Respect Life Month is a time for prayer, reflection and action to advance the right to life and to resist efforts to “silence” moral truth and violate religious liberty, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston has said.
“We will voice our opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced,” he said. “At the same time, we will remind the living victims of abortion—the mothers and fathers who grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child—that God’s mercy is greater than any human sin.”
“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience,” the cardinal said in a Sept. 26 letter marking Respect Life Month.
The Respect Life Program began in 1972 and is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. It begins on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday in October.
Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, reflected on the month’s theme “I came so that all might have life and have it to the full,” Jesus’ words from John 10.
“Jesus refers both to our hope of eternal life, to be restored through his death and resurrection, and to our life in this world,” he added.
The cardinal contrasted unselfish love with the view of life as a “zero sum” game of advancing one’s own interests. The latter can lead to “callous unconcern” for anyone who is “especially weak, defenseless, and in need of our help.”
The weak include the unborn child, an aging parent seen as a “burden” on the medical system, the “excess” embryo in the fertility clinic, the disabled, and the severely cognitively impaired.
Each of these persons is at risk of being dismissed as a “life unworthy of life,” the cardinal warned.
Jesus’ promise of abundant life is “especially poignant” when American culture and, sometimes, government, promote values “inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society.”
“We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. This promotes the dangerous proposition that human beings enjoy no special status by virtue of their God-given humanity,” he said.
The cardinal also criticized a “selfish and demeaning view” of human sexuality promoted by advertising and entertainment media. This view has no place for openness to new life, he said.
“Hence contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the ‘necessary’ back-up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do.”
Both distorted sexuality and disdain for religion are seen in the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to mandate insurance coverage for surgical sterilization and contraceptive drugs and devices, including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” he charged.
The regulation offers an exemption that is “so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one.” It also treats pregnancy as a disease, and not “the normal, healthy state by which each of us came into the world.” The regulation does not show respect for women’s health or freedom, or respect for the conscience of those who do not want to provide such services.
“All these misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions, must be resisted by education, public advocacy, and above all by prayer,” Cardinal DiNardo concluded.
He called for prayer and reflection on how each Catholic might renew his or her commitment and witness to “respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.”