March 8, 2024

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

A call to uphold the value and dignity of life in all its stages

David Bethuram

The Catechism of the Catholic Church underscores the sacredness of human life, affirming its sanctity as it originates from God’s creative act and maintains a unique connection with the Creator throughout its existence.

The ultimate authority over life, from its inception to its conclusion, resides with God, and no one possesses the right to directly end the life a human being (#2258). Each individual, fashioned in the image and likeness of God, inherently holds value, and is cherished by God from the moment of conception. The call for Catholics is to uphold the dignity of every person, acknowledging this intrinsic worth.

While the pro-life movement often focuses on issues like abortion and euthanasia, St. John Paul II, in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” emphasizes that charity in the service of life should be consistent, devoid of bias and free from discrimination (#87).

Pope Francis characterizes our current culture as a “throwaway culture,” where everything, including human life, is considered disposable once deemed no longer useful.

In the Gospel of Mark (Mk 2:15), the narrative of Jesus associating with social outcasts challenges societal norms, prompting the Pharisees’ dismay. Today, we also fall prey to similar judgments, measuring a person’s value based on job title, physical appearance, age or societal contributions.

We must recognize that we all are created in God’s image and are meant to be in union with him. To achieve this union, we must love others as God loves us, acknowledging the inherent dignity of every human being, irrespective of sin, weakness, disability, age or illness.

Lula, facing a challenging upbringing, found herself living on and off the streets at age 17. Despite struggles with employment and stable housing, a turning point occurred at 27 when she became pregnant.

Turning to Catholic Charities for assistance, she received not only material support but also crucial wrap-around services such as counseling, day care referrals and guidance on obtaining her GED. During 18 months as a Catholic Charities client, Lula transformed her life, gaining confidence, securing a full-time job and achieving her educational goals. This experience made her feel supported and secure in the community, demonstrating the transformative power of love and resources.

Consistency in upholding fundamental values at all life stages is paramount, recognizing the value and dignity of the unborn, the homeless, the mentally ill, prisoners and the terminally ill. As Christians, it is our duty to see Christ in everyone. In today’s secular society, separating political bias from genuine love and welcome is challenging, necessitating introspection to identify areas where we fall short in respecting life.

While advocating for legislative measures against abortion or assisted suicide is crucial, true respect for life involves personal encounters with those whom Jesus would embrace but society might reject.

Overcoming fear is essential, as highlighted by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, “What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Mt 25:45).

Pope Francis urges us to counter the “throwaway culture” with a culture of “encounter,” steering away from political idolatry and recognizing the dignity of all as made in God’s image.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. You can contact him at †

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