assisted suicide

Year of Mercy: The Dying and the Dead – New Column

If there is one theme that runs through all manifestations of mercy it is the call to never abandon.  Mercy calls us not to abandon those in prison, the hungry, the poor, the homeless, the women who have had abortions, the unborn, refugees, or those with disabilities.

True mercy also means not abandoning the dying or the dead.hands

Under the guise of “mercy” and “compassion” assisted suicide and euthanasia are becoming increasingly acceptable.  Five states – Washington, California, Oregon, Vermont, and Montana – allow assisted suicide and at least five states are considering legislation to legalize it.

Proponents portray assisted suicide as a merciful act necessary to relieve a terminally-ill person’s pain and suffering, despite the fact that most of the laws do not require a person to actually be in pain or truly be terminally ill.  They go to great lengths to avoid the fact that assisted suicide is assisted killing.

Like abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are not examples of society rising up to meet the needs of the suffering, but are instead examples of society giving up and abandoning those in need.

As one of the official documents for the Year of Mercy reminds us:

The word for mercy in Latin is misericordia. The etymology of the word derives from the Latin misere (misery, necessity) and cor/ cordis (heart) and is identified with having a heart full of solidarity with those in need. So in everyday language mercy is identified with compassion and forgiveness.

Mercy, therefore, is linked to compassion.  Compassion means to “suffer with.”  As Jason Adkins, my counterpart in Minnesota, puts it: “Sending someone home with a vial of pills to die, and perhaps even die alone, is not compassion, it’s not humane.”

Even in jurisdictions that stop short of legalizing assisted suicide, we can be tempted to abandon the frail and the dying.  North Dakotans needing long-term care, for example, are among those hardest hit by the recent state budget cuts.

The Basic Care Assistance Program funds services that provide care, service, and supervision to those unable to live alone. According to the North Dakota Long Term Care Association the recent cuts will result in a loss of 40% of service providers in the program.  Meanwhile, nursing facilities are taking a $25.1 million hit.

The lack of services can contribute to subtle pressures to relieve perceived — but not actual — burdens. Without realizing it, we can be tempted to make health care decisions, especially for those at the end of life, for reasons of convenience disguised as compassion.

God never abandons and nor should we.  True mercy, true compassion, does not mean aiding in killing or taking actions that intentionally and directly cause death by act or omission.  We must provide ordinary care, including artificial food and water, so long as it provides a benefit. We can provide pain relief and comfort care, even if the method or treatment indirectly and unintentionally shortens life.  The overarching principle is to “be with,” not abandon.

To help guide decisions, whether they are made by you or by someone speaking on your behalf, get the Catholic Healthcare Directive from the North Dakota Catholic Conference at: http://ndcatholic.org/chd/ or call 701-223-2519.

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Earthly death inevitably comes.

The traditional seven corporeal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.

Bury the dead stands out in this list for a few reasons. To begin with, it is the only work not mentioned in Matthew 25.  Its scriptural basis come from the Book of Tobit, specifically verses 1:17 and 12:12.  It was not until the 12th century that bury the dead was included with the six from Matthew 25.  Thomas Aquinas in the next century firmly established it as one of the seven corporeal works of mercy.

It also stands out because it does not address an immediate need of a living person.  One way of understanding its inclusion is to remember the call to not abandon.  Treating deceased bodies with disrespect and disposing them like trash is a form of abandonment, not only of the body, but also of person who was living.  Aquinas saw a connection between how we treat the dead body and how we treat the memory of the dead and Christ himself, who was also a body and was also buried precursor to the resurrection.

As with caring for the dying, there are sometimes public policy issues that affect our call to bury the dead with dignity.  Many laws affect cemeteries, cremation, and related services.  In addition, Catholic cemeteries are increasingly seeing threats to their ability to operate in accordance with Catholic beliefs.

Thus, with death, as with dying, we need to be vigilant and never abandon.

http://ndcatholic.org/editorials/column0316/index.html

Cardinal O’Malley: California Legalization of Assisted Suicide “a Great Tragedy for Human Life”

physician—Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded on October 6 to Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of the new California law legalizing assisted suicide.

Cardinal O’Malley called the governor’s decision “a great tragedy for human life,” and a tragedy “compounded by confusion among those who supported this law.”

“A government that legalizes assisted suicide sends the terrible message Pope Francis has so eloquently warned us against, that there is such a thing as disposable people,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “I am sure the Catholic Church in this country will redouble its efforts to protect innocent life at its most vulnerable stages, and to promote palliative care and other real solutions for the problems and hardships of terminally ill patients and their families.”

The full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s statement follows:

“Governor Brown’s decision this week to sign a bill legalizing doctor-assisted suicide in California is a great tragedy for human life. As a result, in all the West coast states, seriously ill patients suffering from depression and suicidal feelings will receive lethal drugs, instead of genuine care to help alleviate that suffering.

The tragedy here is compounded by confusion among those who supported this law.

For example, Governor Brown said he signed this law because it should not be a crime for a dying person in pain to end his life. But suicide itself is a tragedy, not a crime. The crime is for people in authority such as physicians to facilitate the deliberate deaths of other, more vulnerable people. That crime will now be permitted in California. And where such “assistance” is legal, most people taking the lethal drugs do so not because of pain but because they feel they are helpless and a “burden” on others. The state of California in effect is now confirming this judgment. A government that legalizes assisted suicide sends the terrible message Pope Francis has so eloquently warned us against, that there is such a thing as disposable people.

With the bishops of California I grieve for this deeply flawed action. I am sure the Catholic Church in this country will redouble its efforts to protect innocent life at its most vulnerable stages, and to promote palliative care and other real solutions for the problems and hardships of terminally ill patients and their families.”

For more information on the bishops’ advocacy against assisted suicide, including their 2011 statement, “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” see: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/assisted-suicide/to-live-each-day.

Mass and Pilgrimage for Life and Liberty

“The God who gave us life gave us liberty”

 

Mass and Pilgrimage for Life and Liberty at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is slated for Sunday, Oct. 14 at 12 noon EDT. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, will celebrate the liturgy and pilgrimage as part of the U.S. bishops’ annual Respect Life prayer campaign. His homily will focus on the noted quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The god who gave us life gave us liberty.”

 

Mass will be preceded by time for confessions starting at 10 a.m. Following Mass, there will be Eucharistic Adoration. Shortly thereafter, attendees will recite the rosary as part of the first day of the Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty. At the conclusion of the rosary, Archbishop Lori will offer a 10-minute reflection. The event will conclude with benediction at 2:30 p.m. EWTN television will carry the Mass and Pilgrimage live. Read on

October Prayer Initiatives for Life and Liberty

The recent HHS mandate requires virtually all employers to include sterilization, abortifacient drugs and contraceptives among the benefits covered in the healthcare plans they offer employees. In the face of this unprecedented new threat, and since prayer is central to the Church’s observance of Respect Life Month, we hope that many will participate in these October prayer initiatives on behalf of religious liberty and conscience. In particular, the “Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty” will inspire Catholics to learn more about our courageous forebears in the faith and even consider making a pilgrimage to one of the many shrines and devotional sites throughout the United States.

Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty 

The “Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty” highlights the courageous witness of the saints commemorated during these nine days. They are witnesses to our faith, to the sanctity of every human life and to religious liberty and conscience. Among these men and women are the North American Martyrs, St. Isaac Jogues and companions, who were slain between 1642 and 1646 near present-day Auriesville, NY. We also look to the witness of three new American saints who will be canonized on October 21. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk maiden, was persecuted for her faith and devoted herself to prayer and acts of charity, ignoring the limitations of her own disabilities. Mother Marianne Cope, OSF spent 35 years caring for the physical and spiritual needs of women and girls afflicted with leprosy in Hawaii. Pedro Calungsod, a missionary catechist, was martyred in Guam while still in his teens.

 

More Resources

University of Mary to Host Seminar Series on Bioethical Challenges

Every day, health care professionals, legal professionals, and clergy are faced with situations that pose serious ethical challenges. This seminar series is presented to assist these professionals and other interested individuals in grappling with some of the major ethical challenges of our time.

This seminar series demonstrates that it is possible for one to be true to science and to faith. The truths of science and the truths of faith have the same source: God. He is the source of all truth, the truths discovered by scientists through the scientific method and the truths followed by disciples through the theological virtue of faith. Therefore, authentic science and authentic faith will always complement — not contradict — one another. They are friends, not foes.

Find out more about the seminar series by downloading the brochure.  Hurry the first seminar is January 20-21.

Respect Life Month Statement

Cardinal DiNardo calls on Catholics to respect, promote and teach

the ‘transcendent nature of the human person’

Catholics must not shrink from obligation to defend right to life, conscience rights

Respect Life Program marks 40th year

Theme for 2011-12:  “I came so all might have life and have it to the full” (cf. John 10:10)

 

CARDINAL DINARDO ISSUES RESPECT LIFE MONTH STATEMENT

WASHINGTON-In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2011, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addressed multiple direct threats to human life as well as threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. 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.'”

Cardinal DiNardo chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo 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.

Cardinal 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. The full statement follows and may be found online in English and Spanish at www.usccb.org/respectlife.

 

Statement for Respect Life Month

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo

Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

September 26, 2011

 

This October the Catholic Church throughout the United States will observe Respect Life Month, an annual tradition now in its fortieth year.

Beginning on October 2, 2011-Respect Life Sunday-Catholics across the nation will join together to witness to the inherent equality and transcendent value of every human being.

In countless liturgies and events we will give thanks to God for the gift of human life, and pray for his guidance and blessings on our efforts to defend the most vulnerable members of the human family.

We will voice our opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced. At the same time, we will remind the living victims of abortion-the mothers and fathers who grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child-that God’s mercy is greater than any human sin, and that healing and peace can be theirs through the  sacrament of reconciliation and the Church’s Project Rachel Ministry.

The theme chosen for this year’s Respect Life Program is I came so that all might have life and have it to the full. In this brief explanation of his mission (cf. John 10:10), Jesus refers both to our hope of eternal life, to be restored through his death and resurrection, and to our life in this world.

By following Jesus’ new Commandment of unselfish love, our lives can be richly fulfilling, and marked by joy and peace. In contrast, treating others as either means or obstacles to one’s self-serving goals, while never learning to love generously, is an impoverished way to live.

Viewing life as a “zero sum” game, in which advancing one’s interests requires putting aside the needs of others, can lead to callous unconcern for anyone who is especially weak, defenseless, and in need of our help. 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.”

Jesus’ promise of “life to the full” is especially poignant today, when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society. We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. This promotes the dangerous proposition that human beings enjoy no special status by virtue of their God-given humanity. 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.

The same forces, aided by advertising and entertainment media, promote a selfish and demeaning view of human sexuality, by extolling the alleged good of sexual activity without love or commitment. This view of sex as “free” of commitment or consequences has no place for openness to new life. Hence contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the “necessary” back-up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do. 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.

Both these trends-a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion-are exhibited by the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision on the “preventive services” to be mandated in virtually all private health plans under the new health care law. The Department ruled that such mandated services will include surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices-including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” a close analogue to the abortion pill RU-486.

The decision 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. It is the normal, healthy state by which each of us came into the world. 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, increasing the risk of breast cancer from excess estrogen, and of blood clots that can lead to stroke from synthetic progestin. 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.

The “religious employer” exemption offered by the Department is so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one. Catholic institutions providing health care and other services to the needy could be forced to fire their non-Catholic employees and cease serving the poor and vulnerable of other faiths-or stop providing health coverage at all. It has been said that 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.

All these misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions, must be resisted by education, public advocacy, and above all by prayer.

The founders of our nation understood that religion and morality are essential to the survival of a freedom-loving society. John Adams expressed this conviction, stating: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

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.

As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us last year in one of his Ad Limina addresses to visiting bishops, “a society can be built only by tirelessly respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.” That common nature transcends all accidental differences of age, race, strength, or conditions of dependency, preparing us to be one human family under God.

During this Respect Life Month, as we celebrate God’s great gift of life, let us 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,” thereby shoring up the foundations of a society sorely in need of this guidance.

 

Bishop Samuel Aquila: “There can be no backing away in the public square from the call to proclaim the dignity of human life”

In a talk presented at the Sept. 22 Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast in St. Louis, Mo., Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, said, “There can be no backing away in the public square from the call to proclaim the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

The prayer breakfast was sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of Legatus, a lay organization of Catholic business and professional leaders. The text of Bishop Aquila’s talk is posted at http://www.fargodiocese.org/bishop/Homilies/GospelOfLifeInTheChurchAndWorld.pdf.

Bishop Aquila addressed “attacks against life” in society today, including legalized abortion, euthanasia, fertility treatments that disregard the dignity of human embryos, embryonic stem cell research, “unjust distribution of resources, rampant promiscuity that diminishes the truth and meaning of human sexual intimacy, human trafficking, drug trafficking” and terrorism. He also spoke of the tragedy of professed Catholics and Christians who say they are personally opposed to abortion yet publicly support the so-called “right” to abortion.

“In order to be pro-life,” Bishop Aquila said, “we must understand both the inherent dignity of human life and develop a critical eye as to the thoughts and ideas which undermine the truth.”

He thanked the doctors, nurses and pharmacists present “who have refused to participate in abortions or the distribution of abortifacient drugs. You are a true witness to the Gospel of Life and a true leaven in creating a ‘culture of life’.”

Bishop Aquila reviewed the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae, The Gospel of Life, emphasizing the pope’s words regarding intrinsically unjust laws. “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is…never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it’ (EV 73).” After reading the quote, Bishop Aquila noted, “Unfortunately for some Catholics in the civil arena, this teaching has fallen on ears that would rather listen to the voice of the father of lies than to the truth of Jesus Christ and the life he alone offers. Rather than being a leaven in the world for the common good of the world they become cooperators with the ‘culture of death’.”

He spoke of the challenge of promoting a ‘culture of life’ in society. “Catholics in the political arena today are too often more faithful to party platforms and partisanship than to their faith in Jesus Christ, his Church and the promotion of a ‘culture of life’. There is a false separation between one’s private life and faith and one’s public life and faith. This started with President Kennedy as he ran for the presidency. As citizens we must take seriously our opportunities to vote and to provide an encouraging witness to those who represent us through letters, calls, emails and other forms of communication.”

He noted that Catholics “must recognize that opposition to intrinsic evils, such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, embryonic stem-cell research and same sex unions is always required by the faithful Catholic. Because these intrinsic evils are direct attacks on human life and marital dignity, they are non-negotiable for every Catholic.”

He continued, “Every Catholic who supports intrinsic evils is reminded that they will one day stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of themselves and how they lived the Gospel of Life. Furthermore, if they obstinately maintain their support for pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia measures they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion and causing scandal to the faithful of the Church. One sees in the Gospel too that Jesus was most unyielding with those who were obstinate to his message. One has only to read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. If a Catholic has continuously publicly supported so called abortion rights they are obstinate to the teaching of Christ and His Church. They need to ponder in their hearts the question that Jesus raises with the obstinate. In firm love he asks, ‘how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?’ (Mt 23:33). At the same time, as pro-life Catholics, we must have concern for immigrants, the suffering, the sick and the poor.  We must work for the avoidance of war, the elimination of the death penalty and an end to drug-trafficking.  If we are truly going to be pro-life and build a true culture of life, all of these are matters of concern.”

USCCB Pro-Life Committee Chairman Issues Statement For Respect Life Month

In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2010, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addressed direct threats to human life and called Catholics to “constantly witness to the inestimable worth and dignity of each human life through a loving concern for the good of others.” He also encouraged participation in the worldwide “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” called for by Pope Benedict XVI at the start of Advent.

Cardinal DiNardo chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo noted populations particularly at risk: millions of unborn children in the womb, embryonic human beings destroyed “in the name of science,” and seriously ill patients “under threat from a renewed campaign for legalizing physician-assisted suicide.”

“The loss of even one child, and the pain experienced by the child’s mother and father in the aftermath of abortion, should impel us to redouble our efforts to end legal abortion,” Cardinal DiNardo said. He stressed the need “to ensure that every pregnant woman has whatever help she needs to turn away from this heartbreaking choice.” He highlighted Project Rachel, the Church’s healing ministry to women and men hurting after abortion, and called the ministry “a reflection of God’s love and mercy and His constant offer of forgiveness and healing.”

Cardinal DiNardo also noted the “urgent task” of “ensuring that health care reform … is not misused to promote abortion or to trample on the rights of conscience.”

“If we allow the dignity of every human life to guide the decisions we make as voters and public policy advocates, we can surely succeed in creating a more just and humane society,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Cardinal DiNardo cited Pope Benedict’s “unprecedented request” for Catholics throughout the world to observe a “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” on Saturday, November 27.

“I heartily encourage all Catholics, whether at home or traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays, to take part in this special prayer, whose purpose according to the Holy See,” he said, “is to ‘thank the Lord for his total self-giving to the world and for his Incarnation which gave every human life its real worth and dignity,’ and to ‘invoke the Lord’s protection over every human being called into existence’.”

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. This year’s theme is “The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.” The full statement follows and may be found online at www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/10dinardo-stmt.pdf.

STATEMENT FOR RESPECT LIFE MONTH Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities United States Conference of Catholic Bishops September 27, 2010

During the Respect Life Month of October, Catholics across the United States will gather in prayer and thanksgiving, at charitable and educational events, and in public witness to the unique and priceless value of every human life, guided by the theme for this year’s Respect Life Program: “The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.” With each passing year, the need for personal and public witness grounded in God’s boundless love for each and every human being grows more urgent.

