During Respect Life Month in October, the Church draws attention to the importance of promoting the sacredness of human life. It's an opportunity to remind ourselves that this respect extends to all human beings — from the unborn to the elderly, to those who live in poverty or face injustices because of their race, and those with physical or mental illness, as just a few examples.
Being pro-life is a way of life, and as Catholics, we should not shrink from our duty to share these values. This duty applies not just in our private lives, but in the public square as well.
The month of October is typically filled with events that promote the sacredness of human life, including the archdiocese's annual Respect Life Convention and the 40 Days for Life campaign. They are very tangible reminders of the importance of promoting life issues as a way of life, throughout the year.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chair of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life activities, reiterated the need to build a culture of life as a way of life.
"Looking back over the last year, there's been a lot of uncertainty, suffering, and heartache," Cardinal Dolan said in a statement kicking off the bishops' Respect Life Month program. "Between tragedies that occur in the public eye and trials that take place in our personal lives, there's no shortage of reasons we cry out to God. At such times, we may feel alone and unequipped. ... But we have an anchor of hope to cling to. ... God says to us, 'Do not fear: I am with you.'"
In Missouri, we have seen our share of victories, including the passage of Senate Bill 5, which provides further protections for unborn babies and women at abortion clinics. We've also seen the disappointments — including St. Louis City's "abortion sanctuary" ordinance and Planned Parenthood's legal challenges of state abortion laws.
Those who have been in the pro-life movement for a long time know that the victories will always be tempered with some disappointments. But they also know that through a reliance on God, we must persevere.
We also must understand that the laws we pass are not enough. We must also do what we can to build a culture of life, so that issues such as abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, racism and poverty are not changed only through the law of the land, but through conversion of our hearts.
We must strive to make these anti-life issues unthinkable, and it starts with respect for the smallest, and most vulnerable in our society — the unborn.
"It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop," Pope John Paul II noted in his 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae."
"A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized," he wrote. "Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace."
We must continue the efforts to promote respect for all life. In doing so, we will be able to overcome many of the human issues that our society faces today.