The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has done terrific work in producing this year’s Respect Life Program, which underscores the value of every life — from womb to tomb. They note that building a culture of life begins when we allow Jesus to meet and transform us daily. We open ourselves up to this transformation through daily prayer, Scripture reading and frequent participation in the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist. In addition, the bishops call on us to pray, reflect and act on six different life issues:
How to Build a Culture of Life — “A Christian life lived with charity and faith is the most effective form of evangelization,” the bishops observe. We are called to walk with people in their joys and their sufferings. Share the Gospel with others; invite them to a deeper relationship with Jesus. Invite someone to Mass with you. Assure a family member or friend who is seriously ill that “God still offers them something in this life, and they still have a purpose.” Be with them every step of the way.
Catholic Considerations for Our Earthly Passing — “The Ethical and Religious Directives” from the USCCB gives direction for health care services to those who are seriously ill or dying. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” is another good resource. Check with your parish and online resources such as the USCCB website (www.usccb.org) for further guidance.
The bishops point out that “Judging the effect and burden of treatments can be difficult, especially as death draws near. To understand health facts and treatment options, we need professional medical advice. To understand Catholic moral teaching, we need to consult church teaching and those who can further explain it.” Our families need to be informed of the decisions we’ve reached.
What to do When a Friend is Considering an Abortion — Learn concrete tips for loving this friend in a way that is life-affirming for her and her child. The bishops refer to an old adage: “We have two ears and one mouth, and should use them in proportion” and recommend the four steps of the L.O.V.E. Approach. Those steps: Listen, Learn; Open Options; Vision and Value; and Extend and Empower. Among the really good suggestions: Provide practical help and support, such as a list of community resources and pregnancy help centers. Help your friend to plan her next steps.
Understanding Conscience — “Conscience helps us hear the voice of God; it helps us recognize the truth about God and how we ought to live,” the bishops say. “Conscience is ‘a judgment of reason’ by which we determine whether an action is right or wrong.’” Such discernment requires prayer, education and reflection. Read the “Catechism” and research what the church says about a challenging teaching. Read the stories of saints who have faced similar questions. Have a conversation with other Christians about how to respond to challenges in the life of discipleship.
Death Penalty: Catholic Q&A — The church teaches that capital punishment is rarely justified in this modern age, if at all. Other, non-lethal means of defense against unjust aggressors are available in the U.S. “Our faith tradition offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake,” the bishops observe. If society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so, the bishops say. Read the Q&A for further insights (available in English and Spanish through www.usccb.org).
Top Reasons to Oppose Assisted Suicide — Five states and the District of Columbia have legalized assisted suicide. Proponents have undertaken campaigns nationwide, including in Iowa, seeking to legalize assisted suicide. These are some of the dangers of assisted suicide: it puts vulnerable persons at risk of abuse or coercion, it dangerously broadens the definition of terminal illness, no psychiatric evaluation or treatment is required, it threatens the improvement of palliative care, and it fosters discrimination. Call or write to your state legislators and tell them to reject legislation to legalize assisted suicide. Go to: (www.legis.iowa.gov/contacts).
Respect for Life will gain a foothold when we demonstrate it in our daily interactions and in the relationships we build, especially with vulnerable persons from womb to tomb.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor