Following is Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn’s column from the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:
Human Life is Sacred. Every Person has God-given Dignity.
October is Respect Life Month. In reflecting on the tremendous gift of human life, my thoughts turn first to the family and friends of one of our Archbishop O’Hara high school students who was tragically killed in a car accident. He was beginning his senior year. Our hearts go out to his parents, sister, and other family members, schoolmates, and loved ones. We are struck by the power of love and life that comes forcefully before our eyes at such a moment. I know you will pray for Tyler and the many he leaves behind.
In recent months I have had the privilege of participating in prayerful and peaceful protests against Capital Punishment. I learned more about the complexities of hoped-for Immigration Reform. As you know, I joined Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas in a pastoral letter on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching in the context of the Health Care Reform debates.
Daily, in my work as bishop, I encounter many people, and receive emails and letters that speak of the challenges to human respect and dignity that are an inseparable part of this vale of tears. I attend meetings, here in my office, around the diocese, and at the Bishops Conference, planning positive initiatives, and seeking solutions to the troubling setbacks that we all experience. What would we do without our faith? How could we go on without God’s love, and the grace of supernatural Hope? We are right to begin and end each day on our knees – and to constantly beg the light of the Holy Spirit.
Like many of you, I have sung songs with the residents at Little Sisters of the Poor, visited people in the hospital, and attended funerals. Each week our Cathedral Parish co-sponsors a meal for homeless and working poor with Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal community. Others of you serve meals at St. James, and receive people daily at your food banks. Catholic Charities, Simple House, and Catholic Worker, provide emergency help and ongoing friendship. Dental services and clothing are available at Seton Center. Jobs and a new start for former prisoners are made possible through our turnaround program. Others bring bible study and Mass to inmates in our Correctional Centers.
Our Catholic Schools and Bishop Helmsing Institute, RCIA, and youth programs form minds and souls, build Communion, and train our faithful of all ages for their apostolic calling.
I attended a Dinner to benefit Alexandra’s House, administered by Patty Lewis and other Catholics, it is Kansas City’s one-of-a-kind home and spiritual support center for families anticipating the birth of children with significant anomalies. These babies are likely to die within minutes or days after birth. The walls bear the pictures of Moms, Dads and siblings holding precious babies for the only time. At Alexandra’s House they are supported before, during, and after their special journeys.
Last week I was part of a fund raiser for Project Rachel, a program of spiritual refreshment and counseling for those suffering after abortion. We heard the testimony of two people who had procured abortions: one, a well-educated woman who made a tragic mistake; the other a man, now perhaps 70 years old, who had helped to procure an abortion for his fiancé long ago, before 1973’s Roe v. Wade. Like thousands of others in our community, they both had suffered the agony of these destructive “choices,” mostly alone, for years. Through the Church’s outreach, they have started to experience some relief and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
All these experiences – and so many more that you could add - make real the inestimable value and beauty of human life. The life of each person is wondrous, mysterious, irreplaceable, and often fragile. As Church, we are and always will be fully engaged in life. Jesus Christ calls us to this and we must not say no.
For about two years I have had the honor of chairing the U.S. Bishops Task Force on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. In collaboration with the chairmen, bishops, and staff of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat, the Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, the Committee on International Justice and Peace, the Committee on Migration, and several other committees, we have formulated a two year strategic plan for consideration by the body of bishops in November. The Task Force has sought to better unify the work of these Committees using a common theme: that every human life is sacred and that every person has a God-given dignity.
As we focus on this solemn truth and celebrate Respect for Life, join me in giving thanks for God’s most precious gift. Pledge with me our undying commitment to protect human life from its first moment, through all the joys and travails of this world, until natural death.