October has traditionally been Respect Life month in the Catholic Church and with national campaigns like Life Chain and 40 Days for Life taking place, there are plenty of pro-life activities for Catholics to join.
In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2011, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the head of the pro-life outreach office for the nation’s Catholic bishops, urged Catholics to get involved in pro-life activities. He also addressed multiple direct threats to human life as well as threats to religious liberty and conscience rights and, echoing Pope Benedict XVI, he invited Catholics to “pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to ‘respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.'”
In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo, the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reflected on the Respect Life Program’s theme for 2011-12: “I came that all might have life and have it to the full.”
“Jesus’ promise of ‘life to the full’ is especially poignant today,” he wrote, “when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society.”
“The unborn child, the aging parent who some call a ‘burden’ on our medical system, the allegedly ‘excess’ embryo in the fertility clinic, the person with a disability, the cognitively impaired accident victim who needs assistance in receiving food and water to live-each today is at risk of being dismissed as a ‘life unworthy of life’,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
Cardinal DiNardo highlighted factors that undermine efforts to build a culture of life: “We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. . Some now even seek to eliminate religiously motivated people and organizations from public programs, by forcing them to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy,” he said.
DiNardo objected to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requirement to cover all forms of contraception and sterilization as “preventive services for women.”
“The decision [by HHS] is wrong on many levels. Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease.. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives,” he said.
Cardinal DiNardo specifically countered claims that contraception is necessary for women’s health, and that it reduces the abortion rate.
“Far from preventing disease, contraceptives can have serious health consequences of their own, for example, increasing the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS.,” he said. “Studies report that most women seeking abortions were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Again and again, studies show that increasing access to contraception fails to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.”
The HHS’s “religious employer exemption” is “so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one,” he said. “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.”
“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience.”
Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States.