byMost Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
Politicians frequently accuse the Catholic Church of being single minded on a political issue which is life. It is absolutely true that the Catholic Church is single minded in regard to the issue of life at all stages, from the moment of conception until natural death. However, respect for life is not a political issue. It is a basic moral one. Life is a supreme gift which comes from God who is our Creator. Life is an inalienable right which is the foundation of the entire plan of God, as well as that upon which our nation was founded. This year, as Catholics, we are deeply horrified and saddened as the present administration of our nation has been one of the most aggressive in regard to the promotion of abortion. It is the politicians who make abortion a political issue. We realize our obligation to stand firm in opposition to this through all legal means available to us.
October is designated as Respect Life Month, with the first Sunday, October 3, as Respect Life Sunday. Respect Life Month this year is dedicated to St. Joseph who is the model of respect for life as the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. Joseph’s strong defense of the gift of life is experienced as we first encounter him in the Scriptures, when the angel appears to him in a dream and directs him to take Mary as his wife after she had conceived Jesus in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. St. Joseph reminds us of the need to give witness to life today in a world and society which has lost true respect for life, especially through the legal acceptance of abortion. When abortion is permitted, as is the case in our nation, respect for life at every stage is forsaken and diminished.
Pope Francis directly addressed the issue of politics and abortion in a recent press conference during his return flight from his visit to Slovakia. He strongly stated, “Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder. Abortion, without hinting: whoever performs an abortion kills. … it’s (the embryo) a human life. This human life must be respected. This principle is so clear. And to those who can’t understand it I would ask two questions: Is it right, is it fair, to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically it is a human life. Second question: is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? … This is why the Church is so strict on this issue because accepting this is kind of like accepting daily murder.” In this context, Pope Francis also emphasized that pastors must be shepherds and not politicians in regard to dealing with political leaders who condone abortion. However, he clearly stated that such leaders and politicians are outside the community of the Church. Very much in keeping with Pope Francis’s words, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, rightly stated when President Biden recently remarked that life does not come into existence at conception. The Cardinal emphasized, “The Catholic Church teaches, and has taught, that human life begins at conception, so the President is not demonstrating Catholic teaching.” It is well to remind the politicians that it is not their role to articulate moral theology and to forsake it in legislation.
During this year of St. Joseph, let us renew our commitment to do all we can to promote respect for life at every stage. We live life to the fullest when we do so. In a very recent video on adoption by Pope Francis during this year of the fifth anniversary of his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris laetitia, he stated: “Every baby, in every case and whatever situation, is to be welcomed because he or she is a child. Parents’ love is the means by which God shows His love. He awaits the birth of every baby. He accepts and welcomes each child as they are. I want to say to every woman expecting a child: you are God’s awesome instrument to welcome and offer a new life in the world.” The Pope’s words are another reminder to us that it is not sufficient to oppose abortion but to do all we can to respect the gift of life and by assisting women who have conceived life within themselves. In this regard, we are very blessed in the Diocese of Palm Beach through our Respect Life Office and the work of Birthline Lifeline.
During this Respect Life Month, let us strive to become more like St. Joseph by recognizing how precious every person is. We can treat people accordingly as we go about our day. We can help those in society who are struggling to welcome new life, like mothers who are pregnant or parenting in difficult circumstances. We can reach out to those having a hard time seeing the worth of their own lives. We need to reassure those at the end of life who are afraid they are a burden or feel like their lives have no meaning. We have an obligation to do all we can to oppose legal abortion and any legislation that harms the right to life of an individual. We must not let politicians interfere with our right and obligation to proclaim the truth about life. St. Joseph reminds us that when human life is threatened, when our brothers and sisters need support welcoming or embracing life, we must lovingly respond with his faithfulness.
St. Joseph, Defender of Life, pray for us!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
October 1, 2021