40 years of the culture of death

A pastoral letter on the occasion of the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade
Bishop Aquila

Bishop Aquila

The following was written by Denver archbishop Samuel Aquila on January 22.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I went to college in 1968 with the idea of becoming a doctor, like my father. College campuses in the late ‘60’s and throughout the 70’s were places of turmoil. I didn’t practice my faith much in the first three years of college and I certainly never imagined that the Lord would one day make me a bishop.

I spent my first three years of college working as a hospital orderly and assisting in the emergency room, at a university student health center and in a hospital in California during summer break.

When I began the job, I hadn’t thought much about human suffering, or about human dignity.

But during my employment in hospitals, something changed. At that time, some states had approved abortion laws that I wasn’t even aware of. Because of those laws, when I was in college I witnessed the results of two abortions.

The first was in a surgical unit. I walked into an outer room and in the sink, unattended, was the body of small unborn child who had been aborted. I remember being stunned. I remember thinking that I had to baptize that child.

The second abortion was more shocking. A young woman came into the emergency room screaming. She explained that she had had an abortion already. When the doctor sent her home, he told her she would pass the remains naturally. She was bleeding as the doctor, her boyfriend, the nurse and I placed her on a table.

I held a basin as the doctor retrieved a tiny arm, a tiny leg and then the rest of the broken body of a tiny unborn child. I was shocked. I was saddened for the mother and child, for the doctor and the nurse. None of us would have participated in such a thing were it not an emergency. I witnessed a tiny human being destroyed by violence.

The memory haunts me. I will never forget that I stood witness to acts of unspeakable brutality. In the abortions I witnessed, powerful people made decisions that ended the lives of small, powerless, children. Through lies and manipulation, children were seen as objects. Women and families were convinced that ending a life would be painless, and forgettable. Experts made seemingly convincing arguments that the unborn were not people at all, that they could not feel pain, and were better off dead.

I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that. And I have never been the same. My faith was weak at the time. But I knew by reason, and by what I saw, that a human life was destroyed. My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I became pro-life and eventually returned to my faith.

I learned what human dignity was when I saw it callously disregarded. I know, without a doubt, that abortion is a violent act of murder and exploitation. And I know that our responsibility is to work and pray without ceasing for its end.

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  1. Empathizing with the babies being aborted, one feels how voiceless they are. In Heaven there is a one half hour of silence, but I don’t know if it relates to the silence of the aborted babies, the “Silent Scream”.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Dear Skai, are you once again making thing up when you say “In Heaven there is a one half hour of silence,” Do you really believe that time in heaven is measured in hours? #toosillyforwords

      • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

        For once I have to agree with YFC. There is no time in heaven. Understand it, I don’t, accept it, I do!

        God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
        Kenneth M. Fisher

        • Kenneth, the Book of the Apocalypse, aka Book of Revelation, contains a verse that says Heaven became silent for a half hour.

          • Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:1
            “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour.” New American Bible (Catholic) “When he broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Revised Standard Version, Catholic “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

      • Hey, Y:FC, if you haven’t read the Book, then why would you comment on something you don’t know about. Read the Apocalypse, and see for yourself. It’s not a matter of theological speculation, but of plain words.

        • Maryanne Leonard says:

          Skai, I understand what you are saying and why you are reacting as you are, but I must admit that as much as I have read parts of the Bible over and over, I don’t necessarily retain them or even always fully understand them. This is due to a lot of things, ranging from limitations of the human mind, the different customs and cultures of the times, truths hidden in multiple layers, varying translations, difficult styles of writing, translation variations, and the sheer volume of information. I certainly understand and recall the basics of all of the major stories, but how many among us know our Bibles verse for verse by memory? I’ve known some evangelicals who seem to, but none that I wish to emulate as human beings. It doesn’t seem to me that criticizing someone for a lack of perfect memory of the Bible is going to motivate them to read the Bible. Even if they read it, as virtually all of us have I think, it does not seem possible for most people to have perfect memory of it. The lessons are important, but memorizing every detail of every page does not seem possible or even necessarily worthwhile, as nervous as I feel in making such an assertion. I think the better thing is to encourage people to read the Bible whose understanding is obviously deficient rather than to criticize people for imperfect knowledge and memory of every bit of it.

    • What a moving testimony. How blessed we are to have such a caring, loving shepherd. His understanding must affect all in his diocese and help them to become more open to life.

      • Abeca Christian says:

        skai you make such a beautiful comment and yet you have YFC adding doubt and a tone to question. Your comment was to move the reader, to have an open heart to the unborn and yet someone else felt the need to take that away.

        “Come, Holy Spirit. Spirit of truth, you are the reward of the saints, the comforter of souls, light in the darkness, riches to the poor, treasure to lovers, food for the hungry, comfort to those who are wandering; to sum up, you are the one in whom all treasures are contained. ”

        – Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi

        • Abeca Christian says:

          The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven.
          –Bl Mary of Jesus Crucified “The Little Arab”

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Skai carry on… you have voiced a lovely impression of the silent scream, the one we don’t hear when an unborn is being murdered limb from limb. If man would fear the Lord more, they would acknowledge His existence with no further a due, they would fear killing the unborn. Mankind have made god’s of themselves committing these immoral sins, wickedness is disguised and deceiving many.

            ‘The first degree of humility is the fear of God, which we should constantly have before our eyes.’
            –St. Louis de Blois

    • Reality is sometimes Hypocracy says:

      A Colorado Catholic run hospital fighting a malpractice lawsuit used Colorado law for its defense, which is ” a fetus is not a person until it is born alive.” This turned out to be a good legal defense because the Church won the lawsuit. The Church then filed a $100,000 lawsuit against the plaintiff and won, which turned out to be a very good legal move for the Church to pay Its legal fees from the malpractice lawsuit. It’s true. Check it out. Just the same, the Church did nothing wrong. I’m with the plaintiff on this as I feel his pain and you will as well.

  2. The bishop gives powerful witness from personal experience. He is in an unusual position to proclaim truth, having seen it up close and being moved by it in such a personal way. He’s a real gift to the Church, and I hope he gets more press coverage and gets his story told to many who are deluded into thinking a fetus is not a person.

    • Abeca Christian says:

      ted a I agree. I am moved by this article. As always when it comes to the unborn, the helpless little innocent ones, we rejoice when our church leaders are involved in helping us save babies. Not only saving babies but also saving the mum and others involved, so that they can avoid getting into more serious sins that lead them to making bad choices.

      Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate.
      – St John Climacus

  3. Thank you Bishop Aquila for your witness and testimony. I can’t believe that the greatest, most powerful country in the world has continued to allow the murder of the most innocent among us for 40 years now. My heart feels such anguish and pain every year when I face another Walk for Life knowing that every single day another 3,000+ babies will be killed. Our country can not contine to call itself a “champion” for Human Rights when we continue to kill our preborn babies. This abomination of thinking we are protecting women has got to stop. We are now millions of “walking wounded” in America –those who have killed their babies and those who have participated in some way –directly or indirectly. If you voted for Obama, or support those who legislate for abortion — you are culpable! May God help you and may God help America.

    • Sandra,

      You make a very good point. How CAN our country be called a champion for human rights when they slaughter their own children by the thousands? American solders go to other countries to defend people who are unjustly treated and yet at home the most heinous injustice is happening to the most vulnerable. Our Holy Mother said “Russia is the tool that God will use to chastise the world”. I am affraid this is going to happen very soon!

      • This nation has elevated human rights into space where there are no humans. What is the count of deaths caused or enabled by the US govt? Are all these deaths, abortion, euthanesia, wars, and who knows what, necessary for this nation to excel, to stay on top of the management ladder of natural resources such as petroleum? Govts use force to manage populations: The critical question now is whether ours has gone berserk or whether in fact it is doing all the right things. Who will supply grant money to several competent universities to do the studies? Is there any such competence in any American university?

  4. It is time for the good bishop to take action and publicly denounce the primary advocate for the slaughter of unborn human beings — the Democratic Party.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      The Archbishop needs to denounce both Demoncrats and Republicrats who support abortion, and so called gay rights.

      My good mother was told by God that the child she had aborted, my big brother, was a human being in a time when very few knew that. He gave her my big sister, my big brother’s twin she failed to abort, to show her the truth, thanks be to God.

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  5. Maryanne Leonard says:

    Breathtaking testimony, stunning and chilling. How can anyone not stand up and fight for the rights of our precious children not to be murdered in their mother’s wombs and dragged out, bit by bit? Anyone who does such a thing to our nation’s children should be incarcerated for life, or should I say for death, of an innocent? Imagine shaking the hand of a doctor who may have done just such things as the bishop describes? We should always check to see what the doctor’s position is on abortion when we are choosing a new doctor. Such callous disregard for life cannot be compartmentalized in the human mind; you might be the next inconvenient human being he or she sees fit to dispatch to your final reward, regardless of God and the consequences to everyone you know and love – to say nothing of you yourself. Murderers are murderers.

  6. I have recently heard a very disturbing case in Colorado where a Catholic Hospital has taken the legal position that, under state law, unborn children do not qualify as a person for the Colorado state statute of wrongful death.

    The hospital in question is getting sued for malpractice, and the patient was pregnant. Consequently the plaintiff’s are suing not only on the behalf of the woman, they are also suing on behalf of the child. The Catholic Hospital has taken the legal position that the wrongful death of the child be thrown out on the grounds that the child is not a person under that state statute of wrongful death.

    If the Catholic Church is to have any credibility on the issue of abortion, it cannot take this position in court. Even if the lawsuit is a malicious attempt to gain undeserved gain at the Church’s expense, the Church’s credibility and consistency on abortion supersedes any monetary concerns. The Archbishop of this hospital’s diocese must instruct the hospital to change this hypocritical legal assertion. If the hospital is indeed legitimately culpable for malpractice, it should not hide behind morally abhorrent legal positions to escape responsibility.

    • I read that today, JonJ. The Archbishop says he is looking into it. It is always astonishing when an event takes a few moments and then the bureaucratic machine that investigates it takes decades.

  7. I have done further research, and discovered the “catholic” hospital in question is St. Thomas More hospital in Englewood Colorado, part of “Catholic Health” a 170 facility health conglomerate that operates across 17 states.

    The woman in question had twins who were delivered stillborn. The lawyers for Catholic Health are arguing that the state throw out the case because state courts have consistently held that babies not born alive do not qualify for the state’s wrongful death statute.

    The USSCB needs to weigh in on this matter. In fact this website should do a story on this appalling hypocrisy. If they allow this “catholic” hospital to continue with such a legal position, the USSCB loses all moral authority to contest abortion law. Even if the lawyers are correct about this law, the catholic church should act in accordance with what the law should be — if it is to at all maintain any credibility as a moral institution.

    • Anonymous says:

      The hospital sued the man for legal fees — $118,000, saying they would drop their suit if he dropped his. He had to go on welfare to feed his child that was a toddler when the mom died. Nice.

  8. I suspect the lawyers were hired by Catholic Health’s insurance company, and it is the insurance company that has pushed this legal position. If this is true, the USCCB has the moral obligation to write an amicus brief repudiating this position as inconsistent with the tenants of the Catholic Church, they believe that unborn children are persons under the law, and that they stand ready to accept the judgment of the court with respect to their responsibility in this matter.

  9. I too thank Archbishop Samuel Aquila for his wonderful witness and testimony. Just think of the horrible disgrace and tragedy the killing of the unborn is in America. Since Roe versus Wade legalized abortion in 1973 over FIFTY MILLION unborn baby children have been killed across America. I ask all of America’s leaders to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness before the judgement of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ befalls a once great nation. Let’s all pray for Archbishop Aquila and all our bishops to denounce the sin of abortion from their pulpits right across America. Our Lady of Fatima pray for an end to all abortions.

  10. respectlife says:

    Thank God for the good Shepherds we have. God’s plan for Bishop Samuel Aquila was to share the gospel of life. I just don’t understand how certain groups protest how animals are treated. Such as whales advocates. What about our babies being murdered by abortion and without any compassion to the pain they feel through the abortion process. What a tragedy and loss and we pay for this with our tax dollars going to PP.. Pretty much makes me sick.

  11. Now THAT’S what I call POWERFUL testimony. And it’s all so transparent and honest, not what you’d expect from a member of the USCCB club. But it’s certainly what so many of us have COME to expect from Abp. Aquila. Tremendously moving witness to the savage evil of legalized babymurder.

    Now we can take heart from what appears to be the SMASHING SUCCESS of the ’13 pro-life March on Washington. At least 400,000 people came to D.C. to take part, so many of them college students from the various FAITHFUL Catholic colleges like Steubenville in Ohio and the Benedictine Abby bunch. A WONDERFUL spectacle.

    But I must put in a plug once again for my favorite topic these days and for the forseeable future. And that is: OBAMA MUST GO! Through, once again, the Constitutional remedy afforded us — the “I” word, IMPEACHMENT. The man is hell-bound to “transform” these United States into a socialist egalitarian “paradise” on earth, and his hubris knows NO bounds. He’s on the fast-track once populated by the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and all the rest of those demonically demented despots. There’s a simple answer to all his evil machinations: DON’T LET HIM GET AWAY WITH IT! All of us Americans, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish Orthodox, etc., let’s band together and MAKE HIM LEAVE OFFICE through formal impeachment proceedings started in the House, then trial in the Senate with Chief Justice Roberts, a Catholic, presiding, and finally, conviction and sentencing. (which SHOULD of happened after Clinton was impeached by the House but the oldboy club, the Senate, couldn’t muster the courage to follow through on).

    It’s just LUDICROUS for us as citizens to wait for 2016, and “all will be well”, according to some R.I.N.O. Republicans. This Obama is in thrall to pond scum like Planned Parenthood (never met an unborn they didn’t think could be aborted). He’s, once again, GOT TO GO, the sooner the better.


  12. Juergensen says:

    40 years of silence and inaction.

  13. The Bishop’s words about young children’s lives being at the mercy of powerful men makes me think of abortion, and also the children of Syria where snipers are shooting at their eyes to demoralize their parents.

    I also am reminded of Pope Benedict XVI collaborating with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to force the strong to consider the weak when it comes to the environment — both men know how important it is to protect our children by making sure this planet will be livable for them!

  14. Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

    This is such a sad and shocking crime.

  15. Abeca Christian says:

    Bishop Aquila God bless you, I really appreciate you sharing this with us. You have a good kind and gentle soul!

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