When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the reaction from many in the predominantly-liberal state of Massachusetts, its legislative delegation included, was outrage.
But Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Boston Archdiocese heralded the decision, calling it "deeply significant and encouraging."
"This decision will create the possibility of protecting human life from conception; it calls us to recognize the unique burden faced by women in pregnancy; and it challenges us as a nation to work together to build up more communities of support — and available access to them — for all women experiencing unplanned pregnancies," he said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
O'Malley said as the Catholic Church has pushed for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, it has often been accused of imposing a religious belief on society.
"It is indeed the case that, when addressing the Catholic community, the Church has used both religious and moral arguments to oppose abortion. But when engaging the wider American civil society, elected officials, and our legal system, the Church has defended human life from its inception as a matter of human rights," he said. "Our continued efforts in advocating our position on the protection of unborn children is consistent with our advocacy for issues affecting the dignity of all persons at all stages and in all circumstances of life. The Church employs this principle of consistency in addressing issues of race, poverty, and human rights generally. It is a position that presents a moral argument as a foundation for law and policy to protect human life."
While he welcomes the Supreme Court's ruling, O'Malley said he also understands how "profoundly divisive" the issue of abortion has been and will continue to be.
"Even more tragic has been the personal suffering of women facing unplanned pregnancies in difficult situations," he said. "The Church has consistently opposed the moral and legal dimensions of Roe v. Wade; we also adamantly reject stigmatizing, criminalizing, judging or shaming women who have had abortions or are considering them. Too often isolated and desperate, women have felt they had no other choice. They need and deserve spiritual, emotional, and material support from the Church and from society."
O'Malley said Friday's ruling begins a new chapter but acknowledged that it will not bring an end to public debates about abortion.
"Since 1973, there has been continuing opposition to Roe v. Wade’s reasoning and its consequences. Those consequences have permeated the political, legal, and social fabric of American life," he said. "The radical character of the Roe decision catalyzed some of the deepest reactions and responses to any issue in our nation’s history. The public arguments will now shift to the states, the Congress, and the courts. It is my hope that this new chapter may be a time of a different tone and focus in our civic life."
"As a bishop and a citizen, I hope and pray we can create a culture that protects the most vulnerable at the beginning of life and at any time life is threatened in any way."