Respect life 2010-11.
Some people might look at the theme of the USCCB's 2010-11 Respect Life Program--"the measure of love is to love without measure"--and dismiss it as too lofty and unrealistic. Saints like Mother Teresa can manage to love others "without measure," but normal people? Really?
Or some might ask: What's love got to do with abortion, euthanasia, population control, embryo-destructive research, and the other life issues?
Is perfect love possible for ordinary folks? Of course it is. The Respect Life poster depicts real people: Juan is clearly devoted to his elderly mother, Carmen; joy is evident in the faces of Sr. Edna and the Guatemalan orphan she cares for; and little Anthony Arritola was cherished by his big brother Lorenzo and the rest of his family in the year between his birth and death.
Perfect love comes naturally to parents. When a child has a bad cold or tummy bug, parents don't hesitate to give care and comfort, even if it means a sleepless night. Suppose your little daughter becomes gravely ill. You'd move heaven and earth to obtain the best medical care. Nothing would take priority over getting her well again, whatever the cost, whatever the inconvenience. You'd never think, "I can pay $40,000 for her medical care, but that's it. It's not worth selling the house or car." You love her beyond measure and without fear of the personal cost to you.
What's difficult for us is learning to love others that way--with a love that puts their well-being ahead of our own, that expects nothing in return, that involves sacrifice on our part. Where perfect love is lacking, we count every cost to ourselves. The fear of having our plans interrupted, our lives radically changed, the sacrifices of time and money that will be required of us--all these fears can overwhelm us and keep us from making choices that affirm the lives of others as worthy of existing, being loved and cared for. The key to personal happiness and to a healthy culture is to enlarge our circle of loved ones to encompass everyone we know and meet, and eventually, every member of the human family. At a minimum that involves recognizing and defending their foundational human rights, beginning with the right to life.
In this year's Respect Life flyer, three families struggle with all too common decisions of life-or-death. Would their fears of disrupted lives and great sacrifices lead them to choose death for their unborn child or elderly relative, or would their hearts expand enough to love and care for these vulnerable family members? Find out at www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/2010/docs/2010-rlp-flyer.pdf.
Whatever the topic the pamphlets in this year's Respect Life packet invite readers to see vulnerable people not as burdens or "problems" to be eliminated, but as human beings, equal to them in dignity and worth, and equally loved by God.
For example, population control advocates and, recently, some environmentalists, have been arguing that draconian population control measures are essential to prevent global warming and maintain the earth's ecosystem. Steve Mosher, in "Make Room for People," asks us to reject the view that our brothers and sisters in the developing world are helpless consumers of scarce resources whose very existence imperils the earth's atmosphere. The eradication of children in the developing world by means of coercive or "incentivized" programs of sterilization and abortion is immoral. It also makes no economic sense. In explaining the economic and social benefits of population growth, Mosher also points out that humanity is now at greater risk of having too few people than too many, because "birth rates have been in free fall in most of the developed world for some time."
One of the most encouraging aspects of our long struggle to end legalized abortion has been the enthusiasm and dedication of today's young people in joining this great campaign for life. While the ranks of abortionists and abortion advocates grow smaller and grayer and more shrill with each passing year, the pro-life movement has never been more vibrant and energetic. Two interns working in the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, Megan Breen and Samuel Vasquez, collaborated on an inspirational article, "The Promise of ProLife Youth." Despite all the anti-life messages our culture and media direct at teens, the simple truth about human life before birth, presented by a small group of pro-life students, can transform attitudes about abortion in an entire high school, saving lives in the process.
These pamphlets and all the Respect Life materials can be read, downloaded, or purchased on the Pro-Life Secretariat's web site at www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/2010.
Susan Wills is assistant director for education and outreach, U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.