Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer
February 3, 2011 // Diocese

Father John Raphael delivers powerful message to pro-life audience

Bonnie Elberson
Freelance Writer

FORT WAYNE — The Scottish Rite Center in downtown Fort Wayne was the site Saturday for the 37th Allen County Right to Life rally and the starting point for the March for Life which followed. The annual event marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades opened his remarks with an invocation, “We thank You for the gift of human life… Your glory shines on the face of every human being … protect, Lord, those who are most vulnerable in today’s society.”

Keynote speaker for the day’s event was Father John Raphael, an African-American priest and principal of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. Father Raphael is well known nationally for his strong words during the pro-life rally in May, 2009, on the campus of his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. The rally was held on the same day that President Barack Obama gave the commencement address and received an honorary degree from the university. “Notre Dame made one of the worst decisions” in conferring that degree, he said, because of the president’s support of abortion.
On this more recent occasion Father Raphael’s message was equally powerful. He told the story of his own childhood, of being told by his parents that, with dedication, study and hard work, he could grow up to be president of the United States. He admitted that he never really believed a black man could be elected to the highest office of the land so when it finally happened, it was a highly symbolic event for the African-American community.

Finally, a black man had become Commander in Chief, not just the chief butler in the White House. “Even I could understand and appreciate that symbolism,” he said.

But substance must triumph over symbolism, he pointed out. And the truth is that this president is not pro-life and must be challenged on that point. “We are bound to walk, talk, march — to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.” The beauty of being American is that we “have the ability to right that which is wrong.” We have the fundamental freedom to live out our convictions, he pointed out.

He railed against all politicians who speak of social justice yet support abortion. We are destroying tomorrow’s work force and talent pool, he said. The root of all social justice is protection of life.
Father Raphael has dedicated himself to bringing more African-Americans into the pro-life movement. He admitted that many in the black community can’t understand how a black priest can speak out against a black president, but he feels he must live out his convictions and attempt to spread the pro-life message. Only then, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, will we be “free at last,” he said.

In other highlights, Cathie Humbarger, executive director of Allen County Right to Life, reported that the National Abortion Rights Action League recently gave the state of Indiana a grade of “F,” drawing enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Newly elected U.S. 3rd District Congressman Marlin Stutzman reported that he believes we will soon see passage of two pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives, one guaranteeing the sanctity and protection of life and a second defunding Planned Parenthood. His words were warmly received as well.

Regarding pro-life legislation closer to home, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters updated the audience on the patient safety ordinance passed recently by commissioners which has greatly reduced abortions in Fort Wayne and put the local abortion clinic in financial trouble. He exhorted his listeners, “Stay strong and help us unite this city for life.”

Finally, in a taped message, Congressman Mike Pence congratulated the audience for electing a pro-life majority both in Indiana and in Washington, D.C. “This is a cause in which we must never relent,” he said.

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