The following story is quoted from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial CommissionI ended by quoting the verse for the Gospel Acclimation, "the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen." Christ is that light and we need to make sure it shines through our lives.
As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in World War II, General Eisenhower had been given information about the Nazi concentration camp system well before he led the invasion to liberate Western Europe (June, 1944). Reports on the massive genocide inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, and other groups by the Schutzstaffel (SS) had been circulated among all the Allied leaders. Very few of the Allied commanders, however, had an accurate conception of what is now known to the world as the Holocaust until their troops began to encounter the death camps as they marched into Western Germany.
On April 4, 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. A few days before the Americans arrived to liberate Ohrdruf, the SS guards had assembled all of the inmates who could walk and marched them off to Buchenwald. They left in the sub-camp more than a thousand bodies of prisoners who had died of bullet wounds, starvation, abuse, and disease. The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them. The stench was horrible.
When General Eisenhower learned about the camp, he immediately arranged to meet Generals Bradley and Patton at Ohrdruf on the morning of April 12th. By that time, Buchenwald itself had been captured. Consequently, Ike decided to extend the group’s visit to include a tour of the Buchenwald extermination camp the next day. Eisenhower also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. He wanted them to see for themselves what they were fighting against.
During the camp inspections with his top commanders Eisenhower said that the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He ordered that every citizen of the town of Gotha personally tour the camp and, after having done so, the mayor and his wife went home and hanged themselves. Later on Ike wrote to Mamie, “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.” He cabled General Marshall to suggest that he come to Germany and see these camps for himself. He encouraged Marshall to bring Congressmen and journalists with him. It would be many months before the world would know the full scope of the Holocaust — many months before they knew that the Nazi murder apparatus that was being discovered at Buchenwald and dozens of other death camps had slaughtered millions of innocent people.
General Eisenhower understood that many people would be unable to comprehend the full scope of this horror. He also understood that any human deeds that were so utterly evil might eventually be challenged or even denied as being literally unbelievable. For these reasons he ordered that all the civilian news media and military combat camera units be required to visit the camps and record their observations in print, pictures and film. As he explained to General Marshall, “I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”
His prediction proved correct. When some groups, even today, attempt to deny that the Holocaust ever happened they are must confront the massive official record, including both written evidence and thousands of pictures, that Eisenhower ordered to be assembled when he saw what the Nazis had done.
I bring up this story because it relates to a similar story that is taking place in our country, right now. There is a holocaust in our country that has led to the legal killing of over 45 million persons since Jan 22, 1973. Sadly, it is not a holocaust that we are trying to hide, but many of us fail to take notice of it happening. Those who are promoting the killing post their tally on the internet and in their “professional” journals.
In preparing for this weekend’s homily, I went to the Guttmacher Institute’s web page. They have a page entitled, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States”. I’d like to share with you a few of the facts.
● Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
● Each year, about two percent of women aged 15-44 have an abortion; 47% of them have had at least one previous abortion.
● Forty-three percent of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% as Catholic
The sad reality about this holocaust in America today is that we have pictures of what is happening. Like many of those in Germany, we know the gruesomeness of the killings, but we try to bury our heads and pretend that they are not taking place. We refuse to look at the pictures because it might require that we step forward and do something about the violence that is taking place. I have copies of the pictures and would really like to pass them around, but it is not something our children should see. I just hope that by not passing these pictures around that I am not helping you in your denial of the reality of abortion in our society.
I have mentioned in the past that 3,000 to 4,000 abortions occur every day. The most recent statistics that I could find, which is 2005, point to approximately 3,300 abortions each day. We have about 6,600 people who die each day. That means that 1/3 of all deaths in our country each day are as a result of abortion.
I bring up this discussion about abortion because of an effort that is being put forward by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to fight the Freedom of Choice Act. The Freedom of Choice Act is an effort by the US Congress to cancel out all legislation on the state level to restrict, or reduce the number of abortions. Laws requiring parental notification will no longer be in effect. Laws that provide for a waiting period before an abortion will no longer be in effect. Laws requiring the mother to actually look at the baby in her womb via ultrasound will no longer be in effect. The number of abortions has dropped from 2000 to 2005. In part because those thinking about abortions were exposed to the reality of what is taking place, or were required to take time to think about it. If FOCA passes, these brakes that have been engaged to slow down abortions will be let loose.
Next weekend we are going to have postcards that can be sent to Senators Baucus and Tester, as well as Representative Rehberg. Many dioceses across the country sent these cards in a couple of weeks ago, just before the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The bishops in Montana have elected to promote the postcard campaign next weekend. It is important for us to realize that both of our senators are co-sponsors of the Freedom of Choice Act. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand any longer. These postcards will be passed out after communion next week. You will have an opportunity to fill them out and return them before the final blessing. We will then place them in the mail so the get to our members of congress. But, the cards are only a small step in stopping FOCA from being enacted. In addition to the cards, we need to be willing to write letters to our members of congress. The cards will show numbers, but a personal letter will show sincerity.
For the sake of our unborn, I encourage you to take a step forward to encourage our leaders to respect life. For the sake of all of those who are affected by abortion, I encourage you to fill out these cards next week and to write letters.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Feb 1, 2009 Homily
Here is a copy of my homily for today. I did ad lib a bit at the end to make sure people realized that FOCA is part of the issue and that we need to be aware of other attempts to undermine the advances we've made to support life.