Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
On Jan. 20, 2016, I will celebrate my 10th anniversary as your bishop here in the Diocese of Sioux City. I begin by thanking God for the great privilege of serving you as your shepherd. Secondly, I thank each of you for your prayers and support, and for your patience with me as I humbly try and follow the mission I have been given by the Lord. I promise you my continued prayers and count on your prayers for me. We have great things ahead of us as we continue to build up the kingdom of God here in northwest Iowa. It has been an incredible joy for me to serve you these past 10 years.
We celebrate another anniversary this month as well. Jan. 22 is the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. This is a somber, bitter day for us. I ask you all to join me with fervent prayers, especially on this day, for the defense of human life in the womb. May God grant that the scourge of abortion be lifted from our nation very soon!
Abortion causes all of us so much harm. The greatest harm is in the deliberate taking of an innocent human life. The child in the womb is a unique and unrepeatable human person, an invaluable gift from God. No matter how one portrays it, abortion undeniably both wills and acts to take this precious life. In the moment in which life is most vulnerable, it is most attacked. In the place where a child should be most safe, cherished, and protected by the parents’ love, it is most hatefully abandoned. Since 1973, this evil has been committed some 56 million times! How can we not view this as our nation’s greatest affliction and injustice?
Abortion also harms the child’s mother. Women come to regret making such a decision. All mothers know, at some level, that to be a mother means to love one’s children without limit. Abortion is the antithesis of motherhood, and this difference between “ought to” and “did” causes great pain to women, who are not always able to find healing and reconciliation. In addition, women are frequently coerced into choosing an abortion, and this further trauma greatly adds to their suffering. Likewise, other family members, especially fathers, grandparents, and siblings, experience the pain of a past abortion and the absence of the child thrown away. For many people, anger becomes a way of coping with their own post-abortion suffering.
In addition to these kinds of personal harm to the child, the mother, and the family, abortion causes many kinds of social harm, which we all experience. Abortion is an extremely polarizing issue in our culture, not only because of its meaning, but also because of the very high cost to admitting that abortion is morally indefensible, and because of the personal anger its guilt engenders. Abortion has added its polarizing effect to other issues as well. It has contributed its weight and momentum to the hyper-sexualization of our culture, to the rejection of our shared heritage of Judeo-Christian values, to our politics of identity and victimization, to the erosion of our families, to the coarsening of our morals and manners, and to our willingness to tolerate violence in many other forms.
The mere legality of abortion stands as an argument for euthanasia; for using government to get one’s own preference, and therefore against the common good; for enforcing uniformity on this and other issues, and therefore against religious freedom or any true diversity of opinion. In all these ways, abortion is a moral cancer that makes the entirety of our culture, and most especially our political institutions, very sick.
I say all this so bluntly, not to condemn, but to diagnose. If we love our country, if we want our children and grandchildren to inherit anything good and true from the past century, then we must not bequeath to them the evil of abortion. Pope Francis has reminded us that the church is a field hospital for all those wounded by sin. We are all engaged in triage. And in that sense, abortion is the injury that most urgently needs our attention for healing. Both in its essence and its scale, abortion is the greatest moral evil of our day. Without our pro-life witness and efforts, and most especially our constant, devout prayers, all those souls wounded by abortion risk being lost.
Please be pro-life and anti-abortion! None of us can simply stand silently and let mothers and fathers choose to take the innocent life of their son or daughter. We must speak!
Especially, then, in this jubilee Year of Mercy, I urge all of you to pray and work more willingly for an end to the scourge of abortion. For any who have been wounded by abortion, I remind you that God loves you. He desires your heart and wants above all to give you his great gift of mercy. He has promised that he will never spurn the humble, contrite heart seeking his love. He is always willing to forgive, no matter the sin, as long as we are repentant. Please, seek out a Catholic priest who can give you the sacrament of confession. God’s mercy heals and brings peace like nothing else. If you are in further need, our counselors at Catholic Charities, as well as many others, can also help with emotional healing.
And for all of us, since we too are sinners, may God grant us, likewise, the courage of a humble, contrite heart, and the desire to be healed of our sins in the holy sacraments, where his mercy is most to be found.
May the blessings and the mercy of Almighty God come upon you, bring you every good thing needed for joy and salvation in the new year, and remain with you forever. Thank you again for all your support and prayers for me and for the task the Lord has given me to accomplish.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City