By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
In a gesture with clear implications for debates over abortion, the U.S. bishops this morning voted on a new “Order for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” in both English and Spanish.
Though results of the vote were not immediately released, and the text will eventually require the approval of the Vatican, it seemed clear the bishops were positively inclined. Plans call for the text to be included in future editions of the church’s Book of Blessings.
In part, the blessing reads: “May almighty God, who has created new life now bless the child in your womb. The Lord has brought you the joy of motherhood: may he now bless you with a safe and healthy pregnancy. You thank the Lord today for the gift of your child: may he bring you and your child one day to share in the unending joys of heaven.”
There’s also an optional blessing for parish communities which reads in part: “May God bless this parish community as it welcomes the gift of new life and joyfully accepts the responsibility of sharing in the spiritual formation of this child (or children).”
In brief floor discussion, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville argued that the blessing is “a very tangible way to witness pastorally and sacramentally to the life of the unborn child.” Kurz also suggested that the prayer could be used not only on an individual basis, but by parishes bringing together couples who are expecting children for public ceremonies of blessing.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the conference, called it a “very moving blessing.”
Bishop Michael Pfeifer suggested that the conference eventually designated a nationwide Day of Prayer for the unborn.
In part, these gestures suggest a "full-court press" from the bishops in terms of fostering a strong pro-life sensibility in the church.