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COMMENTARY: Bishop Sullivan's message, "The unique fingerprints of the unborn"

by Bishop Dennis Sullivan 

Bishop of the Camden Diocese

There is a large attractive billboard located on Route 130 South at the Brooklawn Circle. It looms over the road. Its colorful graphics are eye catching and its message riveting. It certainly did that for me and for my two companions as we recently drove past that intersection. It caught our attention. 

Ten baby fingers are displayed with this message: “I have unique fingerprints nine weeks from conception.” Think about it. Those unique and life-lasting human markings on the skin, fingerprints, are already in place at the ninth week of the life of a baby in the womb of his or her mother. 

Human fingerprints are absolutely individual; no two sets of fingerprints among the entire human race are alike. In the beginning of the third month of pregnancy that unique human identification is in place on the fingers, a personal marking for life. 

We believe that the hand of God is involved in the creation of each human life from the moment of conception. The hand of God touches the infant in the womb and provides personal finger-prints on the hand.

This week marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which made it legal to destroy human life in the womb, a tragic anniversary that marks a disgraceful page in the history of our nation which professes that all are created equal. Evidently, all does not apply to the human being in the womb.

As far as I know, no one has ever proved that what is in the womb is not a human being. Only when the human being emerges from the womb into the world is it recognized in our society as a human person. That is when human life is obvious and needs no proof. Once outside the womb human life is guaranteed its rights. Inside the womb those rights do not apply. 

What is the difference between who is inside the womb and who is outside the womb? The same exact set of fingerprints are found on the fingers of who is inside the womb and who is outside the womb. There is no difference.

The teaching of our Church is very clear. Life is created by God. Life is from God. Life is sustained by God and returns to God. Whatever threatens life in all its wonderful variety of cultural expressions and colors is a threat to God who is life’s origin, sustenance and destiny. Human life is sacred and should be respected because God has created it in the image of God, as the Book of Genesis puts it. Human life has a God-given value and dignity. Too many do not accept this.

Our Holy Father recently said, “Things have a price and can be sold but people have dignity because they are created in the image and likeness of God; they are worth more than things and are above price.”

In the womb and outside the womb it is the same human life which demands respect and which has God-given rights. Unfortunately, in our country those rights do not apply to inside the womb. Thousands of people of good will and faith gathered in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Jan. 22, for the March for Life. Many of those who were unable to join the marchers accompanied us in prayer and even with sacrifices. Your prayers and sacrifices have tremendous value. The abortion tragedy in our country has resulted in a disregard for human life and human values that has unleashed an avalanche against life in our society that is frightening.

For example, in our state of New Jersey there is a bill before the legislature to allow physician-assisted suicide. In effect, killing the sick. What’s next? I shutter to think what could unravel! Perhaps the disabled? This culture of death which surrounds us cannot be ignored nor wished away. We need to keep bothering society and our elected leaders with our call for the right to life. In our personal lives and our parishes we need to put into practice what we believe about the Right to Life. 

There are many wonderful examples of right-to-life efforts in our diocese. Let me mention a few that recently came to my attention. I am so proud to be bishop of these parishioners. At Immaculate Conception in Bridgeton, in response to Code Blue last week during bitterly freezing winter cold weather, they opened their parish hall for overnight use by the homeless. Providing a warm place for those who live on the streets is a right-to-life act. At Christ our Light Parish I heard an-announcements last Sunday about upcoming parish missions to Appalachia and to Honduras. Missions directed at assisting the poor in those areas are right-to-life inspired. At the conclusion of our prayer for Christian Unity at Saint Mary’s in Cherry Hill I joined the parish youth group who brought delicious and nutritious warm foods for supper for the men in the overnight shelter. Feeding the hungry affirms life.

Last Saturday I confirmed some of God’s special children from Saint John of God Religious Education program. Their families beam with the same pride I see in the parish Confirmation ceremonies around the diocese. These special children are loved and respected. Their lives are of the same value as the lives of all the children of the diocese. They have as much a right to life as all children do.

The culture of death is an infectious disease spreading rapidly in our society, but thanks be to God there are those, like the examples I referred to, who witness against the culture of death. Among those witnesses were the Marchers in our Nation’s capital on Thursday, Jan. 22. Buses from our diocese went down to Washington D.C. with God’s good people from our diocese and participated in the annual Right to Life March, each marcher with his or her distinct set of fingerprints since their ninth week in their mother’s wombs.

Written by Bishop Dennis Sullivan and published in the Jan. 23, 2015 Catholic Star Herald