During this month of October we take time to remind ourselves that as Catholics we respect life, life in all its forms, life as the greatest gift of God. And we declare October to be Respect Life month. What a great celebration it should be - expressing our gratitude for the immeasurable variety of life, and how the human person participates in the light and power of the Spirit of God. Our celebration of life is, of course, marred by those events and practices that we recognize to be a part of a culture of death, and not a culture of life. And in this month, we particularly pay attention to the tragedy and the scandal of the presence of legalized abortion in our country.
As part of our celebration of life, we join in so many positive activities. There is a Mass and procession to the abortion clinic on Main Street to silently protest abortion and stand in witness to our respect for life. We gather together along Niagara Falls Boulevard in a "life chain" to demonstrate the number of us who are proudly pro-life, and call others to the same defense of life. Many gather in front of the abortion clinic for "40 Days for Life," creating a constant series of prayers for an end to abortion and a greater respect for all life.
Those who are involved in each of these activities would quickly admit that if all of these actions saved only one life, then their efforts were worth it. This underscores a deep principle behind the teaching of the Church on life - that each and every life has an infinite value. Because each human being is created in God's likeness, and is a marvelous unity of body and soul, each life has infinite value in the eyes of God.
This is true of each person, regardless of their condition, or their circumstances, or their past. I am reminded of this each time I visit Collins Correctional Facility and talk with the men inside. Sometimes I am speaking with men who have done some horrible things that have landed them in prison. If we still had the death penalty in New York, some of the men I talk to would have been executed for their crime. Thankfully they are still alive to turn their lives around and to walk a different path - one that is a journey based on their faith in Jesus.
This is, perhaps, the hardest part of our profession of respect for all life - to assert the transcendent dignity of each human person, no matter who they are. All of our pro-life activities stand or fall on this truth. It is critical for us to be unwavering in our defense of unborn life. The abortion of so many human lives every day is a disgrace to our culture and an indignity to who we profess to be as 21st century Americans. But our defense must be based on the unyielding principle of the infinite value of each and every human life.
Each time we take action to reduce the number of abortions, we are celebrating life. Each time another state bans the death penalty, we are celebrating life. Each time we insist on not using military means, but instead finding non-violent solutions to problems, we are celebrating life.
This month is Respect Life month. We are called to defend, advance and uphold the sanctity of each and every human life and to declare each person to have infinite value. That is how we celebrate life.
Deacon Don Weigel is the associate public policy coordinator at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and an instructor at Christ the King Seminary. He may be reached via email.