Standing Together for Life

Members of the Youth Group from Our Lady of Grace take a moment in prayer before attending a Life Chain event with residents of Carnegie Garden Nursing Home. (LINDA CALDWELL | FC)
Members of the Youth Group from Our Lady of Grace take a moment in prayer before attending a Life Chain event with residents of Carnegie Garden Nursing Home. (LINDA CALDWELL | FC)

by Glenda Meekins

Respect Life Month begins October 1 and people across the country will be uniting in efforts to promote and defend the dignity of human life through prayer and events such as the nationwide Life Chain taking place on Respect Life Sunday Oct. 2. Since 1972, the month of October has been recognized in the Church as Respect Life Month in an effort to focus on the value and dignity of all human life. By doing so, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hope “to help Catholics understand, value, and become engaged with supporting the dignity of the human person, and therefore the gift of every person’s life.”

Michael Sheedy, executive director for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose mission is to serve as liaison to state government on matters of concern to the Catholic Church throughout Florida, said the Church has always taken the position that, “Unborn human life is worthy of our respect.” And in regards to concern for the aged, he recalled what many bishops often say, “We are called to care, even when we cannot cure.”

“The Church has called us to a consistent ethic of life, respecting the right to life from conception to natural death,” explained Sheedy. “We also promote those rights that help promote the dignified or proper life for each person. So in addition in trying to protect the unborn and their right to life and also the aged, we advocate against the use of the death penalty in the present context.

“When you look at those who are most at risk of abortion, they are typically poor, less advantaged members of our society. When you look at death row, they are disproportionally represented by people of lower income. When we get into education policies, we are trying to advocate for parents of children who don’t have as many options as those who are more affluent. We want to provide just solutions for every member of society especially the most vulnerable members, including the unborn.”

Catholics in the Diocese of Orlando will have the opportunity to learn more about these and other life issues at the statewide Respect Life Conference, “Merciful like the Father”, Oct. 14-15 at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park. Among the speakers this year is Father Tadeusz (Tad) Pacholczyk, Ph.D, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Pennsylvania. In his presentation on “The Call to Mercy at the Beginning of Life,” he will discuss how advances in technology and human reproduction have created a moral dilemma for bioethicists.  Catholics are called to promote justice including protecting the most vulnerable persons in the human family – the unborn.

“Ultimately, the abortion controversy is an extension of our failure to correctly understand our own sexuality, and is a direct outgrowth of a ‘contraceptive mentality,’” said Father Pacholczyk in an email to the Florida Catholic. “The error that is widely followed today is to suppose that sexual activity is not about life, children, procreation, and commitment, but instead about the satisfaction of self-referential needs and desires, so that whatever opposes ‘my way,’ including new human life, can be negated, attacked, and expunged. Even though human sexuality is by nature all about the “gift” of ourselves in the context of a permanent marital commitment — so that every new life becomes part of that gift — contraception and abortion tell us to contravene the meaning of our own bodies and tell us to refuse the most beautiful gifts of all.”

Father Pacholczyk and the other conference speakers will provide hope and inspiration for people of good will who seek to reawaken in all hearts a zeal for life at all stages. Important and relevant topics such as human trafficking, pornography, abortion and bioethics will be explored through the lens of God’s merciful love for each person.

For more information on the Respect Life Conference and other resources and events to help enrich your faith during Respect Life Month, visit: https://www.orlandodiocese.org/respect-life-month/