The symbolic fact passed quickly, during a long list of achievements in Carl Anderson's annual report as the leader of the Knights of Columbus.
Weeks earlier, the powerful Catholic fraternal order had donated its 700th ultrasound machine for use in crisis pregnancy centers. This was appropriate news to share during the Toronto convention, which took its biblical theme from Isaiah: "Before birth the Lord called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name."
"The Spanish language phrase that means 'to give birth' is 'dar a luz,' words that literally mean 'to give light' to the child," said Anderson, in his Aug. 2 text. "Our ultrasound program gives a light to the mother that enables her to see the reality and often the personality of her child in the womb."
Right now, he added, efforts to oppose abortion are linked to other public debates. For example, there are efforts to support the Little Sisters of the Poor's work with the weak and elderly, as well as their struggles against Health and Human Services mandates they believe attack religious liberty, seeking their cooperation with health-care plans supporting contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion.
This kind of work does require involvement in politics, noted Anderson, who held several posts in the Ronald Reagan administration. However, he noted that Pope Francis said: "Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good."
Thus, Anderson issued a familiar challenge to his audience, which included about 100 bishops.
"We need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates," he said. "It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. … We will never succeed in building a culture of life if we continue to vote for politicians who support a culture of death."
These are fighting words in a tense year in which the GOP White House candidate has clashed with Pope Francis and Catholic bishops -- conservatives as well as progressives -- on issues linked to immigration and foreign policy. Billionaire Donald Trump now says he is pro-life, after years of supporting abortion rights.
Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton has a bullet-proof record backing abortion rights. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, is an active Catholic who insists he is personally opposed to abortion -- while holding a 100 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood for his work in the U.S. Senate.
The bottom line: This bizarre political year, noted Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, is both "depressing and liberating." It's depressing that both candidates have "astonishing flaws," and America is more polarized than ever. It's liberating because it's easier to "ignore the routine tribal loyalty chants of both the Democratic and Republican camps."
Stressing that he was offering advice, not speaking as an archbishop, Chaput wrote that he thinks the major candidates are "so problematic" that "neither is clearly better than the other." He added: "This year, a lot of good people will skip voting for president … or vote for a third party presidential candidate; or not vote at all; or find some mysterious calculus that will allow them to vote for one or the other of the major candidates. … It's a matter properly reserved for every citizen's informed conscience."
On the Catholic left, John Gehring of the Faith in Public Life think tank blasted Chaput for bashing Clinton, as well as Trump. "Donald Trump's toxic candidacy is sui generis, a grave threat to basic democratic norms and ideals, Christian values and the common good," he argued, in Commonweal. "In this context, the archbishop's astonishing false equivalency is irresponsible and even morally dangerous."
And so it goes. Speaking to the Knights, Anderson stressed the urgency of ongoing debates about the religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Also, it's crucial that "we refuse to let the worst among us define who we are as a people," he said.
Was this a shot at Trump, Clinton or both?
"Faithful citizenship means that in times of tragedy we raise a standard of charity, of unity and of fraternity that can make possible forgiveness, healing and reconciliation," he said. "Faithful citizenship calls us to follow the 'better angels of our nature' to build a better society. But to build a better society we must have the freedom to follow those angels."