Father Robert Altier


January 19, 2003 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19)  

Reading II (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20)

Gospel (St. John 1:35-42)


As we celebrate today the feast of our holy patroness, a young girl of about thirteen years old in Rome who was martyred because of her faith, we think about the life of a young girl, still just a child, that is unjustly taken because she refused to marry the pagan governor’s son and he turned her over to the law. We look at this grave injustice and we are rightly outraged by it. Certainly, we celebrate her martyrdom as well as her purity; but to be able to consider a young person whose life is taken unjustly is something that, as we try to find the balance in that, we can certainly understand from God’s perspective, but on a human level it makes no sense. Even less sense is made of a baby who is not even born being destroyed in the womb of his own mother. Yet, over the last thirty years, this has happened over 40 million times. We have been lied to, and we have been lied to by the pro-life organizations – or the so-called pro-life organizations – who continue to beat the same drum, telling us that there really is not much we can do, that it is a Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and therefore we have no power to do anything. That is a lie.


There is some good news on the abortion front and that is what I want to present to you this morning. Before I even begin, I am going to challenge you the same way that young Samuel was called by God in the first reading today. I ask you to open your hearts and your ears to be able to hear this message and to ask if it may be that the Lord is calling you to a little bit of action and to answer, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening,” because for all too long pro-lifers have been wringing their hands and doing nothing. Certainly, we have been praying our rosaries, and many good and faithful people have been going to the abortion mills and doing excellent work to save a handful of babies from destruction. At the same time, we have been told that there is nothing else we can do. The lie about this whole thing is that the Supreme Court decision has nothing, in essence, to do with abortion; it is a decision that states that a woman has a right to privacy. That is what the decision was about. It is about a right to privacy. And so what we need to be able to do is to turn things around and re-focus the argument, which is a very simple thing to do. All it requires is the courage of one person, that is, one elected official who is in place because pro-life people put him in place.


On the state level, it is Mr. Timothy Pawlenty. We need to get to Mr. Pawlenty because even our own unfortunate diocesan newspaper, two weeks ago, printed an article about an interview with Mr. Pawlenty – recall that he ran on a pro-life ticket, and the only reason he is in power right now in the governor’s mansion is because pro-life people came out in force and put him in position – and in gratitude to all those pro-life people who voted for him, he said in this interview that there is nothing we can do about abortion because that is a decision of the United States Supreme Court. It is true that it is a decision of the United States Supreme Court; it is not true that he can do nothing about it. In fact, he is the only person in the state of Minnesota who has the authority to do something about it. And on the national level, Mr. George W. Bush – who also ran as a pro-life candidate and was elected by pro-life people – is beating the same basic drum. He too has all the authority necessary to be able to suspend abortions until the legislature can deal with the issue.


And so what I want to present to you today is how this can be done and to ask you to tell your family members and your friends and to get the word out because this can be done – and it can be done with a relative amount of ease, certainly, by comparison with 30 years of pro-life people beating their heads against a brick wall and being lied to over this entire time. Now I need to tell you that this idea is not mine. It is a wonderful idea of a man by the name of Drago Kovacevic. Mr. Kovacevic was a high-ranking official in Croatia. When he recognized the corruption within the government, he got out of that because this man is a very solid orthodox Catholic who believes and lives his faith. I find it interesting that it took a man from a foreign country to come to America to be able to point out what all these pro-life people have missed for all of these years. I should also point out, before saying anything else, that Mr. Kovacevic has brought his idea to the pro-life groups and almost universally they have rejected him. One really needs to question what is going on. Is it possible that people who have made a pretty easy living for 30 years are afraid of losing their jobs so they really do not want to end abortion? I hope that is not the case. But one really needs to wonder, especially when you hear what it is that he is presenting. And then you have to wonder why people who are in charge of pro-life organizations have just rejected it outright.


What it comes down to is simply this: There are a number of points in the Constitution of the United States of America, as well as in the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, and a number of other states have similar powers that they have given to the governor. I want to read to you a couple of statements from the Constitution to be able to lay out the principles. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America declares, and I quote, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge privilege of immunities of the citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any persons of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” The Constitution of the State of Minnesota says, and I quote, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.” In the State of Minnesota’s Constitution, in the section under the powers and duties of the governor in Article 5 Section 3, it says, and I quote, regarding the duties of the governor, “He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”


A moment ago, we heard that no person in the state of Minnesota may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law and that the governor of the state of Minnesota has the obligation – the duty – to make sure that the laws of the state of Minnesota are faithfully executed. The governor of the state of Minnesota has executive power to be able to write executive orders, even to the point – and it is right in the Constitution – that he could call out the military forces in order to execute the law. That is how much authority this man has. We have seen in the last two weeks that the governor of the state of Illinois used his executive power to grant clemency to every single person who was on death row in the state of Illinois. And the reason that he gave is because there was a dubium, there was question with regard to whether or not these people were actually guilty of the crimes for which they had been convicted. And the law basically states that if there is any question then you have to go on the side of not doing something that will be harmful; you must prove clearly that this is the case.


So what does this all come down to? It comes down to the question of whether a little, tiny baby in the womb is a person. That is all that it comes down to: Is a baby in the womb a person? If there is any question at all about this, Judge Blackmun, who, tragically, was from our own state, back in 1973 when the Supreme Court of the United States passed this horrific law allowing for abortion under the guise of a woman’s right to privacy, he himself, who wrote the decision, explicitly stated that the court did not address the issue of whether the fetus was a separate person, and that if the personhood of the fetus was ever defined legally that the entire decision would collapse in its application to abortion. That is from the man who wrote the decision saying that it was perfectly fine for women in the United States of America to kill their own babies – if the child in the womb is ever defined as a person, abortion will collapse. Isn’t it interesting that no pro-life lawyer in 30 years has recognized what this pro-abortion judge recognized 30 years ago?


Now a couple of years ago, a former U.S. senator, Mr. Smith, tried to get the United States Senate and the House of Representatives to pass a bill stating that a baby in the womb is in fact a person. That died in committee because they were not willing to take it up; they knew exactly what would follow from it. And there was no political pressure being placed upon these people because it was not an issue that they really needed to deal with legally at the time; morally, yes, but these are not necessarily people who are interested in what is morally right, as they have demonstrated over and over again. So what they need is some political pressure.


Well, how is this political pressure to be exerted? It begins simply by the governor of the state of Minnesota, or any other state for that matter which gives the governor this power, to simply write an executive order declaring that all abortions in the state are suspended until the question of whether or not a child in the womb is a person is determined by the legislature. Now you see where the difference is. It was a judicial decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America that said abortion is okay because of a woman’s right to privacy. We are redefining the issue here, and we are defining it not about the woman and her privacy but about the child and his personhood and the rights that flow from being a person. And because the governor has this authority to be able to write an executive order, if anyone tried to take it to the court of the state of Minnesota, the court would have to reject it, that is, reject the case because the governor has the right to be able to do this; just as they have attempted to go to court in Illinois to reverse the governor’s decision regarding the offering of clemency to all of these people on death row and nothing is able to be done; and just as when Mr. Clinton wrote an executive order allowing many of his fraudulent friends to be granted clemency and nothing could be done to overturn it. In this case, the Governor of the State of Minnesota or the President of the United States of America simply needs to write an executive order stating that all abortions are hereby suspended until the legislature – not until the judiciary, but until the legislature, your voted officials – makes a decision about whether or not a child in the womb is a person.


The court has the right and the power only to try to make a decision on how to interpret the law that the legislature has passed. And so if the legislature takes up the question (if the governor or the president wrote an executive order), you can be guaranteed that it would be very quickly on the floor of the House and of the Senate to try to deal with this issue because now there would be some political pressure being applied, there is a reason for them to take up the question. Now you have to realize that in the state of Minnesota the majority of people in the Senate claim to be pro-life. We have a governor who claims to be pro-life. Everything is in place to be able to do this. It takes one order from the governor and every single abortion in the state of Minnesota will be suspended. It will not yet be gone; it will not be over with yet; they will be suspended temporarily until the legislature determines whether or not the child is a person. Only after the legislature makes that determination can it then go to the court, and the court can then determine how to interpret what the legislature has determined. And as Justice Blackmun himself made clear, if the legislature determines that the child in the womb is a legal person, there will be no more abortions in this state, or if the president would do it and our national Senate and House of Representatives would make the same decision, there would be no more abortions in the United States.


The personhood of a baby is something that we all recognize very easily. There really is not much doubt. It is only legislators and people who are dealing in legal issues who seem to have a question about whether or not a person is a person – if the littlest, tiniest person is a person, or if the oldest, sickest person is a person. None of us have a question about that.


Now, having heard this, are you willing to do something – and it is not going to take an awful lot – but are you willing to help, are you willing to make your voice heard? Again, in politics, we know it is not about what is right or wrong; it is about pressure, it is about whose voice is being heard. If a number of the constituents of the state of Minnesota would get together and make their voices heard, it will put pressure upon the Governor and hopefully give to him the courage to begin this process. We can only imagine the turmoil that would follow from it and the political fallout that would come, but – Praise God! – it is about time that it happens. The turmoil of 40 million babies is what we have been dealing with because of what happened in 1973; a little bit of political turmoil is nothing by comparison to the life of even one unborn baby. We need to do our part. So if you are willing, you can contact Mr. Kovacevic through e-mail at a site that is called suspendabortion@aol.com and he will be able to inform you more clearly of what can be done and how to go about it and to exert your voice as a person and as a citizen of this state and of this country and to make your voice heard on behalf of those who have been deprived of a voice and have been deprived of legal personhood in this state and in this country.


It is an interesting thing that the laws of the United States are very clear that if you were to steal the egg of a bald eagle or the egg of a sea tortoise, you would be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars and you would go to prison, because this [the egg] is a bald eagle or a sea tortoise. But a person in the womb does not have the right that an animal has in this country. That is a sad statement for the choices we have made. It is time that we stand up for what is right and that we proclaim boldly what the Lord makes very clear in Scripture: that He knew us even before we were conceived in the womb, and He called us by name even from our mother’s womb. One cannot have a name unless one is a person. It is time that we stand up and make our voices heard, and that we do our part to declare very simply that babies in the womb are persons, and persons have a right under the law. Under the law of the State of Minnesota and under the law of the United States of America, no person can be deprived of life without the due process of the law. Babies have been deprived of the due process of the law because they have been deprived of personhood. It is time that we stand up and tell our governor and our president that babies are persons, and the unjust slaughter of these tiniest, most helpless persons in our society must end now.


*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.