Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Committee on Pro-Life Activities
September 25, 2012
This October the Catholic Church throughout the United States
will observe Respect Life Month. This
annual tradition is now in its forty-first year.
Beginning October 7, Respect Life Sunday, our nation's Catholics
will be called to renew their personal commitment to defend all human life, especially
the most vulnerable members of the human family. They will demonstrate this
commitment in a variety of ways—by participating in prayer services and educational
conferences, engaging in public witness and advocacy, and helping to offer church and community services
to those in need.
The theme of this year's Respect Life Program is one often
expressed by Pope Benedict XVI: "Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its
grandeur and beauty." He reiterated this insight during his recent visit to
The effectiveness of
our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want
peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and
terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as
creatures willed by God. … The grandeur and the raison d'être of each person
are found in God alone. The unconditional acknowledgement of the dignity of
every human being, of each one of us, and of the sacredness of human life, is
linked to the responsibility which we all have before God. We must combine our
efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of … the human person. Without this,
it is impossible to build true peace.
These links among faith, the inherent dignity and rights of
human beings, and a just and peaceful society were also understood by America's
Founding Fathers. As George Washington remarked in his "Farewell Address": [L]et us with caution indulge the
supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. … [R]eason and
experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in
exclusion of religious principle.
How can people coexist, much less flourish, in a society lacking
the shared belief that we are called to care for those unable to care for themselves,
not to neglect, abuse or kill them? Such basic moral principles have served
civilization well for millennia.
Yet in recent decades, many people who influence public policy
have promoted various exceptions to these principles.
Initially, medical neglect of the most vulnerable people at the
beginning and end of life—those with disabilities or a potentially fatal
disease—was tolerated as an exception to accepted standards of care. In time, neglect
led to the acceptance of active measures to end the lives of such human beings,
whose existence came to be viewed as a "burden." Now early induction and late-term
abortion for "fetal anomalies," and doctor-assisted death by overdose for the
sick and elderly, are not only State-approved but even publicly funded in some
Nationwide, even healthy unborn children are at risk of being
killed at any time before birth, under Roe
Many fertility procedures used to help couples take home a baby
result in many dead human embryos for each one who is born. When "excess"
babies successfully implant and develop in a mother's or surrogate's womb, fertility
specialists often propose "selective reduction," inducing a heart attack in
each "excess" child. The National Institutes of Health still funds human
embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, which involves killing human embryos to
harvest their stem cells, despite the remarkable track record of adult and cord
blood stem cells in helping patients with some 72 diseases and the lack of
similar results from hESCs.
Until recently, at least accommodation was made for healthcare
providers who, as a matter of faith or conscience, will not take part in
killing or in other procedures they believe to be gravely wrong. Yet now many
government officials believe that maximum access to the full range of
"reproductive rights"—abortion, sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacient
drugs—trumps the right of believers to live and act according to their faith.
Under the "preventive services" mandate of the Affordable Care
Act, Catholic employers and most Catholic institutions offering health coverage
to their employees, will be forced to cover all these objectionable items. Under
the Administration's rule, even individuals who work for these Catholic
institutions will have no right to reject such coverage for themselves or their
As always, the educational materials in this year's Respect Life
Program cover a broad range of topics related to the promotion of human dignity
and human rights, the first of which is the right to life. Abortion remains a
paramount concern, though certainly not an exclusive one, as we approach the 40th
anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January
The nationwide death toll from abortions since 1973 is
staggering—equal to the entire combined populations of California, Oregon,
Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Put another way, it is as if every man,
woman and child now living in the Gulf Coast states from Texas to Florida, or
every person living in the Atlantic Coast states from Maine through Virginia, had
perished from the earth.
And yet the number of deaths alone cannot begin to convey the
full impact of the loss to families and to our nation of each unique,
unrepeatable human being, who was created with the capacity to love, to learn,
to share and contribute to their families and to our country. Nor can numbers
convey the depth of grief and pain experienced by the parents and grandparents
of aborted children, many of whom contact the Catholic Church's post-abortion
ministry (Project Rachel Ministry) for relief from their suffering, for
healing, forgiveness and hope.
Can anyone claim that our country is better off now because of Roe v. Wade than it was forty years ago?
The close bonds, commitments and sacrifices for others, once modeled in
families and carried into neighborhoods, civic organizations and communities, have
Thankfully, positive signs are emerging that give reason for
hope. Polls show that Americans increasingly identify themselves as pro-life.
At the state level, the shift has resulted in the passage of scores of pro-life
laws in recent years, no doubt contributing to the steady decline in the number
of abortions. The youth who have come of age since Bl. Pope John Paul II
inaugurated World Youth Day not only embrace the cause of life, they are
actively involved in promoting life through social media and services to those
in need. Adult Catholics as well, exposed for years to the media's caricatures
of Catholic teaching, are often surprised by the wisdom and rightness of those
teachings when they are given an opportunity to learn more about them. That is
why Respect Life Month and the Year of Faith are vitally important. During
October, and throughout the Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI and
set to begin on October 11, Catholics are invited to gain a deeper
understanding of the teachings of our faith. For our part, we need to live out
these teachings more faithfully, witness them more radiantly in our actions,
and propose them to others in fresh and engaging ways.
By our unflinching defense of human life and religious freedom,
by our witness to the transcendent nature of the human person, and by our
compassionate service to our brothers and sisters in need, may we spark a
renewal of love and commitment to the true good of others. Only a love that
seeks to serve those most in need, whatever the personal cost to us, is strong
enough to overcome a culture of death and build a civilization worthy of human
beings made in God's image.