October 4, 2012
On three successive days this week I am taking part in prayer and presentations. On Thursday, Bellarmine University will hold an ecumenical prayer service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. We recall Vatican II as a time of renewed faith and new life as the Church sought to draw close to Jesus Christ in returning to her roots and in addressing with new vigor the call to “renew the face of the earth.” The Church was seeking to have an effect in shaping culture and confronting new challenges.
The other two talks relate to both the opportunities and great challenges of our day as we seek to shape culture. Both break open this year’s theme for October’s Respect Life Month. The theme is an attractive and an urgent one: “Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty.”
How beautiful it is to reflect on the gift of human life. The blessing of the child in the womb, which we seek to promote throughout the archdiocese, captures that beauty as we affirm the dignity of the child in the womb and ask the Lord’s blessings on the child, along with her mother, father and family. We are seeking to join them in their joy and expectation as well as support them in their concerns. The Church is at her best in welcoming children, as did Jesus throughout His public ministry.
Sadly, however, this January also marks what this year’s Respect Life packet rightly calls “…a shameful anniversary, marking forty years of a ‘culture of death’ that began when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down all state laws restricting abortion.” The statement continues, “…since the advent of legalized abortion, over 53 million children have lost their lives, and their parents and family members have been forever, unalterably changed.”
In the Book of Deuteronomy, verses 19 and 20 of chapter 30 give clear directions to the people of God:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.” This is the theme I presented at St. Stephen Martyr on Tuesday and at St. Patrick on Wednesday. The former presentation, called “Witnessing to the Dignity of Human Life,” was to leaders of Respect Life Committees from throughout the archdiocese, and I thank Sharon Schuhmann and Maureen Larison for preparing these seminars. The latter presentation was to the Respect Life Committee of St. Patrick parish.
This year’s packet, sent to each parish, contains a wealth of urgent issues, including the dangers of:
- Internet pornography.
- Doctor-assisted death by suicide.
- A “contraceptive mentality.”
To the positive efforts of:
- Youth participating in ever-growing numbers in “Choose Life” rallies. (The pamphlet is titled “The Call to Greatness” and cites 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”)
- Marriage as the sanctuary of life.
- Concrete efforts to reach out to pregnant women in need, along with their families.
Underlying all of these themes, however, is the ever more urgent call to protect the voiceless child in the womb.
Knights of Columbus Call to Civility
Of special note is a pledge that I signed and would recommend highly to you. It is a pledge of civility from the Knights of Columbus, who have launched a campaign for “Civility in America.” There has been a lot of “shouting down” the opposition. I personally have felt it when seeking to uphold and articulate respect for human life and the great gift of marriage and family.
Too often in America, instead of calm, rational and, yes, passionate dialogue to persuade others about what is truly best for the common good, some have resorted to caricatures and ad hominem attacks, which seek to demean the person speaking instead of addressing the topics being presented. I recall Pastor Rick Warren of California speaking well about this when we were on the University of Notre Dame panel that I wrote about in my last column.
His comments went something like this: “Being civil does not mean avoiding disagreements or giving in on principles, but it does mean not being disagreeable. Civility is not so much about what is said, but how it is said.”
Well said! Consider taking the “Civility in America” pledge here.
I ask for your prayers and attention to these efforts and issues during October. To see the materials in the Respect Life packet, check with your parish or visit www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program.