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Culture of life: Where do we go from here?

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As we celebrate Respect Life month, we are reminded once again of our mission as people of life. The following are excerpts of a reflection written by Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities:

Where do we go from here? The challenge of building a culture of life.

The effort to restore legal protection for unborn children faces new challenges as we deal with a new administration and Congress that support “abortion rights.” Many are asking: Where do we go from here?

We first need to recall why we are here, why we Catholics became involved in these tough battles. We begin with the dignity of each human person.

This intrinsic God-given human dignity is the basis for all inalienable human rights – beginning with the most basic right, the right to life. It is most basic because it is the condition for all the others. First we must live, then we can talk about living well.

Abortion and euthanasia are preeminent concerns of the Church for reasons that are intrinsic to these issues, as well as reasons that are situational.

Intrinsically, these acts always constitute the direct taking of a human life when it is most innocent and defenceless. And they are willed and carried out by those most called to defend human life – members of the healing professions, and of one’s own family. To undermine these two havens of life is to make a culture of life impossible.

Situation ally, these issues are the places where those committed to a conditional and selective vision of human rights have planted their flag in our time. They want to draw lines between the important and unimportant members of society, between persons and “nonpersons.” In a different time or place the forcing issue might be slavery, racism or anti Semitism – today abortion and related issues force us to decide whether we mean what we say in speaking of inalienable human rights, inherent in simply being human.

In particular, the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has made abortion the battleground over our tradition of inherent human rights, and has polarized our society as nothing else has. Later efforts to use law as a weapon against other innocent human lives – against newborn children with disabilities, for example, or against the sick and elderly through a “right” to assisted suicide – have cited Roe as their inspiration and precedent.

Thus in promoting a culture of life, we must give priority to defending innocent unborn boys and girls from direct attack. We must also make it clear how this effort stands for the dignity and well-being of everyone, before and after birth.

In defending conscience rights in health care, for example, we stand with the unborn child, and also with the women and men of our healing professions whose freedom of conscience is at risk.

By insisting that the federal government promote only morally sound stem cell research, we defend the life of embryonic children – and also the health of patients endangered by the many risks of attempted embryonic stem cell treatments and the health of women whom some want to exploit as “egg factories” for attempts at cloning human embryos for stem cells.

Our task is to change hearts and minds, including our own. Nothing does this more effectively than prayer and sacrifice. Through his saving power, and with the prayerful intercession of our Blessed Mother, we can build a culture of life.

Joan Crown
Director, archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry

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Comments from readers

JESUS ESCOBAR - 10/11/2009 05:06 PM
Dear Joan:
Thanks for your response to me on " those that though 'alive', need to be rescued from the DEAD". During this past week, I have been meditating on those who also have a claim within the 'culture of life'...our elderly parents: those who gave us the precious life on which we hold to... those who noursed us, cleaned and care for us during our first developing can we possibly forget all that they did for us... how can we possibly dare to look at them with disdain, lacking compassion and even rejection ? Now, when they are old in days, weak, ill or depressed ? How can we possibly forget that ALL we are is because they gave us their PRIME... for free ? Please Joan: help me find some light on this...
Joan Crown - 10/07/2009 02:30 PM
Thank you all for your comments to this posting and for your support for the work of the Respect Life Ministry.

To Jorge: I would be very interested in talking to you further about the Nativity Project. You can reach me at 954-981-2922 Tues - Fri. Thank you for all that you are doing.

To Mike: I am convinced that most Catholics who profess to be "pro-choice" are so because they bought into a lie that has not been adequately exposed. The silence you speak of usually comes from FEAR or the feeling of not being able to properly articulate the Church's teaching.

We offer to all parishes a one-day workshop asking the question - How can we begin to resolve the crisis in our country if we do not understand the problem? Learn what and why the Catholic Church teaches on the critical life issues of our day. Learn how to defend the sanctity of human life at all stages. Learn how to become part of the soluntion instead of the problem!

The next scheduled workshop is Feb. 6, 2010 at St. Andrews Church in Broward. We must choose to know the facts.

To Jesus: You are absolutely right. We are each called to serve a corner of the vineyard. Each life, born and unborn, are as important as the other. Most times it is those very people who have been rescued from the dead who turn out to be the saints who lead the rest of us. The important thing is that each and every one of us must find our calling in a troubled world and answer "Yes" to do our part regardless of the sacrifice.
JESUS ESCOBAR - 10/06/2009 06:36 PM
Dear Joan:
A battle for a 'culture of life' can be sustained from several fronts. One of them (the most visible) lies at instances where embryos are stopped from being born. Another instance '' not less important in contribution '' is that one which promotes the 'coming to life' of all those who though 'alive'... are DEAD. For example: any 'living' human who remains deeply 'immersed' in any addiction of the mind or the body: be it in drugs, gambling, alcohol, pornography..., epitomizes a typical example of a DEAD 'living' being. In consequence, all the so many ministries (spread throughout the World in wide diversity of religions, denominations, and lay groupings)'' who work on the recuperation of the so many affected by such endeavors''produce immense work (usually invisible) towards the building (re-building rather) of a 'culture of life'. Whenever we find ourselves working on the 're-surrecting' of any 'living' DEAD human, we are also importantly contributing towards the dissemination of our envisioned 'culture of life'.
Jorge Egues - 10/06/2009 09:59 AM
Joan, I have great respect for your efforts and those who dedicate themselves to Pro-Life Issues. I am actively involved with the Knights of Columbus and the Columbia Squires Program (Teenage Group affiliated with the K of C). We initiated a Nativity Project last year that raised funds for Respect Life. I would like to expand the program this year and would like to discuss the concepts with someone from the Archdiocese. Please contact me at your convenience. God Bless, Jorge Egues
Mike Plummer - 10/06/2009 07:29 AM
As a deacon and parish DRE, I spend a great deal of time interacting with my fellow Catholics. I am often surprised and appalled by what I hear in my day to day conversations with our people. My comments below are anecdotal rather than scientific, but I think they are, none-the-less, valid.

All too many of our Catholic people are actively pro-choice. They simply reject the teaching of the church in this critical aspect of our discipleship.

Many others place our pro-life teachings very far down on their personal priority list and accept pro-choice as an unintended consequence of supporting other issues.

Still others remain silent on life issues due to a misplaced attitude of Political Correctness. Even some of our most active Catholics fail to speak out for fear of upsetting another or being labeled as intolerant.

We must prayerfully search for ways to move the message of God's call to life beyond these internal barriers and help all people see the great beauty that comes to us through the gift of life itself.

May God bless you and all who champion the cause of life.

JESUS ESCOBAR - 10/05/2009 08:56 PM
Dear Joan:
I rather not elaborate on Laws encouraging or discouraging the building of a 'culture of life'. Allow me to focus my contribution from another standing point. I envision that if we humans are propelled to evolve towards a 'superior' state of consciousness '' that so called 'noosphere' in terms of our beloved Teilhard de Chardin, at some point that 'supreme' condition will confine us into a 'culture of life'. Needless to say, Lectio Divina '' our personal immersion within the Scriptures, can very well catalyze that...our 'evolving' manifested as the 'supreme' stage of the 'noosphere' : God dwelling...among us, re-directing the course of destiny...that which from the beginning...was meant to be... a 'culture of life'.
Richard DeMaria - 10/05/2009 02:57 PM
Joan: I commend you on this blog which gives your reader the history and rationale of the Catholic pro-life position. It's good to begin at teh beginning. I want to encourage your readers to be in contact with thier federal legislators to let them know that we consider it important that any insurance reform program have specific language against using funds for abortions and specific language to protect the conscience of those health workers do not wish to participate in what they consider a form of murder.

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