On March 21, 1965, 3,200 civil rights protesters marched from Selma, Alabama singing "We Shall Overcome" and heading for Montgomery. Their numbers grew to 25,000 when they eventually reached Montgomery. Selma had been the scene of a two year effort to register black voters and desegregate public lunch counters.
Many people look to that march, the culmination of the civil rights movement's protests and its courage in the face of violence and retaliation in Selma, as a turning point in American history. For many Americans at that time, the denial of Blacks' civil rights was the defining moral issue of the age. This courageous minority eventually captured the imagination of the nation and brought about fundamental reform. To this day, there are individual Americans of my generation who look back at the March from Selma as life changing. It certainly was nation changing.
Notre Dame University honored President Barak Obama with a Doctor of Laws and its choice of him as its commencement speaker. Many Catholics saw this honoring of a man whose actions contribute to further deaths of the unborn as a dishonoring of the charism of the premier Catholic University in America.
Two thousand five hundred protesters gathered at the Grotto for prayer and in the quadrangle for mass and a peaceful protest. Many more protested outside the campus and scores were arrested on Notre Dame's campus. Among the arrests were eighty year old Father Father Norman U. Weslin founder of Lambs for Christ, Alan Keyes, and Norma McCorvey. Norma McCovey is the "Jane Roe" the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that abolished America's abortion laws.
Many people, indeed most people, in America do not view abortion as the defining moral issue of our age. That is true of most people who identify themselves as Catholics. History often has a very different perspective from that of the majority in any given time and place. It would be ironic if America's first Black President occasioned the protests that history looked back on as the Selma, Alabama of the Pro-Life movement: the turning point in the nation's treatment of its most vunerable citizens' civil rights.