Bishop Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC
Statement for Respect Life Sunday 2008
“Have no anxiety at all,” Saint Paul tells us in our Second Reading. On this Respect Life Sunday we are very much aware of all the work we still have to do in the defending and protecting of the sacredness of all human life, the life of the unborn, the prisoner, the immigrant, the dying, the weak, the vulnerable and all those who are unable to protect themselves. Thus, we may ask ourselves, “How is it possible to have no anxiety?”
The question seems very practical in light of some of the specific issues confronting us as a people and as a nation. Listen to how Cardinal Rigali, Chair of the Committee on Prolife Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, summarized them:
“This November, citizens in Washington State will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
“In neighboring Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal, the state has refused to cover the cost of life-sustaining treatments for some patients facing terminal illness and informed them that Oregon will pay for suicide pills.
“Embryonic stem cell research also presents grave ethical concerns. The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research and strongly opposes killing week-old embryos or human beings at any stage to extract their stem cells. We vigorously oppose initiatives, like the one confronting Michigan voters in November, that would endorse the deliberate destruction of developing human beings for embryonic stem cell research.
“While the horrific act of abortion remains legalized in our country, we are seeing progress in that most Americans favor banning all abortion. And although one abortion is too many, there is a decline in the number being performed each year.
“However, the progress of the past 35 years could soon be disregarded. Today, we face the threat of a federal bill called ‘The Freedom of Choice Act’ (FOCA). If enacted, the abortion rate will skyrocket. The bill has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly when Congress reconvenes in January.
“FOCA establishes abortion as a ‘fundamental right’ throughout the nine months of pregnancy and forbids any law or policy that could ‘interfere’ with the right or ‘discriminate’ against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Restrictions on partial birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of doctors, nurses and hospitals with moral objections to abortion and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States. We cannot allow this to happen.”
In addition, we recognize that our country has the right and mandate to protect itself and to provide security for all of its citizens. Yet, in its rich history our country has always found a way to welcome the immigrant. Thus, the Bishops of the United States continue to encourage our elected officials to enact comprehensive immigration reform that would necessarily bring an end to the harsh treatment of immigrants in our midst and the unthinkable raids of their families currently being conducted in our State. On Tuesday, I will join with other Religious Leaders in our State and my talk will be available on our diocesan web site.
As we listen to some of these serious issues, we return to the question, “How is it possible to have no anxiety?”
First, our theme for this Respect Life Sunday is “Hope and Trust in Life.” Our anxiety is eased when we see God working through us. The Gospel parable reminds us that we too are sent out into the vineyard, to do our work, to produce fruit. So much is being done in the promoting of life in our Diocese. I attended a gathering on Friday evening aimed to benefit four organizations that promote a culture of life, including Birthchoice, which with the utilization of ultrasound has helped some women to see clearly the child within the womb, leading them to choose life. In addition, Project Rachel assists those dealing with the devastation of having an abortion and leads them to healing, nurturing and the celebration of God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.
In the vineyard, we are presented with opportunities each and every day to stand up for life in the words we speak, by our outreach to those in need, by the decisions we make and, especially in this crucial time in the life of our country, by our votes. I refer you once again to our Diocesan web page. Please consider utilizing the resources, “Faithful Citizenship” and “Catholic Voice North Carolina.”
Most important, our anxiety is eased when we realize that it is not our vineyard, it is the Lord’s. He simply asks us to work together and to do what is humanly possible each and every day. Then, we entrust our efforts to Him with the assurance that He will use our work to produce fruit at a time and in ways we can never imagine.
Our anxiety is eased when we place our trust in the protection of the Blessed Mother (to whom we are encouraged to turn especially in this month of October in the praying of the Rosary) and in the divine assistance of Her Son.
Today at this Eucharist we ask for the grace never to grow weary, as St. Paul tells us, doing what is true, honorable, just and pure; and to persevere in prayer, asking the Lord to bless our efforts and to deliver us from all anxiety, so that we might live this day and every day in joyful hope.