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Archbishop Schnurr for January

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Archbishop M. Dennis Schnurr addresses the group. CT Photo/E.L. Hubbard

by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

Christians from the earliest days have always defended the defenseless, bringing God’s love to the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable. No one is more vulnerable than a child in the womb. In America today, about one in five pregnancies end in abortion. As Christians, we can never simply accept this as a regrettable fact of life.

Later this month, on Jan. 19, I will join hundreds of young people and adults from throughout the archdiocese at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. I do this whenever my schedule allows because I believe the march is an important witness for life. Its specific purpose is to advocate for legal protection of the unborn, restoring what was taken away by judicial fiat of the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973.

Changing the law is a crucial step in changing the culture – from a culture of death to a culture of life. “The culture of life means respect for nature and protection of God’s work of creation,” St. John Paul II said in 1993 during World Youth Day in Denver. “In a special way, it means respect for human life from the first moment of conception until its natural end.”

Emphasizing concern for the most vulnerable lives by no means undercuts respect for all life. In fact, it is just the opposite: Devaluing life at its earliest stages devalues life at all stages. As Pope Francis stated so well in The Joy of the Gospel: “defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.” (213)

Respect for life is not a “Catholic issue” or even a “Christian issue.” Defending the life in its earliest stages, thus protecting the right that makes all other human rights possible, is a matter of social justice. It is for this reason that the church asserts the legitimate role of the political process in protecting life in the womb. Remember that when you vote. The bishops of the United States have written: “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

The Church also embraces pregnant mothers in crisis situations and those who have had abortions. Extending loving, non-judgmental support to such women is also pro-life. Problem pregnancy centers and the church’s Project Rachel do just that. Our Office of Respect Life Ministries assists these apostolates, partly with the help of your contributions to the archdiocese’s Respect Life collection each October.

Marching, advocating, contributing, voting, and volunteering are all ways to witness for life. Most of all, however, we must pray. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In particular, Jan. 22 is a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children in all dioceses of the United States. (Learn more at USCCB.org; search “January 22 prayer”)

Building a culture of life is part of the DNA of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In addition to the students who take part in the March for Life each January, many more engage throughout the year in service projects to help the poor, the elderly, and the ill.

Catholic schools are special, and that is why we will celebrate Catholic Schools Week nationally from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3. On Jan. 29, I will be delighted to once again answer questions live from our high school students across the archdiocese. This will take place at LaSalle High School and be livestreamed on the internet.

Catholic education has been strong in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for almost 200 years. I am grateful to the teachers, administrators, and volunteers who help to make our Catholic schools such wonderful institutions of learning and spiritual formation.


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