September 24, 2010


‘Sit up and think’ during Respect Life Month

“Sit up and think.”

This is what British Prime Minister David Cameron said Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 16-19 visit to Great Britain should cause the people of his nation to do.

The pope’s message about God, religion and the social order, and the challenge that the Holy Father shared during his visit, easily could be applied to countries throughout the world, too.

Not surprisingly, the pope spoke about the right of the Church to have its voice heard in the public square. He also warned against aggressive forms of secularism that risk undermining traditional religious values that the Church believes benefit all in society.

In Glasgow, Scotland, the Holy Father told Catholics during a Mass that it was not enough to live their faith privately. They, too, must defend the Church’s teachings in the public square, he said at the liturgy attended by more than 80,000 people.

“There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is, in fact, a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect,” Pope Benedict said.

That message needs to continue to take hold here in America and is providential as we approach Respect Life Month in October, where millions of people are working to change hearts and minds by building a culture of life.

Though recent polls indicate that more and more people in the United States are embracing life issues, we must continue our efforts as people of faith to work to protect all human life from conception until natural death. Our faith also calls us to share our love with all God’s people, and reach out to our brothers and sisters most in need, including the poor, vulnerable and despised of this world.

“Unfortunately, in our culture, we [are held] fast in a grip of deadly attitudes about human life, about the human person, especially in the moments of his or her beautiful but fragile beginnings, and in the vulnerable times of old age and illness,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, during his homily at the opening Mass for the national Vigil for Life on Jan. 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

“There are some in our culture and in our country … who think that human civil institutions or some given human subject bestow the right to life. No! Not any of us can bestow the right to life. We can only recognize the right to life, uphold and defend it, and cherish its beauty.”

The pope and Cardinal DiNardo’s words can also serve as a timely reminder to our civic leaders. Too many politicians on both sides of the aisle try and search for politically correct answers when faith enters into the political arena. Or some even go to great lengths to make sure that faith isn’t part of any conversation when important issues of the day and policies are being debated and discussed.

Though it would be unfair to pigeonhole all politicians into this camp, we have seen firsthand how some members of Congress—and even some individuals serving at the local and state level—try to make sure traditional religious values are not part of any discussion.

We must continue reminding those who serve in public office that they work for us, “the people,” and that our faith influences how we live as disciples of Christ. At the same time, we need to remind ourselves that, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, nothing is more powerful than prayer.

“Sit up and think.”

As we begin our annual observance of Respect Life Month in the U.S., we would do well to heed Cameron’s words and encourage others to do likewise.

—Mike Krokos

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