September 29, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Jesus set the precedent where respect life issues are concerned

On Oct. 1, we observe Respect Life Sunday. We persist in doing so year after year. We can never concede the struggle to promote a culture of life.

We speak for the right to life of the voiceless unborn and the right to life of those who cannot care for themselves in the nighttime of life. And there is much more than a right to life at both ends of the spectrum.

Eloquent and deeply committed proponents of the right to life are prophetic in our culture. Secular materialism and consumerism are a powerful counterforce in society in general and within Christian ranks as well.

Two imposing social instances of the lack of respect for human life are having a deep impact on our local communities.

Here in Marion County, but elsewhere as well, there has been an alarming increase in the number of cold-blooded murders. Something has gone awry. Civil authorities and other community leaders are doing their best to address the problem. Much is drug-related; much is related to the quest for money. For sure, poverty is an issue.

As one reviews the circumstances of the publicized murders, in every case there is an astonishing lack for the value, the dignity, of the human person. One who kills to get money, one who kills to get money to buy drugs, one who kills to win an argument in a street fight, no matter the details, lacks a fundamental respect for human life.

For many, that analysis may sound too philosophical, but it would be hard to deny its truth. Human life becomes dispensable when it is just one more commodity that can be discarded or terminated in the heat of anger or in a drugged or drunken state.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once remarked that it is a great poverty indeed that causes someone to terminate the life of the unborn because of inconvenience. She was prophetic in reminding us that a society willing to destroy the unborn won’t stop there.

There is no question that the illegal ownership of guns, the accessibility of illegal drugs, irresponsibility of some parents, indifference in some of our neighborhoods and the impact of poverty in society must be addressed in cooperative social programs. But they are symptoms of a grave moral deficiency in our secular culture. As we address the symptoms of secular materialism that have gone awry, are we willing to name and own the need for respect for human life in all its dimensions?

Another social issue preoccupies our nation. It is the issue of illegal immi-grants. Isn’t it ironic that, except for our Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants? Yet, there is a great divide in the nation about how to handle this issue. The proposals run from “throw them all out” to “give them all green cards.”

Recently, an attorney who practices immigration law, Thomas Roach, addressed five common myths about our immigrants (National Catholic Register, Sept. 3, 2006, issue). They included:

  • Illegal immigrants take American jobs. Not true, they work in jobs Americans do not want. Their jobs are minimum wage with no benefits and little opportunity for advancement.
  • Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. The overwhelming majority pay the exact same taxes all of us pay. Employers deduct the federal income and social security taxes from their earnings.
  • Illegal aliens don’t learn English or assimilate. It may be true of the elder Mexicans who received only a rudimentary education in Mexico. However, their children go to our schools, are immersed in English and virtually all speak English. Like the Irish, Italians, Germans and Japanese, they will assimilate American culture in the years ahead.
  • They don’t contribute to the U.S. economy and come here to get welfare. They pay taxes and consume goods and services that are vital to the U.S. economy.
  • Illegal aliens should apply to legally come to work in the United States. True, but it is impossible. The present system for employment-based immigration allows only 10,000 low-skill green cards per year for the entire United States. It is a paradox: The U.S. needs workers, foreigners want to work, but the present immigration system doesn’t make it possible.

Our Church does not condone the breaking of laws. But our Church also says fix laws that don’t work. Further-more, the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants in our country are to be respected in their human dignity. The solution to our situation must be legal, respectful and workable.

To the extent that racism is a significant factor affecting both the incidence of violence in our culture and the issue of illegal immigration, it too is a matter of respect for the dignity of human life. Every human person has a right to respect for his or her dignity. Jesus set the precedent. †


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