January 20, 2012

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Kara Favata

The Gospel of Life and prenatal screening

Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection teach us that often what is painful in some way can lead to great, unimagined possibilities. One example of this reality is a family who has a child with a disability. While parents of people with disabilities rarely say that the journey is easy, they often speak of the beauty, joy and love that their children bring into their life.

Our defense of life and rejection of the culture of death requires that we acknowledge the dignity and positive contributions of all our brothers and sisters, especially those with disabilities.

As our U.S. bishops teach in their document titled “Welcome and Justice for Persons with Disabilities,” “Defense of the right to life implies the defense of all other rights that enable the individual with disabilities to achieve the fullest measure of personal development.”

As we look forward to the annual March for Life and our local pro-life observance on Jan. 23, we reflect on the mission to gather the body of Christ in a spirit of unity, and to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life. We know that every person is made in God’s image and has an immortal soul. As Catholics, we stand for the right to life and against abortion.

Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed this truth often. “God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother’s womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness in each one.”

The decision to have an abortion often begins with information obtained via prenatal screening. We need to remember that prenatal screening is not a medical diagnosis and yields many false positive results. There are many types of prenatal screenings that can be helpful. However, sometimes there is not an understanding of Catholic moral teaching in relation to prenatal screening, especially if the results are cause for concern.

For many parents, the door to making a wrongful decision opens with results from prenatal screening. Without proper education, guidance and support, parents may be misguided in thinking that having an abortion is a “merciful” thing to do, especially if their child has a strong probability of having serious physical or developmental disabilities.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, approximately 5 percent of all normal pregnancies will receive a positive result for abnormalities.

Tragically, 92 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are killed by abortion. To read more, log on to http://www.zenit.org/article-33610?l=english.

The website www.benotafraid.net is a good resource for parents struggling with the results of a prenatal screening.

As many parents and family members will tell you, having children with disabilities can fill you with fear, uncertainty, fatigue and loneliness. However, the greater the sacrifices made out of love, the greater the joy we receive.

As we read in the U.S. bishops’ “Respect Life Sunday” material last fall, “When we step up to these challenges, God can stretch our hearts and fill them to overflowing with his love, joy and peace. With hearts so transformed, we can become living witnesses to the meaning of Jesus’ mission: ‘I came that all might have life, and have it to the full!’ ” (Jn 10:10).

(For information on building parish inclusion teams and enhancing appreciation of persons with disabilities, send an e-mail to Kara Favata, archdiocesan assistant director for Special Religious Education, at kfavata@archindy.org or call her at 317-236-1448 or toll free at 800-382-9836, ext. 1448. For more information on pro-life topics, log on to the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry page at www.archindy.org/prolife.)

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