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Respect Life Ministry

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Respect Life Ministry in the Albany Diocese

“human life is a precious gift from God. Each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self and others…. Society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence.”

- US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life, Copyright © 2001, USCCB.

The Albany Diocese’s Respect Life Ministry is designed to promote the United States Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. A wide spectrum of issues touches on the protection of human life and the promotion of human dignity. The Church is committed to a consistent ethic of life, which recognizes the distinctive character of each of these issues while giving each its proper place within a coherent moral vision.

In his Address to the Participants at the 12th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Congress on “The Human Embryo in the Pre-Implantation Phase” (February 27, 2006), Pope Benedict XVI said that:

“God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother’s womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Gn 1:26) in each one.”

Although the Catholic bishops of the United States note that abortion plays a central role among the important issues involving the dignity of human life with which the Church is concerned, it is not the only life issue with which we are faced today. Their Pro-Life Secretariat list

• Abortion

• Assisted Suicide

• Capital Punishment

• Cloning

• Contraception

• Disabilities

• Embryo Research

• Euthanasia

• Fetal Research

In Vitro Fertilization

• International Issues

• Morning After Pill

• Partial-Birth Abortion

• Post Abortion

• Roe v. Wade

• RU-486

• Stem Cell Research

• Unborn Victims of Violence

• Women

as issues that touch upon, or threaten, the sanctity of life and if we are going to be true to our calling to hold a consistent ethic of life, we must remember all of these areas. (The issue names listed above are linked to the US Bishops’ resource page on that particular issue.)

In the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities our bishops renewed their call for individual Catholics and the many institutions and organizations of the Church to unite in an unprecedented effort to restore respect and legal protection for every human life – to be what Pope John Paul II asked us to be: a people of life and a people for life (The Gospel of Life, no. 78). To this end, they called for:

I. Public Information and Education to deepen understanding of the sanctity of human life and the humanity of unborn children, the moral evil of intentionally killing innocent human beings – whether at the beginning of life or at its end – and the mission of the Church to witness and serve all human life.

II. Pastoral Care for women with problems related to pregnancy; for all who have been involved in abortion; for those who are disabled, sick, and dying, and their families and caregivers; for those who have lost loved ones to violent crime; and for those in prison sentenced to death.

III. Public Policy efforts directed to restoring legal protection to the lives of unborn children and those vulnerable to pressures to end their lives by assisted suicide, and to providing morally acceptable alternatives to abortion and assisted suicide.

IV. Prayer and Worship directed to participation in the sacramental life of the Church and in programs of communal and individual prayer, that the culture of death that surrounds us today will be replaced by a culture of life and love

The effectiveness of these efforts directly depends on the pro-life/respect life educational and public policy activities generated by parish-based pro-life/respect life committees. The Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life (OECFL) will work with individual parishes, or groups of parishes, and their respective committee chairpersons. Special efforts and activities are sponsored and organized each year to highlight the pro-life movement, e.g., Respect Life Sunday, January 22 (Anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade). The diocesan office will serve as a clearing house, providing information and resources via email and this web page to assist parishes, schools and pro-life volunteers to keep abreast of current life issues and what we as Catholics can do to respect and support life at all ages and conditions.

All of us can proclaim and serve the Gospel of Life through peaceful activism, education, prayer and service. Meet the challenge. Speak out with determination, courage and patience. Advocate for the sanctity of life whenever and wherever it is threatened.

Choose Life!

Stephen M. Mawn - Associate Director for Catechist Formation & Respect Life