STATEMENT FOR RESPECT LIFE MONTH
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo – Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
During the Respect Life Month of October, Catholics across the United States will gather in prayer and thanksgiving, at charitable and educational events, and in public witness to the unique and priceless value of every human life, guided by the theme for this year’s Respect Life Program: “The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.” With each passing year, the need for personal and public witness grounded in God’s boundless love for each and every human being grows more urgent. With over one million innocent children dying from abortion each year, the plague of abortion remains embedded in our culture. It is encouraging to see the continuing decline nationwide in the number and rate of abortions—due in large part to fewer teens becoming sexually active, and to growing recognition of the humanity of the unborn child. Yet the loss of even one child, and the pain experienced by the child’s mother and father in the aftermath of abortion, should impel us to redouble our efforts to end legal abortion, and to ensure that every pregnant woman has whatever help she needs to turn away from this heartbreaking choice.
For those the pro-life community could not reach and assist before they underwent an abortion, the Catholic Church throughout the United States offers compassionate, confidential counseling through its Project Rachel ministry. In contacting Project Rachel, no one need fear that they will encounter anything less than a reflection of God’s love and mercy and His constant offer of forgiveness and healing.
In many areas of public policy, the rift continues to widen between the moral principles expressed by a majority of Americans and the actions of government. For example, Americans oppose public funding of abortion by wide margins, with 67% opposing federal funding of abortion in health care in one recent poll. In early 2009, Catholics and others sent over 33 million postcards, and countless e-mails and letters to Members of Congress, urging them to “retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”
Yet in March of this year, Congress passed a health care reform law that allows for federal funding of abortion in some programs and could pressure millions of Americans to help subsidize other people’s abortions through their health care premiums. Ensuring that health care reform will meet the urgent needs for which it has been proposed, and is not misused to promote abortion or to trample on rights of conscience, will be an urgent task in the coming year.
Defenseless human life is also placed at risk today in the name of science, when researchers seek to destroy human life at its embryonic stage for stem cell research—and demand the use of all Americans’ tax dollars to support this agenda. In a recent poll commissioned by the Catholic bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, 57 percent of respondents favored funding only stem cell research avenues that do not harm the donor, using stem cells from cord blood, placentas, and other “adult” tissues; only 21 percent favor funding all stem cell research, including research that requires killing embryonic human beings. Yet the current Administration issued guidelines last year to fund human embryonic stem cell research, and some in Congress are preparing legislation to ensure continued funding despite a federal court’s finding that these guidelines may violate the law.
At the other end of life, seriously ill patients are again under threat from a renewed campaign for legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Instead of addressing these patients’ real problems by providing love, support and relief of suffering, this agenda urges us to eliminate the patient as though he or she is the problem. Marching under the false banner of “compassion” and “choice,” it raises the fearsome prospect of a future in which the only “choice” cheerfully granted to our most vulnerable patients is a lethal overdose of drugs.
Becoming a voice for the child in the womb, and for the embryonic human being at risk of becoming a mere object of research, and for the neglected sick and elderly is one of many ways we can teach our fellow citizens that “The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.” While critics want to portray the Church’s witness as a narrow and negative ideology, it is just the opposite: A positive vision of the dignity of each and every human being without exception, each loved equally by God and so equally deserving of our love and our nation’s respect.
Because we are created in the image of God, who is Love, our identity and vocation is to love sacrificially for the sake of others. Pope Benedict XVI has called this “the key to [our] entire existence.” In a homily during his recent visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict reminded us that “our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy and pride,” and that “pure and generous love is the fruit of a daily decision.” Every day, he reminded us, “we have to choose to love.” In our homes, schools, workplaces, and in public, if we constantly witness to the inestimable worth and dignity of each human life through a loving concern for the good of others, if we allow the dignity of every human life to guide the decisions we make as voters and public policy advocates, we can surely succeed in creating a more just and humane society.
Our efforts, of course, must always be undergirded with prayer—the silent space for personal daily prayer that allows us to hear God’s voice deep in our hearts, and communal prayer that asks God to transform our culture into one that welcomes every human person.
Recently Pope Benedict made an unprecedented request for such prayer, by asking that Catholic bishops throughout the world, and all parishes and religious communities, observe a “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” on the evening of Saturday, November 27, 2010. The U.S. bishops’ offices for pro-life activities and for divine worship will be working together to provide worship aids to assist pastors in planning these vigil services.
Speaking for the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, I heartily encourage all Catholics, whether at home or traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays, to take part in this special prayer, whose purpose according to the Holy See is to “thank the Lord for his total self-giving to the world and for his Incarnation which gave every human life its real worth and dignity,” and to “invoke the Lord’s protection over every human being called into existence.”
May God bless all who work tirelessly to build a culture of respect for every human life, from conception to natural death.
September 27, 2010