Each October, the Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states, “Catholics are called to “cherish, defend and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between.”
“As Catholics in the United States … it is a time to focus on God’s precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a statement last week.

“This year’s theme, ‘Live the Gospel of Life,’ was inspired by the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, ‘The Gospel of Life.’ Pope John Paul’s masterfully articulated defense of the right to life for children in their mothers’ wombs, the elderly, persons with disabilities and the marginalized is more relevant today than ever before."

During the month of October, the Church asks us to reflect more deeply on the dignity of every human life. The Diocese of Albany will hold its Respect Life Month Mass on Sunday, Oct. 11, at 11 a.m., at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger presiding. The Evangelist talked with Renee Morgiewicz, coordinator of Parish Services & Respect Life Ministry, about the month.

TE: Can you talk about the importance of having one month dedicated to life?

RM: Respect Life Month is a reminder to the faithful that life issues are so important to the Catholic Church. In fact, some of the life issues are so important, such as abortion and euthanasia, that the U.S. Bishops have reminded the faithful this past year (in the document “Forming Consciences for Faith Citizenship”): “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority.” Respect Life Month serves to remind and empower the faithful of such priorities so Catholics can better serve the women and men affected by those life choices or who need help.

TE: Can you talk about this year’s theme: Live the Gospel of Life?

RM: This year’s theme, ‘Live the Gospel of Life,’ was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, ‘The Gospel of Life,’ which is a defense of the right to life for the unborn, the elderly, people with disabilities and the marginalized. Today these topics could not be more relevant. Archbishop Naumann stated further: “I shared with Pope Francis that the bishops of the United States had been criticized by some for identifying the protection of the unborn as a preeminent priority. The Holy Father expressed his support for our efforts observing that if we fail to protect life, no other rights matter. Pope Francis also said that abortion is not primarily a Catholic or even a religious issue, it is first and foremost a human rights issue. The Gospel of Life provides a blueprint for building a culture of life and civilization of love.”

TE: What are some simple steps parishes can take to celebrate the month?

RM: Please visit respectlife.org/2020 for a tremendous amount of information that parishes and the faithful can use to ­celebrate Respect Life Month. Please call me (518-453-6609) or email (renee.morgiewicz@rcda.org) for additional guidance or with questions.

TE: How has the pandemic affected the Respect Life initiatives?

RM: Fortunately, the initiatives are increasing tremendously as we prepare for Respect Life Month. Many Respect Life committees are meeting in-person, online or doing online pro-life initiatives.

TE: When we talk about Respect Life, that means all life from conception to death. Can you speak to the importance of that?

RM: The Church teaches: “Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good.” (The Gospel of Life, No. 87). Among grave issues involving the dignity of human life, abortion plays a central role because it is the direct, intentional killing of an innocent human being. That is why for example, abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are always gravely immoral. To prioritize resources and charity, people may wish to reflect on who is more vulnerable and defenseless — and thus in need of our help — than an unborn human being. The USCCB states on abortion: “It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice.” One of the reasons for the Church’s existence is to support all human life in its various stages and circumstances. Prioritization of life issues does not ignore the many different urgent conditions that demean human dignity and threaten human rights.