With over one million innocent children dying from abortion each year, the plague of abortion remains embedded in our culture. It is encouraging to see the continuing decline nationwide in the number and rate of abortions—due in large part to fewer teens becoming sexually active, and to growing recognition of the humanity of the unborn child. Yet the loss of even one child, and the pain experienced by the child’s mother and father in the aftermath of abortion, should impel us to redouble our efforts to end legal abortion, and to ensure that every pregnant woman has whatever help she needs to turn away from this heartbreaking choice.

For those the pro-life community could not reach and assist before they underwent an abortion, the Catholic Church throughout the United States offers compassionate, confidential counseling through its Project Rachel ministry. In contacting Project Rachel, no one need fear that they will encounter anything less than a reflection of God’s love and mercy and His constant offer of forgiveness and healing.

In many areas of public policy, the rift continues to widen between the moral principles expressed by a majority of Americans and the actions of government. For example, Americans oppose public funding of abortion by wide margins, with 67% opposing federal funding of abortion in health care in one recent poll. In early 2009, Catholics and others sent over 33 million postcards, and countless e-mails and letters to Members of Congress, urging them to “retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”

Yet in March of this year, Congress passed a health care reform law that allows for federal funding of abortion in some programs and could pressure millions of Americans to help subsidize other people’s abortions through their health care premiums. Ensuring that health care reform will meet the urgent needs for which it has been proposed, and is not misused to promote abortion or to trample on rights of conscience, will be an urgent task in the coming year.

Defenseless human life is also placed at risk today in the name of science, when researchers seek to destroy human life at its embryonic stage for stem cell research—and demand the use of all Americans’ tax dollars to support this agenda. In a recent poll commissioned by the Catholic bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, 57 percent of respondents favored funding only stem cell research avenues that do not harm the donor, using stem cells from cord blood, placentas, and other “adult” tissues; only 21 percent favor funding all stem cell research, including research that requires killing embryonic human beings. Yet the current Administration issued guidelines last year to fund human embryonic stem cell research, and some in Congress are preparing legislation to ensure continued funding despite a federal court’s finding that these guidelines may violate the law.

At the other end of life, seriously ill patients are again under threat from a renewed campaign for legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Instead of addressing these patients’ real problems by providing love, support and relief of suffering, this agenda urges us to eliminate the patient as though he or she is the problem. Marching under the false banner of “compassion” and “choice,” it raises the fearsome prospect of a future in which the only “choice” cheerfully granted to our most vulnerable patients is a lethal overdose of drugs.

Becoming a voice for the child in the womb, and for the embryonic human being at risk of becoming a mere object of research, and for the neglected sick and elderly is one of many ways we can teach our fellow citizens that “The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure.” While critics want to portray the Church’s witness as a narrow and negative ideology, it is just the opposite: A positive vision of the dignity of each and every human being without exception, each loved equally by God and so equally deserving of our love and our nation’s respect.

Because we are created in the image of God, who is Love, our identity and vocation is to love sacrificially for the sake of others. Pope Benedict XVI has called this “the key to [our] entire existence.” In a homily during his recent visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict reminded us that “our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy and pride,” and that “pure and generous love is the fruit of a daily decision.” Every day, he reminded us, “we have to choose to love.” In our homes, schools, workplaces, and in public, if we constantly witness to the inestimable worth and dignity of each human life through a loving concern for the good of others, if we allow the dignity of every human life to guide the decisions we make as voters and public policy advocates, we can surely succeed in creating a more just and humane society.

Our efforts, of course, must always be undergirded with prayer—the silent space for personal daily prayer that allows us to hear God’s voice deep in our hearts, and communal prayer that asks God to transform our culture into one that welcomes every human person.

Recently Pope Benedict made an unprecedented request for such prayer, by asking that Catholic bishops throughout the world, and all parishes and religious communities, observe a “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” on the evening of Saturday, November 27, 2010. The U.S. bishops’ offices for pro-life activities and for divine worship will be working together to provide worship aids to assist pastors in planning these vigil services.

Speaking for the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, I heartily encourage all Catholics, whether at home or traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays, to take part in this special prayer, whose purpose according to the Holy See is to “thank the Lord for his total self-giving to the world and for his Incarnation which gave every human life its real worth and dignity,” and to “invoke the Lord’s protection over every human being called into existence.”

May God bless all who work tirelessly to build a culture of respect for every human life, from conception to natural death.

Montana’s Catholic bishops express disappointment in Supreme Court’s physician assisted suicide ruling

“Today’s state Supreme Court ruling allowing physician assisted suicide is very troubling to many Montanans,” said Bishop George Leo Thomas, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Helena.  “Catholic teaching upholds the dignity and inherent worth of every life, a worth that is not conferred by the state, and thus cannot be removed by the state.”

Read the full statement.: