OLYMPIA – Don Richter witnessed each of his seven children’s ultrasounds and was present at their births.
“Every time I see a heartbeat — I don’t see how you could end that,” said Richter, a parishioner at St. Lawrence in Raymond. He was among an estimated 5,000 people of all ages who showed up Jan. 22 for the annual Mass for Life in Lacey, the March for Life at the state Capitol in Olympia, and meetings with state legislators afterward.
Hundreds of parishioners and Catholic school groups from around the archdiocese traveled to the events to pray and advocate for life. This year, the march coincided with the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that decriminalized abortion.
“Somebody needs to stand up for the most vulnerable,” said Sandy Campanario, who rode one of the three buses from her parish, the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver.
The day began with a full crowd at the Mass for Life, celebrated by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain inside Marcus Pavilion at St. Martin’s University in Lacey. Concelebrants included St. Martin’s Abbot Neal Roth, Archpriest Lawrence Gosselin of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and priests from the archdiocese.
“We are caught up in a spiritual combat,” Archbishop Sartain said in his homily. “We must decide if we stand with the Lord Jesus with the light and the light of the world or with darkness and death. It’s not a decision based on cause, but a decision based on someone, the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
“We ask our Lord to root out of our hearts any anger or vengeance or prejudice that obscures our pro-life stance so that we will be motivated ourselves by the love of the Lord Jesus,” the archbishop added.
He noted that Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg wasn’t at the Mass because he was testifying that morning at legislative hearings on bills concerning the death penalty and health insurance coverage for abortions and contraceptives (see below; the archbishop also testified on Jan. 16).
“To say that these bills represent a slide down a slippery slope would be an understatement, and our legislators need to hear from us,” the archbishop said.
After the Mass, the next stop was Olympia and the Washington State March for Life, the 40th time the event has been held. Participants weathered downpour after downpour as they marched across the Capitol Campus, waving signs promoting life, then gathering on the steps of the legislative building to rally, pray and listen to pro-life speakers that included state legislators.
“We need your voices, we need your heart,” said Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way.
Across the street stood about 15 counter-protesters, including one with a bullhorn and another waving a Soviet flag. But the protesters and the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the marchers, estimated at 5,000 by Noreen McEntee Hobson, president of the Washington State March for Life.
“I just love to stand behind life,” said Agnes Kwiecinski, a member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Seattle, who was attending for the first time. Monica White of St. Mark Parish in Shoreline, another first-timer, said she was participating “to bear witness to the sanctity of life.”
Bishop Mueggenborg finished his legislative testimony in time to deliver the last prayer of the March.
After the event, many marchers spent the afternoon meeting with state legislators to advocate for pro-life issues. The March is held on a weekday when the Legislature is in session for just that purpose, according to McEntee Hobson. Every state legislator is lobbied by someone from the March for Life, she said.
Republican Sen. Joe Fain, who represents Renton and other parts of South King County, at left, meets with parishioners from St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Renton. St. Stephen's pastor, Father Ed White, is at right. Photo: Kathleen Tansey
One of those lobbying was Father Ed White, pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Renton. About 25–30 people from his parish’s Respect Life committee scheduled a dozen meetings with various legislators, he said. Father White was part of the group that met with Republican Sen. Joe Fain, who represents Renton and other parts of South King County.
“I think the value [of the meetings] is to build a longer-term relationship with them,” Father White said. Mary Kasprzyk, a St. Stephen’s parishioner, added her hope that the conversations will continue in the future.
All in all, “it was a great day for life,” McEntee Hobson said.
Washington State Catholic Conference associate director Jim Thomas holds an umbrella for Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg, while he shakes hands with Dan Kennedy, co-host of Life Talk Northwest on Sacred Heart Radio, at the Jan. 22 March for Life in Olympia. Photo: Janis Olson
Bishop Mueggenborg testifies against death penalty, mandatory coverage of abortions and contraception
While thousands of Catholics were praying and marching in support of life issues, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg was adding his voice to state legislative hearings on issues of abortion, contraception and the death penalty.
On Jan. 22, the bishop told members of the Senate Law & Justice Committee and the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee that he was testifying on behalf of the state’s 1.3 million Catholics.
He asked the Law & Justice Committee to support Senate Bill 6052, which would eliminate the death penalty.
“Catholics believe that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death because we are made in God’s image and likeness,” Bishop Mueggenborg said in prepared comments provided to Northwest Catholic. He noted that Pope Francis recently condemned the death penalty as “an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.” St. John Paul II also opposed the death penalty, calling it “both cruel and unnecessary,” the bishop added.
The state’s bishops have long been on record as opposing capital punishment, while also making “very clear their deep concern for the families and friends of victims of violent crimes and their commitment to helping them heal,” Bishop Mueggenborg said.
“Murder and other violent crimes cry out for an appropriate punishment, but the death penalty merely adds violence to violence, and perpetuates the illusion that the taking of one human life for another can somehow balance the scales of justice,” Bishop Mueggenborg testified. In some cases, “life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is an appropriate sentence,” he added.
In a separate hearing, the bishop asked the Health & Long Term Care Committee to oppose Senate Bill 6102, which would require all employers — no matter their religious convictions — to provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and abortions.
The bill “threatens to violate the constitutionally protected conscience rights of individuals, churches, businesses and others,” Bishop Mueggenborg said in his prepared comments.
“We do respect and support women’s access to health care,” the bishop added. “However, we have grave concerns that this legislation could result in religious employers and others facing new legal risk simply for following their fundamental right to exercise their conscience and moral or religious beliefs.”
SB 6102 eliminates freedom of conscience protection for businesses, although many businesses in the state are owned and operated by “individuals that have strongly held religious beliefs and, as a matter of conscience, are opposed to offering abortion or contraceptive coverage,” Bishop Mueggenborg said. “Being able to exercise their conscience rights is protected in our constitution. … At a minimum, a freedom of conscience clause should be added to this bill.”
The bishop also weighed in on Senate Bill 6105, legislation that would provide state funding for abortions for certain undocumented individuals.
“We also oppose this legislation,” Bishop Mueggenborg said. “Belief in the inherent dignity of each human life from the moment of conception until natural death is the most fundamental principle of our moral teaching as Catholics. It leads us to reject policies that promote abortion. This same principle also drives our care for the most vulnerable in our communities as well as our support for abolishing the death penalty.”