By Hilary White - Rome Correspondent
VATICAN CITY, January 30, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews.com earlier this week, Archbishop Raymond Burke sent a message of support from Rome to those in the U.S. who defend human life and the traditional family, telling them not to give up the fight, even though things may seem dire with the election of Barack Obama. The Archbishop particularly urged pro-life people to continue the political and legal battle against the 1973 US Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, that legalised abortion.
"We are in a very dark period for the pro-life movement, which means that now we have really to re-double all of our efforts," he said.
The new president, Archbishop Burke said, must hear from the American people "who I believe are, in the end, pro-life, above all else." But the time has come, with the election of the man who is being called by pro-life advocates the "most pro-abortion president" in US history, to announce clearly and firmly the message of the sanctity of life and family more than at any other time.
"There can never be any let-up on the effort to overturn Roe versus Wade," he said, "because there is, at its deepest core, our most unjust judicial decision. It has to be overturned."
He agreed that people of good will could work with the Obama administration to provide improved services to women in crisis pregnancies and pointed out that the Catholic Church has "above all, been in the forefront of that." But, he said, "that can never exempt us from the duty" to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Despite the difficulties ahead, he urged the pro-life people to be the "tough who get going when the going gets tough."
"It's going to depend upon the pro-life movement to make that voice heard, and to get people to express to the president their dismay with what he's doing, so that he understands that the people of the United States are not for the murder of infants in the womb."
LifeSiteNews.com spoke to Archbishop Burke, who is regarded as a hero by many in the pro-life and family movement, at his offices in Rome, where he was recently appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Catholic Church's highest tribunal, the Apostolic Signatura. The office of Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura is normally regarded as a "red hat" position that brings with it appointment as a Cardinal. It is widely expected among Vatican watchers that Pope Benedict will name Archbishop Burke a Cardinal at the next consistory.
He told LifeSiteNews.com that he is becoming "very concerned" at the number of people who have written to him to say that the election of Obama is a sign that the pro-life movement has definitively failed to overturn Roe vs. Wade. He particularly denounced the idea, put forward by some in the pro-life movement in the US, that the time has come to abandon the fight against Roe and turn exclusively to "education" and to cooperate with the new administration in "reducing abortions" by improving welfare and health services for women.
Archbishop Burke responded, saying, "To me this is a form of self-deception because the law itself is one of the principle teachers in any culture, and you have a law, a decision of the Supreme Court of your country, which says, in effect, that an infant in the womb can be destroyed right up to the time of birth and even in the act of birth."
Until Roe vs. Wade is overturned, he said, "that law remains a teacher in the culture" and "represents a direction given to the life of the society, of the nation.
"So I'm very concerned that some of the dedicated pro-life people don't fall prey to this false reasoning, and then not continue their work for the repeal of this Supreme Court decision."
Archbishop Burke is known in the US as one of the most outspoken members of the US hierarchy on the Church's teachings on the sanctity of life. He was the first among a very small number of US Bishops who enforced can. 915 of the Code of Canon Law, saying that pro-abortion Catholic politicians are not to be given Holy Communion. His position was confirmed by a letter of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in June of 2004.Upon the announcement of his transfer to Rome, Judie Brown, the president of the American Life League, said, "Archbishop Burke's contributions to the Church go beyond anybody's imagination. He is among the most courageous bishops that I have known in my entire life."
The archbishop said, "I have been for years very much in the heart of the pro-life movement as I believe that I should be as a bishop."
"It was painful for me to leave the United States because of my strong conviction about the importance of strong leadership, a prophetic leadership on the part of the bishops in the whole work of promoting the respect for human life."
He particularly urged pro-life and family people to be on guard against becoming discouraged. "Discouragement is itself a prime temptation that Satan uses to get people to stop working for the good," he said. "But the minute you give into discouragement he can get you to do whatever he wants. But if we are people of life, if we are people who honour the dignity of every human life, then we also are necessarily people of hope.
"I understand, from a human point of view, why people are discouraged and why they want to give up or try some radically different approach, but as people of hope we don't have any choice in this matter. We have to continue the battle."