June 24, 2022

Dear Members of the University Community,

Today, in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court formally overruled Roe v. Wade. This landmark decision changes our thinking about abortion in two ways. It rejects the unholy idea that there is a constitutional right to kill unborn children. And it returns responsibility for judgments about the permissibility of abortion regulations to the elected representatives of the people. Some state legislatures have already adopted plans for promoting abortion more enthusiastically than ever; others will greatly restrict the practice. Our national debates about abortion are not over. They have just moved to a different forum. Now we will all have a say in deciding how best to care for mothers and children. That is a great privilege and a great challenge.

I was impressed recently with a talk given by Catholic University alumnus Msgr. James Shea, Ph.B. 1997, Ph.L. 1998, at the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal dinner. (He is this year’s medal recipient.) He said that moments like the present offer clarity to those who live through them. The reason our culture “gives us so much trouble is that it is fundamentally unclear about who we are, where we are going, what we are doing and why.”

Being pro-life means much more than opposing abortion. The pro-life movement is about building a civilization of love, through a commitment to life at all stages. Many unsung heroes in the movement have been doing this work with quiet dedication for years. We should be grateful to them and inspired by their moral clarity. “When we are clear about who we are and where we are going,” said Msgr. Shea, “we can foster that civilization of love. Because the very same Voice that called us also imparts to us a love that is beyond our own capacity.”

As a University, we can contribute to building a civilization of love in a number of ways. We should begin by looking close to home. At any university a significant portion of the population (students and employees) are of childbearing age, and unplanned pregnancies are a part of life. How do we care for mothers and children here? How do we strengthen the fathers?  How do we better support all families who are part of the Catholic University community? 

Second, what can we do for our neighbors in the Archdiocese and the District of Columbia? Our students go in large numbers to pray at abortion clinics. I applaud their commitment to prayer and witness. If our efforts there are successful, what can we do to care for the babies who are born into our community rather than aborted?

I have asked our senior leadership team to convene a working group to look for ways we can be more welcoming to mothers and babies, and to report back to the community in October, which is Respect Life Month.

In our culture decisions like Dobbs are usually followed by strophe and antistrophe of angry voices. Let us not join that chorus. Let us instead try to build a civilization of love.


John Garvey