Bishop Prays at Headstone for Aborted Fetuses

Times Staff Writer

About 30 people gathered Sunday at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange for a memorial ceremony led by the Diocese of Orange Bishop Norman F. McFarland and dedicated to those "whose lives have ended by abortion."

The Roman Catholic bishop blessed a black marble headstone placed over an empty grave in front of the cemetery office, then led the group in 20 minutes of prayer. The memorial is "dedicated to millions of God's children deprived of the gift of life," he said.

McFarland prayed: "May we ourselves and our government leaders ... be moved by your spirit to restore respect for the life of the unborn and all life."

In 1985, 31,210 abortions were reported in the county, almost as many as the 37,883 births for that year, according to the State Health Department.

The bishop said he suggested the memorial after hearing of another in Eureka. "It's such a simple thing," he said. "It's a sign, a witness of our concern for this whole matter."

McFarland, like the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, opposes the use of birth control devices and abortion in any circumstance, in line with Vatican teaching.

However, surveys have shown that most Catholics disregard church dogma on birth control and believe abortion is morally acceptable in circumstances of rape, incest or serious fetal defects.

The $650 headstone was paid for by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's fraternal group whose members stood at attention during the ceremony.

During the month of October, Catholics have been urged to contemplate the "whole miracle of life, not only in regard to abortion but in all other aspects that touch on the sanctity of human life, the treatment of the aged, the whole question of euthanasia," McFarland said.

The first Sunday of the month, Oct. 2, is called Respect Life Sunday.

The memorial is "not going to stop the number of abortions," McFarland said, "but there should be this recognition of the gravity of this act."

"People do realize the gravity of the act," Cindy Scheinberg, executive director of the Santa Ana-based Coalition Concerned with Adolescent Pregnancy, said earlier. "I don't know anyone who has not been impacted by that (gravity). It's not so simple."

The idea of a memorial "leaves you empty," she said. "What does it help? What good does it do?"

Wendy Lozano, director of the county chapter of the National Organization for Women's political action committee, said earlier: "It's really sad to see the emphasis misplaced. If there was as much emphasis on preventing unwanted pregnancies as mourning over the loss of potential life, the quality of life could be dramatically changed for men as well as women."

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