However, the crosses actually represent the millions of never-born U.S. children lost to abortion. They are put up each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and taken down in March by the Knights of Columbus.
“Sometimes we get calls for people asking what they stand for, telling us how nice we are to remember people who passed away,” said Michelle Harkins, administrative assistant at St. James. “And we’re like ‘well kind of.’ The crosses actually stand for those no one ever knew.”
David Summers, president of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic church’s fraternal order, said the organization has installed the crosses annually for almost 10 years. Initially, he said, each cross stood for 1,000 aborted children since Roe v. Wade, but now there are not enough crosses to represent the true number. Nor would there be enough room to put all of them.
“The Knights of Columbus live by four principles: faith, charity, family, and patriotism, and being pro-life fits into all of that,” he said. “We take a pro-life stance on every issue, including capital punishment, because only God has the right to create and take life.”
Since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in 1973, the Catholic position has changed only minimally, according to St. James priest Father Lincoln Dall. Having served in parishes around Jackson and Yazoo City, he has observed the pro-life attitude pervasive in many denominations.
“Southern culture, I think has a lot of respect for life. I find a lot of pastors from other denominations on the same side of this issue,” he said.
Likewise, Summers said the Knights have received only positive feedback about their display, as has St. James, according to Harkins.
But one reason for that may be that until recent years, the display has lacked the banner that now accompanies the crosses and claims them for the innocent. Like Harkins, Summers said he doubts many people realize their meaning.
“The crosses are a silent message,” Dall said. “They speak to different people in different ways. For us, it means we will preach the gospel always.”
Dall said the display was not meant as a gesture of judgmental finger-shaking, only to prompt people to take a moment to reflect on the dignity of life.
Harkins said the crosses were far from condemnation, but were more an effort to reach out to women who have had an abortion.
“We are embracing them with love for their loss, and we are praying for them on their journey,” she said. “Death comes quickly for some, even if they have lived a while, but it came even sooner for those children.”