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Opportune Moment

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July 2021

Classic movies share a common denominator: a classic line. It could be one that sets the stage, defines a character, heightens a conflict, or resolves a story—and does so in a memorable way. Who will ever forget Vito Corleone’s “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Or Rhett Butler’s parting shot, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Or Harry Callahan’s ominous warning, “Go ahead, make my day.” Some lines, like “Houston, we have a problem,” or “May the force be with you,” became popular expressions.

Just as memorable was a line from Pirates of the Caribbean. Will Turner, the son of a pirate, is head-over-heels in love with Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of an island governor. Out of her class, Will thinks she is out of his league. Elizabeth secretly likes Will, but Will needs to make the first move—and he struggles. After Will and Elizabeth help win a rollicking pirate versus pirate battle, Will has the perfect chance to proclaim his love. Arrgh, he can’t get the words out! After watching Will freeze, the incomparable Captain Jack Sparrow delivers an absolute classic: “If you were waiting for the opportune moment, that was it.”

We all have an opportune moment in life. In fact, there can be many. They can be moments to say thanks for an incredible first sight. Perhaps there’s that moment to make a new friend, or ask someone out on a first date, or apply for a new job, or repair a hurting relationship, or give timely advice to someone really needing it. Sometimes, the opportune moment is a moment to man up, stand up, and speak up. Whether we seize the moment can change our destiny—and change the world.

President Biden is only the second Catholic to hold the office. We’ve been told he is a Mass-attending, Rosary-carrying Catholic. But his inauguration was barely over before he dispelled any notion he will protect the unborn. He: (1) ended the Mexico City policy blocking funding to organizations promoting abortion, (2) celebrates Roe v. Wade as “foundational precedent,” (3) supports the so-called Equality Act that would strip right-of-conscience protections from medical personnel, (4) stopped enforcement of FDA safety regulations covering abortion drugs, (5) restored funding of research using aborted baby parts, and (6) supports taxpayer-funded abortions. His record makes him the most pro-abortion president ever. And he threatens to pack the Supreme Court if he doesn’t get his way.

At least so far, the president hasn’t done anything illegal. He’s just being a faithful Democrat. But is he being a faithful Catholic? And what about those Catholic politicians who advocate the same things? In short, are they in communion with the Church in which they claim membership? So their conduct raises a question about the Church: does it have the right—and duty—to man up, stand up, and speak up? Put it in perspective: if workers discredit their employer’s mission, does the employer have a right to take corrective action?

For the longest time, American bishops have been willing to go along to get along. Maybe it’s because the bishops get government money for their programs. Whatever the reason, the president has now gone so far over the top that a growing number of bishops have become gravely concerned about an abuse of the Eucharist itself. They have every reason to be.

In his pastoral letter Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco explains why. Abortion destroys the fundamental right to life from which all other rights flow. The Archbishop re-affirms the bishops’ declaration that though many issues are important, ending abortion is the “pre-eminent” political issue of our time. Abortion’s wanton taking of human lives and destruction of families makes it so.

As the Archbishop explains, abortion is never a woman’s solitary act. It involves other people cooperating in the evil. Formal cooperation includes not only intentional conduct to bring about evil, but also the encouragement, financial, or political support given to make abortion readily available. This cooperation is never morally justified.

It leads to the central message: the worthiness to receive Holy Communion. Dating back to the Apostles, the Church has held that a person must act consistently with the body of Christ to receive the Body of Christ. Of course, we are all sinners and need the Eucharist to overcome. But those publicly rejecting Christ’s teaching reject true union with Christ. The problem requires Church leaders to speak up to prevent scandal that can mislead Catholics into doing wrong and can water down Church teaching that abortion is unspeakably evil. The Archbishop knows that souls are at stake. “I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood.”

The bishops have heard their brother’s message. By a resounding 168 to 55 vote, they plan to press on without delay on a teaching document about the worthy reception of the Eucharist by Catholics. Before the vote, the Archbishop told them that “the eyes of the whole country are on us now,” looking to measure their courage. He is right.

The faithful know an opportune moment when they see one.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.
© Paul V. Esposito 2021.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us at and on Facebook.

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