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Respect Life Month: The Same Melody in a New Key

For many years, the Catholic Church in the United States has observed October as “Respect Life Month.” Resources have addressed not only abortion, but those living with disabilities, the strength of families, the power of prayer, assisted suicide and euthanasia, changes in culture, artificial reproductive technologies, and many other aspects of what it means to accept and respect human life, made in God’s image.

This year’s program focuses on “Building a Culture of Life in a Post-Roe World.” Catholic teaching on abortion has never really been a negative focus on procedures, but a positive affirmation that life is God’s gift, given for an eternal future. It is this inviolable good that is the core of every culture’s norms that have protected life – at least some lives.

The Gospel fills out this picture: each person, regardless of stage of development or decline, social status, or natural attributes, is a living icon of divine creative goodness. There are no lives that are disposable, unimportant, of graded worth, to God.

The Dobbs v. Jackson decision surprised many, but questions of law have always been only one aspect of the Church’s concern. As St. John Paul put it, the core challenge is to build a culture of life – a set of social conditions and personal convictions that we are equally valued and valuable, and that how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable is the true measure of a society’s strength.

Thus the Supreme Court decision does not resolve the issue, and even more so in Minnesota, where abortion remains legal under the State’s Constitution. In a profound way, the Dobbs decision calls us to do more, not less, to support life. I share below some words from Archbishop William Lori, the chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. (This, and many other resources, can be found at https:// Archbishop Lori writes:

For those of us who have prayed for this moment to arrive, it is the time for a renewal and rededication of our efforts to build a culture of life and civilization of love.

In a post-Roe world, Catholics must now work together for another, even deeper paradigm shift. We must move beyond a paradigm shift in the law in order to help the people of our nation better see who we can be as a nation by truly understanding what we owe to one another as members of the same human family. To build a world in which all are welcome, we must heed the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta and remember “that we belong to one another.” … the logic of the culture of life recognizes that the pregnant woman and her child are not alone—they are fellow members of our larger human family. Catholics can see in the life of the Holy Family a lesson for all society: Mary, who not only said “yes” to life but who accompanied and cared for her child throughout his life; Joseph, who met the unexpected challenges and threats to the child with fortitude and compassion; and Jesus himself, who came into the world not with power and majesty but with the vulnerability, dependence, and humility of a child.

In a post-Roe world, then, we must shift the paradigm to what Saint Pope John Paul II described as “radical solidarity,” making the good of others our own good, including especially mothers, babies (born and preborn), and families throughout the entire human lifespan. It is a call to friendship and compassion rooted in the truth that we are made to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Our Church understands that parents, children, and families need help not just during pregnancy, but throughout the whole of life’s journey because millions of Catholics already accompany their neighbors in such circumstances. … Those who disagree on the morality or justice of abortion should nonetheless come together to pursue common-ground solutions to provide care and support to mothers, children, and families in need.

The opportunity which the Supreme Court has given us is not an opportunity to look backward and return to the past. Instead, it is a calling to Catholics at every level to look forward and build a better future—a future in which the new hallmarks of our society will be solidarity, compassion, reconciliation, and a new unity as a nation.

Let us begin.

Fr. Tom

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