Bishop’s October Reflection: Be a Witness for Life

by Bishop Michael Duca

So often today, and this will happen even more in the future, we find ourselves defending our faith from a biased and one-sided negative characterization of the Church.  For example, recently we have heard, “the Catholic Church does not care about women and their rights.”  We hear this especially in regard to the Church’s stand against abortion.  If you are tired of this, know that it will always be tiring work to defend our faith unless we first of all, as in this regard, know the statement is not true.  Secondly, we will find new energy if we do not let ourselves get caught up in defending a negative and turn the conversation to a Witness for Life, that is, to witnessing to our belief in the absolute value of every human life – a witness of love and care of all people.  This witness of love makes the connection to our faith and love of Jesus.  In a positive witness we will discover a new enthusiasm that will fill us with a love for every child. We will stop just arguing a moral point and we will begin to witness the wonder of our God who loves each new life with a unique and personal love.

To only say the Church is against abortion is the wrong way to approach the issue as a believer. The better way to profess our Catholic faith is to say that we are FOR life. We often frame our faith, or others describe the Catholic faith, by what we cannot do. This is a small and incomplete understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, a good Catholic.  We follow the teachings of Jesus not because of what we cannot do, but because of the wonderful things Jesus reveals to us.  We are first a Church who believes in the wonder, the mystery and the unique value of every human life. Why would anyone not want to profess such a positive respect for every human being and to see everyone as a child of God?

We must respect the life of every individual from the moment of conception because we want to love all our brothers and sisters at every stage of their lives with the love of God.  Science, without the help of religion, is continually revealing to us the complexity and wonder of human life. We know that at the very moment of fertilization the essential elements of our human selves are already set and only need time to grow.  The deeper science investigates, the more life reveals its wonder and the mark of the hand of God. To not protect life from its very first moments sets a dangerous precedent and ignores what science and our faith reveal about the uniqueness of every life.

For anyone to accept abortion they must suspend the belief that the life within the mother’s womb is a child, a human life with values and rights. This sets up a disastrous way of thinking. If a human person’s life is not valued and acknowledged from the very beginning, then every decision for when life should be valued will be arbitrary and unjust. It will be unjust because the value of the life of the developing child who is vulnerable is decided by someone who was given the chance to be born and is already alive. Where in our society do we feel that this is a fair and just way to decide? Further, if we can make this arbitrary decision to determine the value of a human life before the child is born, then why not make the same decision at other stages of life (old age for example), or for other reasons (medical problems)?

As Catholics we must unashamedly be Witnesses for Life.  We are people of the Light and of Life and that should be evident in our witness. With that inspiration we will not be exhausted, but rather filled with a new enthusiasm for this cause with a love that cares for the distressed mother and the unborn child. When we witness to the Gospel of life by our words or choices, let us be motivated by a heart transformed by the love of God that desires for all life to be respected.

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