The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: October 6, 2006
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
In 1972, before the infamous Supreme Court decisions (Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton) struck down state laws prohibiting abortion, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) designated the first Sunday in October as “Respect Life Sunday.” Originally, the educational and prayer campaign lasted a week. Eventually it became a month-long effort and now it is a year-long program beginning anew each October. The theme changes each year, but the basic goal is the same: to promote a culture of life by teaching the faithful to respect and protect all human life from fertilization to natural death.
John Paul II stressed the importance of this goal when he wrote: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life . . . We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting . . . With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth. At the same time, we need to promote a serious and in-depth exchange about basic issues of human life with everyone, including non-believers, in intellectual circles, in the various professional spheres and at the level of people’s everyday life” (Evangelium Vitae 95).
In responding to this call for a “great campaign in support of life,” the USCCB (with the approval of the full body of Bishops) updated their blueprint for building a culture of life by issuing a revised Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities in 2001.
The Pastoral Plan (which was originally issued in 1975 with a subsequent revision in 1985) provides a comprehensive model for pro-life efforts by calling “upon all the resources of the Church—its people, services, and institutions—to pursue this effort with renewed energy and commitment in four major areas”: 1) public information and education; 2) pastoral care; 3) public policy; and 4) prayer and worship. This framework for pro-life activities assumes that each state, diocese, and parish will have a coordinated effort to implement the Pastoral Plan.
In addition, the Pastoral Plan includes a reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching regarding the dignity of human life and the responsibility of all living persons to protect life from its very earliest stage. On occasion, those working to protect the unborn are criticized for focusing too much attention on abortion and not enough to other issues that violate the dignity of the human person. The bishops clearly state in the Pastoral Plan that “abortion necessarily plays a central role” among the various life issues and that “it is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice. . . Our concern is only intensified by the realization that a policy and practice that result in well over a million deaths from abortions each year cannot but diminish respect for life in other areas.”
That does not mean that the bishops only concern is abortion, but it does signal the preeminence of outlawing abortion and other direct attacks on innocent human life including embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia.
Think seriously about the 3,500 pre-born babies intentionally killed each day in this country through procured surgical abortion.
Will you remain silent while the most vulnerable among us are being deliberately destroyed? Or, will you join “the great campaign in support of life” and “serve life in all its truth”?
The decision is yours, but don’t underestimate the significance of that decision—someone’s life may depend on it.