In his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“Gospel of Life”), published in 1995, Pope John Paul II cited the Second Vatican Council on the infamies opposed to life itself. Those infamies included “any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person … whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain….”
Inspired by the 25th anniversary of the pro-life encyclical, the U.S. bishops chose the theme ‘“Live the Gospel of Life ‘to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps’” for Respect Life Month, which began Oct. 1. “The encyclical passionately reaffirms the Church’s constant teaching on the value and sacredness of every human life and the Respect Life program resources reflect that life-affirming spirit,” says Bishop Thomas Zinkula.
The questions each of us need to ask ourselves are these: How am I demonstrating respect for every human life? What am I doing to encourage respect for every human life in my home, the public square, in my conversations with others and in my comments on social media?
Clearly, the “infamies” opposed to life itself in 1965 and 1995 persist in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a glaring light on the misery that is a consequence of failing to follow the Gospel. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) identified several threats to human dignity that the Catholic Church is addressing:
• Abortion. More than two-thirds of abortions in Iowa are through medication rather than surgery, the ICC reports. According to Human Life Action, the abortion industry is working to make it easier to obtain the medication, including through the mail. The federal Support and Value Expectant (SAVE) Moms & Babies Act would impose restrictions to counteract those efforts. The bill did not make it to the Senate floor for debate. Please ask Congress (congress.gov) to bring this issue to debate.
Continue to support a constitutional amendment to clarify that the Iowa State Constitution does not contain a fundamental right to an abortion.
• Temporary Protected Status. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 200,000 individuals living legally in the United States. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) say TPS countries such as El Salvador and Haiti cannot adequately handle the return of TPS recipients and their families, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Many of these family members are U.S. citizen children facing life without their parents and uncertain futures. Ask President Trump (www.whitehouse.org) to rescind his decision, for the sake of families.
• The American Dream and Promise Act. This legislation would give DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, a path to citizenship. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives more than a year ago. Please ask U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (grassley.senate.gov) and Joni Ernst (ernst.senate.gov) to take up this legislation in the Senate.
• Immigrants as Essential Workers. Immigrants and refugees are among the many essential workers in our country. “Immigrants comprise 31% of U.S. agricultural employees … [and] they risk their own safety to support their families and to ensure continuity in the nation’s food supply chains,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, in written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. He chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Migration. Join him and his fellow bishops in urging Congress to include immigrant and refugee families in future COVID-19 relief as well as be made eligible for past relief efforts. Email Congress to support legislation that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented workers who have been living, working, and contributing to our country. Participate in an action alert (https://tinyurl.com/y2ayfn4h) asking for relief actions on behalf of all immigrants. Read about the Iowa bishops’ support for DACA recipients and asylum seekers (https://tinyurl.com/yyfj2e2j).
• Death Penalty. The Trump Administration has resumed federal executions. Persons convicted of crimes must be held accountable but also receive the opportunity for rehabilitation and restoration. Building on his predecessors’ opposition to the death penalty, Pope Francis approved a revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church stating that the death penalty is inadmissible. Ask President Trump and Attorney General William Barr (www.justice.gov) to stop the executions.
• Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. The church opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide and offers resources that address palliative care and hospice. Read the Vatican’s news release on this topic (https://tinyurl.com/y5u8pkoo).
Finally, read the “Gospel of Life” (https://tinyurl.com/ve9er96) for a solid foundation in church teaching on respect for life. Visit the respectlife.org website for resources to apply these teachings to today’s realities.
Pope John Paul II said, “Evangelium Vitae” was “meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability…” It also serves “as a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor