By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Looking out into the crowd dressed for the annual Black & White Gala’s “Celebration of Life” Mass, Bishop Thomas Zinkula joked: “All that black and white out there, I feel that we clergy are trend setters.” The crowd laughed.
The Mass on Aug. 10 in Christ the King Chapel on St. Ambrose University’s campus kicked off an evening of events to raise money for pro-life causes. It was also the feast of St. Lawrence, one of seven deacons of the church in Rome who was martyred. “He had responsibility for managing church goods and overseeing distribution of alms to the poor,” Bishop Zinkula noted during his homily.
One of the legends about St. Lawrence concerns an order by the prefect of Rome to produce in three days all the wealth of the church. Lawrence gathered a great assembly of the poor, the sick, the blind, lepers, widows and orphans and proclaimed, “These are the treasure of the church.”
Bishop Zinkula said Pope Francis often talks about focusing attention on those on the peripheries; they are the treasure of the church. “Tonight we are focusing on the periphery of the unborn child. But we need to be multi-faceted in our pro-life stance,” the bishop said. The church is at her best when she is both/and, rather than either/or, he added, and outlined several points to illustrate:
1. We need to work for the legislative and judicial recognition of the sanctity of human life.
“But that, in and of itself, isn’t the whole answer,” the bishop said. “You can’t legislate, or ‘judiciate’ morality. We also need to work hard to change hearts. And ultrasounds help with that. You see the baby and hearts are changed. It’s both/and.”
2. We need to emphasize the importance of a consistent ethic of life. Pope Francis just ordered a catechism revision on the death penalty. State-sanctioned killing is always an unjustifiable attack on the dignity of human life. Abortion is always wrong. And so is capital punishment, assisted suicide, euthanasia, unjust war, genocide, human trafficking and pornography. It’s both/and.
3) We need to be both pro-life and concerned about social justice. “St. John Paul II’s encyclical, ‘The Gospel of Life,’ is about both of these.” Decisions that go against life arise from difficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a total lack of economic prospects, depression and anxiety about the future. The pope later poses the question, “Should we not question the very economic models often adopted by states which cause and aggravate situations of injustice and violence in which the life of whole peoples is degraded and trampled upon?”
Often the fundamental issue isn’t pregnancy, the bishop said, but poverty. The “Gospel of Life” says we don’t need to choose between defending life and working to create the material conditions that can support that life. Again, it is both/and.
He ended his homily with a prayer: “May we, like St. Lawrence, continue to cheerfully and determinedly go to the periphery in order to defend, reach out to and serve the treasure of the church.”
After Mass a bagpiper led the Knights of Columbus, followed by the congregation, to the Rogalski Center for the gala. Area pro-life organizations offered information about their services with staff and volunteers available to answer questions. Silent auction items were also on display. Prior to the dinner, Bishop Zinkula welcomed everyone.
“We are a pro-life diocese,” he proudly stated. He went on to say people keep asking him about RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). “For days, week, months and years I will probably hear ‘how was RAGBRAI?’ It was great. The weather was ideal. Everyone was helpful. I had a bed to sleep in every night and a shower and restrooms. I had a wonderful team and Mass was great. It added a spiritual dimension.”
A new dimension of the gala was a fundraiser for scholarships for young people to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Part of the proceeds from the gala will go toward that mission. A special collection was taken up during the gala for additional support. Look for more information in future issues of The Catholic Messenger.