009, for the way he incorporated Dr. King’s words into his homily.

“His message was to bring unity to all people and to stop abortion, which harms life at the beginning stages within the womb. Going to a Jesuit high school, we believe life starts at conception and we want to defend life and bring that social message to the world,” said the teen, a parishioner of St. John Vianney in Janesville, Wis., where House Speaker Paul Ryan also worships.

“Life should not be wasted. It’s something that should be preserved at all costs.”

Cynthia Choo served in the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard for almost 40 years and was participating in the March for Life for the fifth time.

“I was in the military and I was sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo in Tacoma, Wash., told CNY. “This is against the foundation of the Constitution, which is our statement of who we are. It is worthy of a fight, and I have to be here.”

Sophia Graber, a 17-year-old parishioner of St. Wenceslaus in Iowa City, Iowa, was back for her third Mass and march.

“I really enjoyed it the last two times, and I think it’s for a great cause,” she said. “My faith is a big part of it, but even without my faith, I would believe babies have the right to be born and they have an equal amount of rights as anyone has.”

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