This Sunday begins the month of October which has been designated by the American bishops as "Respect Life Month." Our concern for life issues is not just one weekend or even one month in the year; it is rather something that permeates our thoughts and actions each day of the year. Our observation this month is particularly significant since this is an election year.
Respect for life is not a "single issue campaign." Respect for life is the only issue. Respect for life touches and infuses every issue in our political consideration. It is not an insult to be considered a "single issue" voter if that issue is respect for life in all stages and forms. No candidate who was openly anti-Semitic or avowedly racist would be considered a viable candidate in America today. Thank God, that single issue would disqualify someone for elected office. But how can we consider someone who is anti-life as a fit political leader?
The Church position on life is comprehensive. The late Cardinal Bernardin described the Church’s teaching as a "seamless garment" embracing the totality of life from womb to tomb. The underlying basis for the Church’s teaching is the recognition that all of life is a gift from God our Creator. As humans we are not masters of our own destiny, but are subject to God. In Jesus Christ we have God’s universal call to salvation. God has created every person and desires every person to be saved. Jesus treated all with respect and dignity, even those who opposed his message.
To propose respect for life in our society means to speak on behalf of the voiceless, the defenseless, the weak. Abortion is not a choice, it is the deliberate ending of human life. We must be strong and consistent in voicing our opposition to abortion. Our respect for life leads us to defend the weak and voiceless on the other end of the spectrum -- the elderly and the infirm. Euthanasia is the deliberate and willful ending of life and, as such, cannot be condoned or supported.
But respect for life does not just mean the beginning and end of life but the full range of human existence. Human persons have not only the inalienable right to life but to a life of dignity and respect. Every human being has a right to the basic necessities of life: to food, clothing shelter, health care and education, employment, respect and equality.
Our vote helps to shape our national and local priorities. We must work and vote to build a society based on our Christian values and respect for life. St. James said that the rich would weep and wail over their impending miseries. Can we live in the richest and strongest nation in the world and condone abortion, homelessness, poverty and racism?
Msgr. George Trabold, Pastor
Church of St. Rose of Lima
Short Hills, NJ
(Printed in The Catholic Advocate, official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, Oct. 25, 2000.)