Respect Life Month
Oct. 9, 2020
A few weeks ago, I had the joy and privilege of blessing a new pro-life pregnancy center in downtown Baltimore. Located next to Planned Parenthood on Howard Street, this new center, called “Options@328,” is part of a network of life-affirming facilities sponsored by the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, headquartered in Essex.
Its newest center is located in what had been an empty, run-down commercial building. I am grateful to the leadership of the Center for Pregnancy Concerns who transformed that old and neglected building into a place of welcome, understanding, love and compassion for both mothers and their unborn children.
In this center, they are received with love. Mothers have the priceless opportunity to see the child of their womb, thanks to the state-of-the-art ultrasound units that the Knights of Columbus generously provided. Here they are gently encouraged to bring their babies to term and they are provided with help in giving their babies a strong start in life.
As I stood in front of the facility for the blessing, the clatter of the light-rail train, the noise of car and truck traffic, police and ambulance sirens, and passers-by talking loudly drowned out my voice. The urban mayhem all about me, however, only added to my joy. In my heart, I knew that this is exactly where we need to proclaim and live the Gospel of Life! And proclaim it we must – clearly, firmly and compassionately.
Twenty-five years ago, St. John Paul II issued his landmark encyclical, “The Gospel of Life.” Delving deeply into the Word of God, the saintly pope challenged us to build “a culture of life” to supplant the “culture of death” that is all around us. With a pastor’s love and a philosopher’s wisdom, he shed light on the truth and beauty of each human life, from conception until natural death. He also made clear that we, as individuals and as a society, have a moral imperative to protect innocent and vulnerable human life, whether it is the defenseless child in the womb, the terminally and chronically ill, the frail elderly, and those who suffer from the many forms of degradation that are all-too-prevalent in our culture.
To put it concisely, we must not allow ourselves to be deluded into thinking that death is the way to deal with social challenges we face. Pope Francis has made it clear that the death penalty is not admissible. But he has also made it emphatically clear that “throwing away” the unborn through abortion or the terminally ill through euthanasia is never permissible. In his newly issued letter on our common humanity, Pope Francis decries the fact that “some parts of our human family … can readily be sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, not yet useful – like the unborn – or no longer needed – like the elderly” (Fratelli Tutti, no. 18). Instead of snuffing out the lives of the most frail and vulnerable, let us instead learn how to accompany them, care for them and support them throughout life’s journey (cf. Ibid., 64).
We must surely care for the earth, our common home. We must surely be defenders of human rights and dignity. We must surely strive to care for human life at every stage of its existence. We must act to alleviate poverty and to welcome immigrants. Yet, all these good works are undermined when we deny to the vulnerable their first and most fundamental right, the right to life. If we want to build a culture of compassion and justice, let us build it on the cornerstone of the inviolable dignity with which God endows every person from the moment of conception until natural death.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the frailty of human life. We rightfully are doing all in our power to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe. We are rightfully concerned about public safety. Let us extend that concern to those whose lives are always endangered and who have no one to speak and act for them but ourselves. Then, we shall be on our way toward living the Gospel of Life.
Click here for more about Respect Life Month in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
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