Doing More than Changing Traffic Patterns, Pro-life Holy Hour, January 15, 1999

Rev. Mr. Roger J. Landry
Pontifical North American College
Chapel of Assumption
Pro-life Holy Hour
January 15, 1999


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Matt 2:1-15;16-18)

Homily Notes

The Story of Visiting Bill Cotter in Prison, jailed for peaceful protests outside abortion clinics.

Bill Cotter was a software engineer. Electrical Engineering. Masters in Mathematics

On the day he was sentenced, there were two cases. One was a child molester, the other an attempted murderer. The attempted murderer’s sentencing was prior to my case. He got three years in Walpole and several years added to that suspended. But he was released pending his appeal because the judge felt it would hurt his appeal to be in jail.

The child molester got five years suspended and is free. The judge refused to issue an order saying that she could not work at a school environment with children any more.

Three observations

1) Like Herod, very often abortion is not a sin of ignorance. It’s a killing meant to preserve one’s present state of comfort in life that one fears losing. He knew it was Messiah according to the Prophecies and yet he chose to kill the Messiah and not just the Messiah but all the other children close to his age in Jerusalem. So too humanity of the developing child in the womb is more-or-less conceded to day. There has been a shift to legal personhood debate and rights of the child compared to the rights of the mother.

In this situation of abortion, it is necessary to have new Magi, adoring God in his image found in the developing child in the womb; angels or messengers of the Lord, announcing the danger of what is happening to the child and the mother; and St. Joseph’s, bold and courageous enough to follow through on the advice even at the cost of great peril and sacrifice.

• I think priests and seminarians in particular are pretty good at the Magi role, adoring God in these innocent children, praying for them, praying for their mothers, even welcoming the gift of life.

• Many priests are also good at getting the message of danger out and proclaiming it, though there’s much room here for improvement. We all know that.

But in this case, trying to get the children out of danger like St. Joseph did, we probably deserve a failing grade as priests. That type of sacrifice most of us are not willing to make.

2) Bill Cotter was willing to make it. Story of writing to legislators to change traffic patterns.

In my own words, Operation Rescue is a reasonable or even, in a way, feeble response to mass murder. It’s a direct protection of lives which are imminently in danger of violence and death. You might say it’s a response of obedience to divine law and natural law. It recognizes the humanity of the child, that murder ought to be treated as murder, and that a reasonable response to killing in our midst is to stop the killing. It’s not simply to object to it, or to write to politicians to address the underlying conditions, although those things need to be done, too. If a child is in the road, we go and yank him out of the road instead of turning our backs, going home and writing to change traffic patterns.

I see Operation Rescue as a movement to rescue those who are in danger of being killed.I wrote the Cardinal another letter recently. Somebody sent me a copy of Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured for Christ, which goes into how there was almost universal collaboration on the part of the Church in Romania in 1945—the Church meaning the various denominations, Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic. Some 4,000 representatives met in the Parliament building in 1945. One after another bishops were saying that they saw no conflict between communism and Christianity. “Our church will be loyal to the government.” Some even praised Stalin as a great Biblical exegete.

Richard Wurmbrand was sitting there with his wife, who said “I think you ought to say something about who Christ is and about what Christianity really means.” He said “If I do, you may not have a husband.” She responded, “That would be better than having a coward for a husband.” He said his peace. Some years later he was arrested. He spent 14 years in prison, and I think he himself was tortured. He detailed much of what other Christians went through, how they were tortured, and detailed how the Official Church was an agent of the government. He said if the government couldn’t find a sympathetic priest to fill a church, the church would be closed—though unfortunately they didn’t have any trouble finding a replacement. He described the underground Church, which had many good people in it. No lukewarm members.

3) Priests often don’t support these St. Joseph’s like we ought to. Most of us are not called to do time. Some bishops have. Bishop Austin Murphy. Bishop Lynch from the Carolinas. But we can support them. New Bedford Clinic and how great the Catholics felt that priests were finally showing up.

Worse we cut the legs out from them, by criticizing them because we don’t have the guts they do. After Salvi, the murders of abortion doctors, priests are doing even less.

Frankly, the self-righteousness comes off from people who might want to get off cheap. They come to a rescue but don’t want to risk arrest. So they come as a prayer supporter. There are many prayer supporters who are entirely genuine. But every once in a while, you get someone who forgets that he is supposed to be praying, supposed to be in a Christian demeanor, and who let self-righteousness get the upper hand. Unfortunately, that does come across. I think it diminishes the validity of your witness, or the force of it.

Bill told me that he hoped his prison time would be salvific. He said that the lives of children saved through rescues was worth his incarceration. His greatest pain in prison was not being able to go to Mass every day, worship God in the Blessed Sacrament.

We have that opportunity today. Let’s make good use of it.