Last year, on 10 October, the Victorian Parliament passed the most permissive abortion legislation in the Western world. To mark that day of shame, pro-Life groups, under the leadership of Bernie Finn MP, organised the inaugural March for the Babies, inviting every Christian congregation in Melbourne and many in regional areas to take part.
The march concluded on the steps of Parliament, with songs, hymns and several inspiring speeches from pro-Life politicians, pastors and workers in the movement.
The gathering was a qualified success, with nearly 2,000 participants, but will be much larger in 2010 in the run-up to a state election.
A day of prayer and intercession held on 25 October at St Patrick's Cathedral, to mark the anniversary of the abortion legislation, was also a welcome event. An Hour of Prayer, held after High Mass, featured Scripture readings, hymns and a homily given by the Archbishop. It was attended by approximately 130 people, including representatives of other Christian denominations.
The congregation was asked to pray for women faced with unplanned pregnancies and for the politicians who make our laws. In his homily Archbishop Hart presented the Church's teaching on abortion and quoted both St Augustine and Cardinal Newman on conscience and the natural law. He also stressed the need to give witness and engage in logical argument, as well as to pray and offer support.
Significantly, he quoted Vatican II on the necessity to prefer the moral law to the dictates of civil authority. In this regard, Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St Louis, has insisted that Catholic politicians should be forced to accept that they cannot continue to receive the Sacraments while supporting abortion.
Talks given later in the Cardinal Knox Centre lived up to the invitation to 'be inspired'. Only about 70 people attended, but the speakers deserved an overflow audience. Dr Eamonn Mathieson, President of the Catholic Doctors Association of Victoria, spoke on the evils of the actual legislation, and began his address with a reference to Gandalf's words in Lord of the Rings where a ray of light is all that stands before overwhelming darkness, and victory seems impossible. He made five crucial points:
* The state now sanctions the taking of human life with impunity.
* The Victorian Parliament has betrayed the genuine welfare of women, taking away choice.
* This Parliament has betrayed the medical and nursing professions, making the Hippocratic Oath and the judgement of the Nuremberg trials meaningless, the supreme irony being that a conscience vote was used to deny conscience.
* The Victorian law contravenes international agreements on human rights, and the state's own Charter of Human Rights, which was distorted to accommodate it so that even pro-Life meetings such as this could be unlawful.
* Victoria's Parliament has demeaned itself and the parliamentary process, with a display of power politics worthy of Stalin.
Dr Mathieson concluded by returning to Gandalf's words of encouragement and reminding his audience that the battle is never lost, since Christ has already triumphed for us.
There then followed the personal journey of Bernadette Black, pregnant as a Catholic schoolgirl and now a happily married mother of three, having fulfilled all of her ambitions to complete her studies and qualify as a nurse.
Her inspiring story, also recounted in her autobiography, Brave Little Bear: the Inspirational Story of a Teenage Mother, describes her anguish at learning that she was pregnant, the effect on her family, the outstanding support which she received from her parents and some close friends, the awkward ensuing relationship with both the schoolboy father of the baby and his family, her successful juggling of motherhood with study, and her eventual marriage to 'the most amazing man', Steven Black.
The audience was profoundly moved by her story and her message that an unplanned pregnancy is not a disaster which can only be avoided by abortion, and that with support a much better outcome is achieved. Bernadette Black's most vivid proof of this is her 16-year-old son Damien, who successfully nominated her for Barnardos Mother of the Year, 2009.
Gwen Winterscheidt and Rosemary Woods, of the John Paul II Centre for Family & Life, Centacare Brisbane, concluded the afternoon with a report on the Walking with Love program in Brisbane parishes. More than 100 volunteers provide friendship and practical help for pregnant women, women with babies, victims of domestic violence or desertion and the elderly.
They emphasised how vital this is for someone 'used to being let down'. The program has been built in the past 12 months, has the support of Archbishop Bathersby, takes referrals from the Mater Mothers' and the Royal Brisbane hospitals, and offers an immediate response to phone calls for help.
Finally, all were exhorted to work together to support women and babies, and expressions of interest were sought from those who might volunteer for such a program in Melbourne.
The Life, Marriage and the Family Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne is to be congratulated on the quality of the day.
However, until we all learn to work together and put aside rivalries and petty jealousy, the pro-Life forces will remain impotent in the face of the evil ideology of abortion and the greed of the abortion industry, facilitated by shallow politicians and media interests which try to avoid the subject.
We in Victoria have little time to get our house in order and our act together before a state election in November 2010.