Among other titles—the month of the Holy Rosary, the month of the missions—the thirty-one days beginning Tuesday are Respect Life Month.
To protect the dignity of the human person, and the sacredness of every human life, from the womb to the tomb, are pillars of our Catholic social justice principles, as well as normative for a Republic fostering the common good.
Pope St. John Paul II often urged a “culture of life” to counter a dominant “culture of death,” and Pope Francis frequently describes a “throwaway culture,” where human lives can be discarded, trashed, abused, and eliminated.
While there are an abundance of reasons to be dismal about our noble efforts to protect innocent human life—as was so grisly evident last January with the morbid celebrations of New York’s gruesome abortion expansion law—causes for hope abound, too.
One such reason for confidence comes from our society’s growing apprehension about widespread cheapening of human life by violence, where the elimination of others who are “a bother,” “different,” or “in the way” is evident in a wide swath of our culture.
On one side, people rightly worry about the denigration of immigrants and refugees, a lurking racial hatred, the preference for capital punishment, and rampant gun violence.
Then, on the other spectrum, are folks who laudably mourn abortion, physician assisted suicide, and a chipping away of the unique and privileged role marriage and children, as defined by the Creator, have as the sanctuary of life and the common good.
Both sides express anxiety over the rising rate of suicide, the drug and opioid epidemic, and a coarsening of culture that reduces opponents to vilified objects.
As glared the front page headlines last Sunday, “The world we live in now is one in which no place is safe, no lives really matter, when it comes to violence.”
Over the recent months, I’ve met with a lot of highly regarded leaders in our community on this respect life challenge afflicting a country where life is listed as the first of our inalienable rights. Two such sessions are illustrative of the division we face.
One leader was very supportive of our advocacy for the right to life of the baby in the womb. But then she offered a bit of criticism: “Lay off for a while your defense of the immigrant and refugee. You’re losing support and watering down your pro-life stance.”
Two weeks later yet another leader came in for a chat. He was thrilled with our stance on the rights of immigrants and pushing of gun control, but chastened me, “You’re way too hung up on abortion. Drop it, or at least tone it down for a while.”
Needless to say, I was hardly receptive to either piece of advice, and told them so.
It’s a “package deal,” folks, and I for one am very grateful for our holistic, consistent respect for life ethic. When I see our people in peaceful advocacy in front of an abortuary, or outside a prison in another state where an incarcerated inmate awaits imminent execution, I cheer those pro-life people on.
When someone taunts me, claiming we are “hung up” on the life of the pre-born infant, I agree! We are!
When I encounter another who asks me why we are “on the side” of those who, like our grandparents, are eager for a secure new home here in America, I’m happy to explain.
Nor do I apologize for our particularly vigorous defense of the tiny baby in the womb. I’m afraid that, if life is not secure there, it’s in jeopardy anywhere. If the scissoring of the preborn baby is praised, defended by law, paid for by tax money, and considered a right which trumps all others, should it surprise us that, as Pope Francis claims, “We can put out a contract on any other life that gets in our way?”
Ronald Reagan used to observe that, once a democratic people has all the facts, and can assess the results of certain policies and trends in our common lives, then people will make the right choice.
We watch that starting to happen, as more and more thoughtful people begin to worry about the toxins in our culture: drugs, suicide, violence, weapons, racism, euthanasia and abortion.
Happy Respect Life Month!