To be read at all Masses or published in the parish bulletin on the weekend of January 15-16, 2022.

January 5, 2022

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

                "Equality begins in the Womb." This is the theme for the 49th annual March for Life which will be held on January 21 in Washington, D.C.   January 22 marks 49 years since the landmark Supreme Court decision (Roe v. Wade) legalizing abortion in the United States. For Catholics, January 22nd is a day of prayer and penance.  The Roman Missal notes: "In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion."

                Scripture affirms the life and dignity of the unborn child.  See Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Psalm 139:13-16. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear in its defense of the unborn. It states: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person -- among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life... since the first century of the church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.  This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable." (Catechism #2270-71).

                Why is the church so firm in its defense of the unborn? A civil society cannot stand if its weakest, most vulnerable members are not protected. The catechism states: "The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to afford them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations a state based on law are undermined." Saint John Paul II also argues that a civil society cannot be maintained if the rights of the unborn are not protected. See Evangelium Vitae, 20.

                We must pray to heal the culture by cultivating a respect for life in its most vulnerable moments. There are many points of light. I think of the crisis pregnancy centers that offer material emotional, and spiritual support to women facing an unexpected pregnancy. I think of the work of the Sisters of Life in New York who offer healing retreats for women who have had abortions I am thankful for the many faithful in our diocese who work so untiringly to build a culture of life. Together let us work together for a more just society -- a society that recognizes and affirms the equality and gifts of the most vulnerable in or midst--the unborn.

                                                                                                                Sincerely yours in Christ,


                                                                                                                Bishop of Norwich

[An unabridged English version of Bishop Cote’s letter is available on the cluster web site]

Dear Brothers and Sisters at Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Mary Parishes:

            I agree with everything Bishop Cote tells us in his letter and I encourage you to read the full text (in English) on our cluster website.  I encourage you to keep Saturday, January 22 as a real day of prayer and fasting – a practice the Church once embodied in its Ember Days - that our country and the world may find their way to a new era in which every human life is held sacred.  Come to Sts. Peter and Paul Church to pray the rosary at 7:30 in the morning followed by Holy Mass at 8:00.  Early in the day!  Why not?  Take time to pause and pray.  You can find helpful material in the cluster web page.

                As we pray, we cannot focus exclusively on changing laws.  A great culture war is going on around us.  One side looks principally at the legal protection of unborn life.  The opposing side holds up the very real concerns of women in our society, especially women in poverty who are do not get the support they need so that they can nurture life while participating fully in society.  Catholic social teaching looks at both sides and calls for each side to listen to the other.  Pope Francis has placed our concern with the unborn in the context of concern for children already born but left to wither in poverty.  He also reminds us that laws for the protection of unborn life are of little use if humanity allows its own home to be turned into a desert, unfit for any human life.  We have much to pray for.  Please join in prayer next Saturday, January 22!

                                                                                                                                In Christ’s peace,

                                                                                                                                Fr. Washabaugh