The Catholic community in the Diocese of Cleveland soon will mark the observance of October as Respect Life Month. It is a time to focus our thoughts on God’s precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters, both born and yet to be born.
This year’s theme, "Live the Gospel of Life," was inspired by the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life. Pope St. John Paul’s masterfully articulated defense of the right to life for children in their mothers’ wombs, and the respect that we must show to the elderly, those persons with disabilities and the marginalized is more relevant today than ever before. He reminded us that every life has value. It is a gift that no one has the right to disregard.
We believe that the most basic fundamental right that must be upheld and protected is the right to life for all individuals. This begins at the moment of conception. But our respect for life does not end with birth. Because God is both the author and the sustainer of all life, we must value the lives of all people until God calls them home.
The first and most basic right, the right to life, is recognized by the founding documents of our nation as inalienable and given to us by our Creator. Without this right, no other rights can be claimed. Without the basic right to life, all other rights are impossible to exercise. To uphold the right to life necessarily leads to our defense of the other rights that improve the quality of life: the right to a good education, the right to gainful employment, the right to healthcare, the right to worship and live out one’s faith, etc. We also defend against more recent challenges to life, such as euthanasia and assisted suicide.
I add my voice to that of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who encourages us “to allow the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make.”
As the archbishop also said: “May we strive to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps, caring for the most vulnerable among us. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may our Lord grant us the grace to live courageously and faithfully his Gospel of life.”