Cardinal Rigali: Respect Life Sunday a day to remember the ‘shared gift’ of human life

Cardinal Justin Rigali
Cardinal Justin Rigali


Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has written a letter for Respect Life Sunday which emphasizes the gift of human life, criticizing attitudes that demean the disabled and the unborn. Death is not a “solution” to the problems of life, he insists in the message.

This year’s Respect Life Sunday, celebrated on Oct. 4, has as its theme “Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile.”

In a Sept. 29 statement Cardinal Rigali, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the occasion is a time to reflect with gratitude on “God’s priceless gift of human life” and to consider our obligations to those at risk of their very lives.

The cardinal criticized the “deplorable” attitude that believes some classes of people are not deserving of the same protections and treatment in health care. He also decried the attitude that sees some people, such as the elderly, as not worth protecting because of their perceived “low quality of life.”

Discrimination in the quality of care given to different groups “directly contravenes” Catholic ethical norms, Cardinal Rigali wrote.

“Unborn children remain the persons whose lives are most at risk in America,” he continued, noting that over one million die each year in abortion facilities. U.S. states are powerless to halt the killing because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, he added.

Stating that 67 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion, the cardinal claimed that all current Congressional proposals for health care reform would allow or mandate abortion funding “either through premiums paid into government programs or out of federal revenues.”

He emphasized that abortion is not health care and condemned the state of Oregon’s provision of assisted suicide in place of costly prescription drugs. Cardinal Rigali also lamented the killing of “embryonic human beings” in stem cell research based on “unsubstantiated hopes” of new cures.

“Death is not a solution to life’s problems,” he continued, charging that only those blind to the meaning of human life could support killing human beings to mitigate economic, social or environmental problems.

The prelate further noted that a “cultural hostility” to children, evident in actions like contraception and abortion, will cause more problems as fewer and fewer workers are born to support the elderly.

“Children, and those who are dependent on us due to disability or age, offer us the opportunity to grow in patience, kindness, and love. They teach us that life is a shared gift, not an encumbrance,” the cardinal wrote, noting that we will be judged on “love alone.”

Citing Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, he asked Catholics to look to “Christ Jesus our hope” who offers to the world “a share in his victory over death.”

The Respect Life Program, which began in 1972, stresses the value and dignity of human life. Respect Life Sunday is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses of the United States.

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