Bishops Urge Truth on Respect Life Sunday
Note Prevailing Contradictions in American Society
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- As U.S. dioceses prepare for Respect Life Sunday, Cardinal Justin Rigali urged Catholics to seek and spread the truth.
On Oct. 7, Catholics in the United States will mark the annual day dedicated to praying for and promoting a culture of life. It is held the first Sunday of October.
Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. bishops' conference, issued a statement, saying: "We will not see the day when all human life is respected and defended unless we address a deeper problem.
"As Pope Benedict XVI has said: 'If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil. And then the great and wonderful discoveries of science become double-edged: They can open up significant possibilities for good, for the benefit of mankind, but also, as we see only too clearly, they can pose a terrible threat, involving the destruction of man and the world. We need truth.'"
Cardinal Rigali, who is also archbishop of Philadelphia, mentioned the theme of this year's Respect Life Sunday: "The Infant in My Womb Leaped for Joy."
He said: "The moment Mary's greeting reaches Elizabeth's ears and John's, the tiny prophet announces to his mother the Messiah's arrival, as if his entire being were exclaiming: Behold! The Lamb of God!
"There was no confusion as to what and who were nestled under their mothers' hearts. Yet 2,000 years later, many well-educated people do not know -- or claim they do not know -- the truth about human life before birth."
The cardinal noted recent public contradictions in American society regarding life issues.
He mentioned that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in April a ban on partial-birth abortion, recognizing the humanity of unborn children. Yet, a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in September said there is no way to know when human life begins.
U.S. President George Bush vetoed a bill to fund stem cell research requiring the destruction of human embryos. Yet, the cardinal noted, "supporters of embryonic stem cell research continue to dismiss concerns about destroying human embryos, because they are 'no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.'"
The 72-year-old prelate continued: "Some ethicists suggest that patients who apparently lack conscious awareness -- although otherwise healthy and not imminently dying -- can be dehydrated and starved to death because their lives are not fully human but 'vegetative.'
"This ignores the insight expressed in 2004 by Pope John Paul II and recently reaffirmed by the Holy See under Pope Benedict XVI, that 'the intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being do not change, no matter what the concrete circumstances of his or her life. A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a "vegetable" or an "animal."'"
Cardinal Rigali reiterated a call for truth in a culture marked by such widespread confusion.
"On this Respect Life Sunday, we ask Catholics and all people of good will to witness to the truth about the incomparable dignity and right to life of every human being," he said. "This is no sectarian creed. The 'recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.' And that is the truth."