This is the 50th anniversary of Respect Life Month during October, which we celebrate in the United States in the Catholic Church, as called for by the bishops since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in Roe v. Wade. While we are very grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court last year in reversing legalized abortion as a national mandate, we have experienced so much division during the past year in regard to issues dealing with the basic right to life within our nation on the political scene.
The theme for Respect Life Sunday this year, Oct. 1, as well as for the annual Respect Life program within our nation, is Radical Solidarity. St. John Paul II used this phrase to express that support for the life of the unborn child is also support for the mother of the child and the assistance that can be offered to her. Indeed, Radical Solidarity is a stance that we take with all men and women, regardless of age or situation in life, respecting the right to life and the dignity of the life of each and every person created in the image and likeness of God.
The focus of the abortion debate has now turned to the states and their laws pertaining to the legal prohibition or permission for abortion. This debate is a center of focus even on the federal level, where there still is support for legalized abortion. The right to life is neither a federal nor state issue as it is a fundamental right given to us by God in accord with the very purpose for which our great nation was founded. Our country came into existence on the foundation that the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is granted to all persons by God. When the right to life of an unborn child is called into question and that right can be taken through the means of abortion, then the right to life of every person is called into question.
We have seen how abortion has given rise within our culture to calling into question the right to life of every person. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, traveled last week to Marseille, France, where he made bold appeals for a more compassionate and welcoming stance for immigrants within Europe. In the homily for the Mass upon his departure from France, Pope Francis strongly condemned the practices of abortion as well as euthanasia. At a press conference from Marseille to Rome on his flight, the pope was questioned about the controversial law which is being prepared in France to permit euthanasia. The pope responded by saying, “You don’t play with life, not at the beginning, and not at the end. You don’t play with it.” Indeed, the legalization of abortion within our nation has paved the way for so many practices in which the law plays with life.
Radical Solidarity calls us to be united in respect for the gift of life at all stages, from the moment of conception until natural death. Radical Solidarity reminds us that we are one human family, and we need to join with each other in uncompromisingly promoting the right to life as fundamental to who we are. Radical Solidarity calls us to provide loving assistance to all those at any stage of life when respect for life is called into question. It is more than words of support but actual reaching out in support, such as to the infirm, the homeless and the immigrant among us. Radical Solidarity, so well expressed by St. John Paul II, includes the assistance we give to mothers who find themselves in a difficult situation through an unexpected pregnancy as well as after the birth of their child. We are very blessed in the Diocese of Palm Beach with the mission of our Catholic Charities office, which exceeds in this regard and is a model of Radical Solidarity.
I am deeply grateful to the faithful women and men of our Diocese who demonstrate what Radical Solidarity is all about as it relates to the right to life. I am deeply grateful for all of you who join together to demonstrate that you don’t mess with life. You join together in a witness that is loving, prayerful and supportive of the unborn child and of the life of everyone created in the image and likeness of God. I thank you who make a tremendous difference in raising the conscience of our culture and in challenging our legal system, especially by your example. The power of prayer simply cannot be underestimated in this regard. May the Lord continue to bless us as we join together during this Respect Life Month in Radical Solidarity, appreciating the right to life which God has given to us.
The following is a prayer from the bishops in regard to Radical Solidarity:
O Blessed Mother, at the angel’s word you went in haste to the aid of your cousin Elizabeth. Although pregnant yourself, you placed her needs before your own.
By your example of radical solidarity, teach us to reverence and protect those in need, without conditions or expectations. Ask your Son to give us unfailing determination to witness the profound dignity of every person, at every stage and in every circumstance.
In that first Eucharistic procession, you carried Jesus to Elizabeth in her time of need. Obtain for us the grace to bring Christ to any expectant mother who is alone and afraid.
May our support help them to find hope and strength in the Lord. Amen.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
September 29, 2023