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Bishop Koenig on U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling: ‘We remain committed to the sanctity, value and dignity of human life’

Bishop William E. Koenig of Wilmington addresses the March 30, 2022 Prayer Vigil for Life and Lawmakers at St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis. (Catholic Standard photo/Andrew Biraj)

Plenty of states such as Delaware and Maryland have laws that will prevent the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court rejection of the Roe v. Wade case from having an immediate impact on the right to have an abortion in those places.

But those laws do not reduce the sense of victory from people who have spent the better part of the last 50 years aiming to get the federal abortion rights decision reversed.

Bishop William E. Koenig, the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington, reaffirmed the church’s support for the protection of life after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its nearly 50-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the country.

“We continue to pray for and support all mothers, fathers, and their children,” Bishop Koenig said in a statement. “We remain committed to the church’s teaching on the sanctity, value and dignity of human life from conception through natural death.”

Organizations that oppose abortion rejoiced in the June 24 high court ruling. Some of the suspense in the decision was reduced as it closely resembles a leaked initial draft of a court opinion obtained by Politico and published online the evening of May 2.

Priests and seminarians from the Diocese of Wilmington join Bishop Koenig at “March for Life” in Washington on Jan. 21. They are, from left. Father Michael Darcy, Mark Donohue, Bishop Koenig, Harrison Frey, Patrick Klous and Father Joseph W. McQuaide IV. The seminarians are enrolled at St. Mary Seminary and University in Maryland.

But it didn’t prevent people who have long advocated Roe’s reversal from welcoming the recognition of those who have spent more than 49 years maintaining that the 1973 opinion was wrongly decided.

“It’s a big check off,” said Nancy Frick, a parishioner at Church of the Holy Child in Wilmington and longtime abortion opponent who said she’s been “fully involved” as a pro-life activist since 1976. “But it’s not the end.”

“This is quite a moment in history, isn’t it?” said Bess McEnany, president of the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition and leader of Delaware Nurses for Life. “It was the right thing to do because in 1973 that was the wrong decision.

“As Catholics, we need to be particularly grateful and humble for the church leaders who have led us on this,” said McEnany, a Newark resident and parishioner at St. John’s/Holy Angels.

People gather for “40 Days for Life” at the Planned Parenthood In Wilmington to pray the rosary Sept. 22, 2021. Dialog photo/Don Blake

“Our job is just beginning again. We need to have more realization to the truth so that we can convert hearts in a peaceful way. We can’t yell at each other, we know that.”

McEnany recalled decades worth of efforts of so many people in Delaware, especially the late Dolores “Dee” Becker, an original founder of Delaware Right to Life. She acknowledges the U.S. Supreme Court ruling won’t change anything in the state where abortion is codified in state law, but she says it is no reason for pro-life advocates to give up.

“Going forward, we have to realize that our role is a matter of life and death,” she said. “That’s going to be a tremendous challenge. I think if we change hearts, we’ll change votes.”

Father Brian Lewis, pastor of St. Jude the Apostle in Lewes, said his parish has a grave marker for the unborn child and he prayed at the site after learning of the decision.

“Praise the Lord,” Father Lewis said. “I prayed in thanksgiving to God and thanked him for this miraculous decision. We have a number of parishioners who most assuredly are elated at this decision and thanks be to God that their prayers have been answered.”

Father Lewis gave credit to all the people who have worked so hard and long for the preservation of life.

“I’m so proud of them and so grateful for them,” he said.

Father Lewis also recognized the struggle remains in Delaware and Maryland, two states in which he has served.

“Some people might say ‘Why should we continue fighting? Why should we bother?’ The truth is, why should we not bother? Why should we not take hope in this? I say we keep going.”

He acknowledged that it’s an issue that divides the country.

“I’m praying for peace and reconciliation and preservation of life and that our country will unite,” he said.

A monument to the unborn is adjacent to the front door of Church of the Holy Child in Wilmington.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

“I think it’s a great moment,” said Frick, pointing out that the decision was issued on the feast of the Sacred Heart. “It’s a big day for this decision to come down. We waited 50 years for this.”

Like many pro-life supporters, Frick is happy with the decision but wants to be sure people understand the effort to oppose abortion carries on, especially locally.

“It’s just going back to the states,” said Frick, who is active in “40 Days for Life,” the pro-life vigil held twice yearly. “I think there’s a misconception that this ends abortion. We’re going to continue supporting women and children and families and offering services to help them. It’s not the end. It goes on with the knowledge that this big chunk of it is overturned. We’ll keep going with the knowledge that every baby’s life is valued.”

The same struggle against state law exists in Maryland where pro-life supporters also cheer the latest decision.

Father Jay McKee is pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd in Perryville, Md. He acknowledges that the Maryland legislature has protected the right to abortion in the state, but he still welcomes the long-awaited reversal of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s what we’ve been praying for in church for years,” said Father McKee, who said he has participated in the annual “March for Life” in Washington over the years.

“I’m glad it did happen and that they had the courage to take that step. I’m hoping it will turn things around.”

Father McKee also acknowledged the ruling being issued on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“He has a heart of mercy,” the pastor said.

“His heart has been bleeding for a long time,” Father Lewis said. “It’s a glorious day.”