Life Insight - 32 Years of Celebrating Life
32 Years of Celebrating LifeBy Greg Schleppenbach
This month marks the 32nd year the Catholic Church in the United States is observing Respect Life Month.
In 1972, the Catholic Bishops initiated the Respect Life program to raise the consciousness of American Catholics regarding ways to promote respect for human life, and to motivate people to establish a just social order in which the rights of all men and women are assured and protected.
"Made in His Image" is the theme of this year's Respect Life program. The program combines prayer, pastoral services, advocacy and education. The program packet, sent to every Catholic parish and high school in the state, contains six excellent articles on timely topics, a beautiful poster, an inspiring flier, liturgical suggestions and a catalog of additional resources.
It reveals a disturbing poverty of our culture that we need a special time each year to consciously focus on the sacred dignity of human life. To be sure, this sacred dignity has been violated throughout the history of man, but today's attacks are different.
While human life and its dignity have been violated pretty much throughout the history of man, most of the violations have been considered to be wrong and were illegal (legalized slavery is one exception in our nation). When the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, it declared an intrinsically evil act to be a fundamental Constitutional right.
The court granted this right only to mothers and only if the victim of the act is her own offspring. Can it be a more certain sign of the devil, or more insidious, than when an act pits mother against her own child?
Not only did this decision result in the slaughter of tens of millions of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, it has, in the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, "deformed a great nation." You simply cannot strip the most basic human right from an entire group of human beings and not degrade how we view human life and human rights in general and other vulnerable persons (elderly, sick, disabled, frozen embryos) in particular.
In "Living the Gospel of Life", the U.S. Bishops apply this hierarchy of rights to the evaluation of candidates for elective office. The "failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community."
Please make an extra effort this month to recognize the beauty, sacredness, and miracle of human life. Say some extra prayers for greater respect toward human life, join or donate to your local pro-life group, or St. Vincent de Paul Society, or otherwise be more attentive to the needs of your neighbor.
Equally important is our participation in the political process, which our bishops teach us is a virtue and a moral obligation. Be sure that you and your family and friends are registered and vote on Nov. 2. Pray and fast for the election of Godly men and women who, above all, will defend the right to life of every human being. Registration forms can be obtained from your county courthouse or from the Nebraska Secretary of State (402-471-2554). The deadline for hand-delivered registrations is 6 p.m. Oct. 22; mailed forms must be postmarked no later than Oct. 15.
Our Lord has called each of us to live and proclaim the Gospel of Life. One day each of us will stand before God and give an accounting of how we responded to this call. And our Lord will judge us not by our success in answering His call, but by our fidelity to Him and the truth about human life and love that He wrote on our hearts.
Greg Schleppenbach is the state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. He can be reached in Lincoln at (402) 477-7517.