Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion in a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade spurred a flurry of strong reactions and emotions from people around the country. What was published wasn’t the court’s final decision, which is expected within the next few weeks. But it offers an opportunity to reflect on what we believe about the value of every human life and our commitment as Christian disciples to assist women and couples facing unexpected or challenging pregnancies.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” the Lord tells the prophet Jeremiah. Catholic social teaching is rooted in our belief that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, all people — including the unborn, the ill and the marginalized — have a divinely bestowed dignity and a right to life that must be respected and protected from the moment they are conceived until their death.
As Pope Francis noted on the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”): “Every human life, unique and unrepeatable, has value in and of itself; it is of inestimable value. This must always be proclaimed anew with the courage of the Word and the courage of actions. It calls us to solidarity and fraternal love for the great human family and for each of its members.”
One way to live out this call to solidarity and love is by helping pregnant mothers in our local communities who are facing difficult situations. I’m grateful for the work being done by pro-life pregnancy centers in our region and the support our parishes and Area Catholic Communities provide to them by coordinating drives for supplies and helping them meet other needs. Our own Catholic Charities does immensely important work assisting moms and families.
There are other ways as well in which parishes and ACCs can help. “Walking with Moms in Need” is a program initiated a few years ago that is designed to help local Church communities “walk in the shoes” of pregnant and parenting women by filling in service gaps that may exist.
The program’s website — www.walkingwithmoms.com — includes a parish action guide, prayer resources and other materials to get started. The initiative can help parishes and ACCs to assess whether they have a complete and accurate list of resources for pregnant mothers in need, to think about how these resources might be better promoted and to consider other ways to help. I encourage anyone interested in bringing this into their parish or ACC to talk to their pastor about how the initiative might complement other ministries already underway.
Those who work on behalf of the life and dignity of the unborn are sometimes accused of caring for the child but not the mother. Nothing could be further from the truth, and our crisis pregnancy outreach efforts, including initiatives like “Walking with Moms” are proof of that. Abortion is never a life-affirming option, which is why we must continue education efforts, public advocacy and service to others as a witness to the Church’s social teaching tradition, no matter what the Supreme Court’s final ruling may be. Coupled with ongoing prayer and other efforts on behalf of human life and dignity — caring for the poor, the immigrant and others on the margins of our society and Church — this is the truest way of living out the “Gospel of Life” in our world today.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud