Each year the Catholic Church in the United States sets aside the month of October as RESPECT LIFE month. Human life must be cherished, protected and defended. This year the theme is CHRIST OUR HOPE IN EVERY SEASON. Hope anchors us in Christ who holds us steady. “From the time we are knit in our mothers’ wombs until we take our final breaths, each moment of our lives is a gift from God” (USCCB “Pray for Life” 2019).
Sadly, we continue to witness the ever-growing attacks against human life, which take place in the womb, in houses of worship, in schools, in hospitals, in science laboratories, in cities, in businesses, in malls and elsewhere. We are bombarded by stories of violence against human life. We must not give up or despair but rather hold fast to CHRIST OUR HOPE IN EVERY SEASON. He gives us strength to persevere despite what is going on around us.
According to the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade, the Constitution of the United States guarantees a woman’s right to abort the child in her womb. This tragic misinterpretation of our Constitution has been forced upon us for more than 40 years.
Today, we have instruments that look into a mother’s womb. A picture is worth a thousand words. We see a child who is moving, growing, developing. It is not an apple nor is it a tumor that is seen in the womb. It is a human life, which can be violently ripped from its natural environment, even up to the day before it naturally leaves the womb and enters the world. Our sophisticated medical advances even perform surgeries on babies in the womb.
I recently saw a movie, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON. It is about two buddies on the road escaping their former situations. One, Tyler, is a petty thief running from those from whom he had stolen; the other, Zak, is a young man with Down syndrome escaping from an institution that controlled every aspect of his life. Tyler encourages and supports Zak who for the first time in his challenged life is successfully making choices on his own and navigating his way in the world. The Down syndrome boy has a huge influence on his pal, which causes him to straighten out his life. Frequently, when it is discovered that a child in the womb has Down syndrome, the parents are advised to abort. How many of us know and love those with Down syndrome who live loving and productive lives? The actor Zak Gottsagen who plays the role of Zak has Down syndrome and is an accomplished actor.
In the past couple of weeks the bodily harm, serious illnesses and deaths caused by vaping is receiving much attention across the country. Yet, the financially successful and powerful vaping industries deny that their product is destructive of human life. There is a movement on in government to control and even eliminate vaping. All well and good. However, there is no government movement to protect innocent human life in a mother’s womb.
Inappropriate weapons continue to find their way into the hands of the mentally challenged. This was never the intent of the framers of the Constitution who allowed for the bearing of arms. I recall being taught that this right was for the protection of the colonists against the British. Children in school; people at worship in churches and synagogues; shoppers in malls have been murdered. Their innocent lives taken by guns in the possession of those who use them for murder. Human life is threatened while the powerful gun lobby and our elected officials, by not backing sensible gun control, do nothing to protect human life.
In the state of New Jersey instead of encouraging a sick person to take advantage of palliative and hospice care, physician assisted suicide is permitted. Who could have imagined a few years ago that a doctor who had sworn the Hippocratic Oath to commit herself or himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness; to protect and uphold life, would participate in the intentional killing of his or her patient? Recently, Pope Francis speaking to a delegation of Italian doctors said, “Medicine must always serve the integral good of the person and never become a tool for doing evil. We can and must reject the temptation to abet a patient in his or her wish to die providing assistance to suicide causing death by euthanasia.” Death as much as life is God’s business and no one should interfere at either end of life.
As a church, we must raise our prophetic voice and not allow it to be shut out as we seek to protect the dignity and the sanctity of human life. The Holy Father Francis has reminded us that “equally sacred are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery and every form of rejection.” These too are victims of the attacks against human life.
The growing trend in our country of disregard for human life is frightening. We have to turn to CHRIST OUR HOPE IN EVERY SEASON as we resist and fight back with prayer and with action against all that destroys the God given gift of human life.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden