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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
January 19, 1996     The Message
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January 19, 1996
 

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 ul for Life truth is that our young and able-bodied  SUpport euthanasia for their elders far more than do the old and the frail themselves. sick person may be convinced that his or her Juicide" is the responsible, perhaps even ex- ISted, solution for a painful illness, is an indictment against a society with too little love for some of its members. The sick and the elderly thetOy defend their lives at the very mo- are the weakest. respect for life abhors euthanasia and as- as attacks on life. At the same time, it us to impose the burdens of over- on persons near death. Once the dying pro- the services due from care givers Even though healing is no longer physician is still urgently needed to members provide their loved one with a The capacity to manage pain, and to presence to patients we cannot to the health care profession and is to patients. A love which accepts life accepts the given limits on our lives; it those who are close to death. i i!: CHRISTIAN FIDELITY spirit and genuine fidelity easily turn from life-giving to abortion These are not the wayward ges- they are the forlorn acts of a so- forgotten or rejected fidelity to its signs of a need for conversion. spoke to the ancient Church in speak the same words to us today: to yourself.. "I am rich, I have made a for- everything I want,' never realizing that and pitiably poor, and blind and Warn you, buy from in the fire to mae me the gold that has you truly rich, and to clothe you and nakedness, to put on your you to see (Rv. turn a blind eye toward those cannot we sus- even more theirs. This is ghts that has fOCUS this often violent et Spes, 27). OUrselves off to the we most surely of life. esus gave up his have life, and antly (Jn. ited to mortal life we all and which yield up some- life. It is lWay to the life through his eSUrrection. The nd eternal life possible for starting here ultimate life. say: "Love your neighbor and hate be of another kind: "Love loved you." His gift was not to are deserving of it, and to withhold are not. This would be an act of gave us his own Spirit, empower- loves -- regardless of who de- is fidelity (Jn. 13:34-35; 1 Jn. 2:7-8; a. 4:9-21; Rm. 5:6-11; 1 Jn. 3:16). we Catholics can be tempted in the virtue of fidelity. But we can c tO our baptismal fidelity unless we "araitted to persons in need, for better CIVIL PROTEST lic statements on abortion and asia have often responded to In the legislative and social fortunately fed a misunder- the Church and without, Y to laws and government to as- tice. Quite the contrary. Help- Consciences of our Catholic priority. To them we say: our Is to speak the truth to your ibility, and your moral judg- ment, no matter what the civil and criminal laws may be. The violations of human life wrought upon the most helpless are not merely illicit; they are, from a Christian perspective, betrayals of trust. But we are also citizens, and we share the right -- indeed, the duty -- of all citizens to insist that the laws and policies of the United States be faithful to our Founders' conviction that the foremost "unalien- able right" conferred by our Creator on all of us is life itself. When disadvantaged or disenfranchised people have their pursuit of happiness, their liberty, and even their lives threatened by their nearest neigh- bors, we are bound to stand up for them, and with The Lord did not say: "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy," Our love must be of another kind: "Love one another as I have loved you" them. Years ago in our nation, African Americans were declared "property," and not "a portion of this people" (Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857). So their servitude, their enslavement, was then elevated to the stature of a constitutional right. More recently, the Nazis classi- fied the mentally ill and physically disabled as "use- less eaters," and Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies were called "subhuman." So they were exterminated. Is it any dif- ferent today when the law treats unborn children as "non-persons" and those who are senile are seen as possessing insufficient "quality of life" to go on living? How can we not hear in our time echoes of those other times, never to be forgotten, when some were consid- ered less than human and others said to have lives "not worth living?" As bishops, as Catholics, as citizens, we speak against the injustice of destroying children by abor- tion and eliminating'elderly or impaired people by eu- thanasia. And we speak against the ultimate disgrace of doing these deeds under the sanction of law. Christ has charged us with a special care for the widow and the orphan, the refugee and the pauper, the sick and the disabled, the accused and the out- cast. Those who serve as public leaders have a special responsibility to make courageous choices in support of life, especially through legislative measures (Evan- gelium Vitae, 90) measures that protect the un- born, the elderly and the enfeebled who are so mor- tally threatened today. WHAT THEN SHALL WE DO? fm ln ou s Christians, we know our true calling is to find Christ's way, not simply to get our way. If we fail to keep faith with one another we r loyalty to the Lord himself. Sometimes we Catholics are slow to admit that fi- delity to the gospel is alien, even hostile, to many self- ish understandings prevalent in society today. Many today regard Jesus' call to irrevocable commitment as a hard saying, an "ideal" but not an imperative. Yet this gospel teaching and ancient discipline requires Catholics to take a courageous, even if lonely stand. It also requires that we apply our beliefs to all our min- istries with conviction and intensity. Within our dioceses the Catholic community is served by a wide variety of agencies that influence and pass on our shared understanding of familial fi- delity. Each addresses the protection of human life from its own specialized perspective, witnessing al- ways to the ultimate obligations of open-ended fi- delity. When pregnant women and girls don't know where to turn, thousands of committed Catholics in our dio- ceses and others to be sure -- are there both to sustain and to challenge them. From 10 to 15 million people each year, including many experiencing dis- tressed pregnancies, turn to Catholic Charities for so- cial and emergency services. Across this nation there are more than 3,000 emergency pregnancy centers that offer assistance for pre-natal care and related needs, as well as numerous programs of reconciliation and healing to help women and men deal with the emotional and spiritual aftermath of abortion. When families are caught in a bewildering health crisis, our health care professionals and facilities offer them committed service. Our schools and religious educa- tion programs offer young people authentic education in chastity to provide them with a more generous and responsible perspective than society offers. When ter- rifying moral questions confront families in life- threatening crises, we seek to offer competent and compassionate counsel to them. When those who ad- here to a belief in the sacredness of life express that belief publicly by their words, public witness and peaceful protest, we bishops are heard atnong them -- as we have been heard on workers' rights, and civil rights, and in the struggle for peace M urging prayer- ful, non-violent and even exemplary witness that re- spects every single human life. We repeat together what we have stated individu- ally: no woman in need with a child, born or unborn, whether she is Catholic or not, should feel herself without help. We pledge the heart and hands of the Church to help mothers and fathers in need. to find pregnancy counseling, pre- and post-natal care, housing and material support, and adoption services. In preaching Christ's gospel, all of us must speak these things aloud. Abortion and eu- thanasia are crimes and be- trayals which, repeatedly and consistently over the ages, the Church has condemned as con. trary to Catholic faith. The de- liberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his or her life is always morally wrong; it can never be a licit means to a good end (Evan- gelium Vitae, 57). In speaking about this basic teaching, we must also make known from every pulpit the Church's sin- cere and open welcome to those who seek reconciliation with the Lord and peace with his Church. But let us be clear: No person who subverts this teaching privately or pub- licly speaks in the name of Catholicism. Nor can any- one who seeks to promote the cause of life through ha- tred or violence have any part with us. WHO IS THIS NEIGHBOR? e are called to be neighbors to everyone, and to "show special favor to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need. In helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned as well as the un- bern baby and the old person who is suffering or near death -- we have the opportunity to serve Jesus. He himself said: 'As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (EvangeHum Vitae, 87}. When God inquired after the missing Abel, Cain asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" "Your brother's blood," the Lord rejoined, is crying out to me from the ground" (Gn. 4:9-10). This prompted early Chris- tian writers to list similar deeds that ried to heaven for vengeance." They included the violation of resi- dent foreigners, the mistreatment of widows and or- phans, and cheating laborers of their wages. What gave each of these sins voice before God was not only the exploitation of the vulnerable by the powerful, but