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Vigilantly Defending Life

Bishop Paul Stephen Loverde
Bishop of Arlington, Virginia

Published in the Arlington Catholic Herald
Dioceses of Arlington, VA


Today, as health care reform is debated and proposed legislation threatens the protection of life, the civic involvement of Catholics is ever more crucial. Christ’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins illustrates an essential character of the Christian in public life: vigilance. As you may recall, the Lord tells us that ten virgins took their lamps when going out to meet the bridegroom, but only five brought extra oil. Time passed and the oil ran out, but the wise women who had brought extra oil were prepared when the bridegroom did arrive, and entered into the wedding feast. Those who were unprepared had to leave to buy oil from the merchants, and therefore missed the wedding feast. Through this parable, the Lord calls us to keep our lamps burning as we wait for the Lord, ready and alert to follow Christ’s teaching: “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

Currently, the House of Representatives and the Senate are weighing various proposals designed to reform our nation's health care system. It is essential to recognize that this is an area in which we all must be vigilant, because it concerns the dignity and protection of human life. This is the day! This is the hour! The truly vigilant realize that it is not reforming the health care system in itself that is wrong — in fact, some reform is needed. Rather, it is the specific proposals included in that reform that could endanger the lives of the unborn, and the freedom of conscience of health care providers and citizens.

Cardinal Rigali, writing to Congress on behalf of the U.S. Bishops, stated that we have long supported “health care reform that respects human life and dignity from conception to natural death; provides access to quality health care for all, with a special concern for immigrants and the poor; preserves pluralism, with respect for rights of conscience; and restrains costs while sharing them equitably.” Many of you were united in your objection to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) earlier this year, participating in our nationwide postcard campaign that addressed several of these same issues. As Catholics we must uphold these principles regardless of whether the proposed changes are part of legislation like FOCA or part of health care reform. The form under which these proposals appear may change yet again, but we must always vigilantly defend the moral principles at stake. And yet, do not mistake the real need for health care reform so that the poor, the elderly and all Americans have access to quality medical care provided in a just manner.

Once we have educated ourselves about these issues, how shall we be faithful stewards of the dignity of human life? First and foremost, we must pray. Just as in the parable of the virgins who were told: “'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'” we too are invited to spend time with our Lord (Matthew 25:6). With earnest hearts, we ask Him for the grace to be witnesses to the dignity of life and for His blessing on our legislators in their debates and decisions. When we pray, during Eucharistic Adoration or personal prayer, we bring our intentions to the Lord, acknowledging that He alone has the power to ensure the dignity of life.

Secondly, I urge you to contact your legislators asking them to represent your concern for the right to life of the unborn, for the conscience rights of health care workers and taxpayers who find the prospect of participating in or paying for abortions morally abhorrent, and for the very real needs of the poor and the immigrants in our midst. We all have the responsibility to be true advocates of the sanctity of life in the public sphere. You can easily contact your legislators, find other ways to support Catholic moral teaching in the public arena and find a link to the USCCB’s Health Care Reform site by visiting the Web site of the Virginia Catholic Conference,, which is the approved policy arm of the Dioceses of Arlington and Richmond.

Finally, let us remember that our responsibility to be vigilant and defend life must begin with the witness of our own lives. When we treat other people with respect, act with generosity and live out the corporal works of mercy, we testify to the value of all human life. With charity and devotion to the truth in our prayer, in our lives and in our government, we truly practice the vigilance to which Christ calls all of us.

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •