Announcing this year's initiative to protect life in his archdiocese, which will begin October 3 on Respect Life Sunday, Portland Archbishop John Vlazny penned an empathetic plea to all citizens of Oregon. His column in last Tuesday's Catholic Sentinel urged the faithful to consider the dignity and value of all human life, making a “love without measure” their motivation for choosing rightly even in the most difficult dilemmas.
“Sometimes the challenges can be formidable when our sisters and brothers are confronted with life issues,” he acknowledged, describing a number of situations in which individuals must make choices of a life-or-death nature.
“It’s very tempting for a college girl to seek an abortion,” he offered as an example, “when she barely knows the father and he offers to help pay for the abortion but in no way cares to be involved with raising a child.”
Likewise, “busy families with an aging grandparent who slips into a 'persistent vegetative state,'” may be “encouraged, even by physicians, to withdraw the food and water that keep him alive.”
The archbishop described a situation perhaps even more painful, involving a similar choice. “A young couple … suddenly finds they are pregnant again and this time with a little girl. But a second trimester ultrasound reveals that the girl has a genetic abnormality that won’t let her live beyond her first or second birthday.”
“There are no easy answers, but there are indeed some good answers that we know are right,” Archbishop Vlazny wrote. “Undoubtedly,” he continued, “sacrifices are going to be required in each instance. But we know that every human being, at every stage and condition is loved by God.”
He went on to describe how individuals facing those tremendous difficulties made the right choices: “A child was born and adopted. An elderly man died of natural causes and the devotion of the family inspired many. The short life of the little girl strengthened family life and helped parents to be truly thankful for the gifts and graces God had given them.”
“How we deal with these situations reflects the depth of our own humanity,” the archbishop pointed out. He explained that the U.S. bishops' Respect Life Program, conducted every October through Respect Life Sunday, “proclaims a consistent ethic of life, one which embraces a number of life issues” and stresses that “every human life is sacred.”
Highlighting examples of this ethical imperative in action, Archbishop Vlazny pointed to the growing pro-life movement among youth. “Once young people are aware of the gravity of abortion,” he observed, “they are eager to join the campaign to build a 'culture of life.'” He also praised the work of Martha and Mary Ministries, a group of nurses, clergy, doctors and others who help and comfort the terminally ill in Oregon.
“This month,” he proposed, “we Catholic people recommit ourselves in the protection of all human life, from conception to natural death.” He especially urged Catholics in Oregon and across the nation to “pray (the) rosary every day, within the family if possible, for the cause of life.”
“After all,” he concluded, recalling the theme of this year's national Respect Life Program, “The measure of love is to love without measure.”