The Florida Catholic • Oct. 19, 2000
deserves more than lip service
Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell
Bishop of Palm Beach
Can you believe that there are some people - even some Catholics - who
cringe when they hear the words Respect Life? How could that be?
This month of October is dedicated to enhancing our appreciation of
this great and basic gift of life. It is called Respect Life Month.
For us Catholics, there is no question that this includes all life, and most
especially all human life from its first moment of existence to the moment of
natural death. We acknowledge that God is the author of life and is the only one
who has total dominion over it.
This means for us that we have the utmost respect for the life of the unborn
in the womb and that we do all we can to promote that respect. It means that we
respect the life of the physically or mentally disabled, the aged, the
terminally ill, those in prison - including those on death row.
Nobody has done more to nudge us Catholics into adopting this consistent
ethic of life than Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II himself. He really has
left us with no wiggle space. We just cannot afford to pick and choose. ALL life
is sacred, sacred to God, and we are not God.
Not all Catholics are supportive of the Holy Father's teaching - some differ
with him on abortion, others on the imposition of the death penalty. But they
are wrong. Life at all stages is sacred. There are helpful theological
principles to guide us in the care of the sick, principles which govern the
kinds of means to be used or which need not necessarily be used particularly in
the case of the terminally ill. Even in these situations, we approach such
questions with utmost respect for human life.
Most dioceses have a diocesan coordinator of Respect Life ministry, which we
do have. The prime responsibility of such an office is to see to it that there
is a Respect Life ministry in every parish. This does not call for a huge or
expensive bureaucracy, but it does mean that there will be a small group of
people in every parish who will keep this Respect Life ministry before every
parish organization. This is where the most successful action occurs.
Some ask for mention to be made in homilies from time to time during the
year. I agree that there are many occasions when the Sunday readings do permit
an application to this particular cause - and that can be helpful.
But we need to do more than pay lip service to this cause from the pulpit or
engage in some activity around the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the U.
S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand.
I believe that a parish organization that gives regular, ongoing prominence
to promoting respect for all human life; that promotes prayer for a change in
the national climate; that promotes education on a too-often misunderstood
aspect of church teaching; that distributes and promotes the materials made
available by our National Conference of Catholic Bishops, by the Florida
Catholic Conference and by The Florida Catholic newspaper to help guide
our electorate would surely produce better and faster results.
I would like to see such a parish organization in each of our 52 parishes by
this time next year.