Forty Years of Abortion and the Year of Faith                     

By Tom Grenchik

July 20, 2012

In 2013 our country will observe a sad anniversary, marking 40 years of a “culture of death” following the tragic Roe v. Wade decision that unleashed widespread abortion on our land. Well over 53 million children have been lost and their parents and families dramatically affected. How do we even begin to fathom the impact to our nation, and to our Church?

A long time ago, God allowed the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for forty years -- as a punishment, and also as a test of their faithfulness before they could enter the promised land. These last forty years have certainly tested our faithfulness. But they have also strengthened the resolve of many Christians across our country, especially young people, who are now more determined than ever to enter the promised land of the “culture of life.” 

As the Israelites prepared to enter their promised land, they were given a final challenge: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him” (Dt 30:19-20). Even after reaching the promised land the Israelites had to endure many battles before they could freely occupy the land that was promised. All this was to strengthen their faith in God and affirm their total reliance on him.

How do we strengthen our faith today, as our nation emerges from forty years in the wasteland of the culture of death?  Providentially, Pope Benedict XVI has declared a worldwide Year of Faith, beginning on October 11, 2012 and concluding on November 24, 2013. In introducing the Year of Faith, the Holy Father spoke of the grave difficulties of our time, and the need for the Church to lead people out of the desert and to clasp sinners to its bosom. He suggested a path of penance and renewal, and he called for authentic conversion and a witness to charity so the Church might be the visible community of God’s mercy.

The fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade lands squarely within the Year of Faith. It is as if the Holy Father has given the Church in the United States a focused time to acknowledge the great sin of abortion in our nation, to embrace a time of penance and conversion, and to become a loving witness to God’s forgiveness and mercy. How should we respond to this great opportunity?

The Year of Faith calls each of us to study the teachings of our faith and to strengthen a personal relationship with our Lord. While the Year of Faith emphasizes the Catechism of the Catholic Church as foundational for our reflection, it also calls our attention to the beautiful teachings in the pro-life encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life. So for Americans, the Year of Faith can be a time of reflection and preparation to answer 40 years of the culture of death with the inspiring response of the Gospel of Life.

May we take full advantage of this coming year, as individuals, parishes and organizations, to pray, reflect, and prepare to enter the promised land by building a culture of life.

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the Catholic bishops' activities on conscience protection, visit