In an extraordinary televised appeal, Archbishop Joseph L. Bernardin will call next week for a massive protest by the 140,000 Chicago-area Catholic school children of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, suggesting the students light candles outside their homes on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the ruling.
The taped message, a departure from the usual method of bishops' letters read from pulpits, will be broadcast Friday to parish schools on the Catholic Television Network of Chicago and to homes via suburban cable systems. In it, Bernardin calls on students to participate in a "Light for Life" demonstration organized by the archdiocesan Office for Prolife Activities.
Candles for the demonstration will be distributed by the parish schools on request, the archbishop tells pupils, suggesting that they have their parents "set it outside your home to show your belief."
The symbolic church protest is scheduled for the evening of Jan. 21, the night before the 10th anniversary of the court's decision.
"Ten years of legalized abortion have been years of darkness," the archbishop's message states. "We want to light a candle to show our belief that we--this nation--will not be taken over completely by darkness."
In a separate statement, Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York urged a divided antiabortion movement this week to protect life "at every moment of existence." Cooke, as chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, is the top Roman Catholic church spokesman on abortion.
Movement divisions, which pitted the Catholic bishops against other groups over legislative strategy, splintered antiabortion efforts in the last Congress. The bishops favor a constitutional amendment to overturn the 1973 high court ruling. Other forces in the antiabortion movement favor legislation, arguing that a constitutional amendment is politically unfeasible.
Cooke denied charges that the antiabortion effort is "solely a Catholic issue" or that Catholics are trying to impose their morality on others. As a result of the court decisions permitting abortion, "the lives of more than 15 million human beings have been destroyed," he said.