Diocesan News

Pro-Life Conference Oct. 15

LINCOLN (SNR) - At this year’s Nebraska Pro-Life Conference, Building a Civilization of Love and Life, Cardinal Edward Egan and numerous other experts will address some of the most serious and urgent pro-life issues of our day. The conference will be held Saturday, Oct.15, in Lincoln, hosted by the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro Life Activities of the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

The topics will include difficult and controversial subjects: assisted suicide, voting in governmental elections, the abortion of unborn children who have received fatal diagnoses and Planned Parenthood’s attempt to expand services in the state.

Cardinal Egan will open and close the conference. He will serve as the homilist for the Holy Mass that will kick off the conference, and he will deliver the keynote address at the banquet that evening.

"We’re privileged and very pleased to have a cardinal of his stature as our keynote speaker this year," said Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Nebraska Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

Archbishop Emeritus of New York, Cardinal Egan was ordained a priest in 1957 and consecrated as bishop in 1985. He was installed in the Archdiocese of New York in 2000 and appointed to the College of Cardinals in 2011. He is an eloquent speaker on what he calls, "the most elementary of human rights," the right to life.

His Eminence will be joined by other priests at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ for Mass beginning at 9 a.m. The conference will then begin next door at Cathedral Elementary School.

Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services for the Diocese of Lincoln will discuss the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s recent statement on assisted suicide, To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide.

A physician before he became a priest, Father Kubat will offer valuable insight into the document, which responds to advocates of physician-assisted suicide in the face of "intolerable suffering." The bishops call for an increased emphasis on palliative care as they disprove the notion that suicide is a compassionate choice. (See below.)

Director of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s pro-life office, Father Damien Cook will deliver a talk entitled, "Conscience and the Catholic Voter."

It’s a timely subject, particularly since the person elected president of the U.S. in 2012 stands to select at least one U.S. Supreme Court justice, which could have a significant effect on U.S. policy for decades. With so many voices competing to be heard along the campaign trail, it can be confusing to determine how one’s vote should be used as a pro-life citizen.

Information about voting as a faithful Catholic citizen can be found below.

As the conference attendees enjoy a lunch break, Mr. Schleppenbach will provide updates on legislative efforts that are being managed by his office. It has been an encouraging year or two in the Unicameral, and Mr. Schleppenbach hopes to keep the momentum going.

Possibly the most sensitive topic in this year’s conference is, "Discovering Hope & Love After an Adverse Prenatal Diagnosis."

Few things are more tragic than discovering an unborn child has a medical condition that is "incompatible with life." Extra chromosomes, missing chromosomes, malformed organs and other issues could mean a child will die shortly after birth.

Recently a Grand Island couple made headlines when they attributed their unborn child’s suffering and death to Nebraska’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The misinformation presented during the ensuing media firestorm led Mr. Schleppenbach to include this topic in the conference.

A panel including Dr. Sean Kenney, maternal-fetal specialist and Monica Rafie, founder of the pastoral care program Be Not Afraid (see page 9), will discuss ways to help these parents evaluate their medical, moral and hospice care options. They will be joined by an Omaha mother whose child received such a diagnoses but remains alive after birth.

Chairman of the Board for Human Life International Patricia Bainbridge will speak about "Exposing and Opposing Planned Parenthood."

A former professor of Michigan State University and former director of the Diocese of Rockford’s Respect Life office, Mrs. Brainbridge is an expert on Planned Parenthood who travels throughout the world to refute arguments typically offered to justify abortion.

After the educational portion of the conference ends, attendees are invited to attend a reception with the bishops. Cardinal Egan, Archbishop George Lucas, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz and Bishop William Dendinger will greet laypeople, priests, religious and seminarians at the University of Nebraska East Union, 35th and Holdrege streets in Lincoln, beginning at 5 p.m.

A banquet will follow at 6 p.m. Cardinal Egan will deliver the keynote address.

All are invited to hear the cardinal Oct. 15. The cost of attending the entire conference is only $55 and includes the educational sessions, banquet, luncheon and snacks.

Reduced rates are available for those who wish to attend only the conference or only the banquet. Priests and religious also receive a discount.

To register for the conference, submit your registration online at www.nebcathcon.org or call 402-477-7517 for more information.


U.S. Bishops Speak out Against Assisted Suicide

(SNR) - Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement on physician-assisted suicide.

The intention of the document is to dispel the myth that suffering people should be hurried along to death, rather than cared for in an environment of peace and comfort.

"[M]any people fear the dying process," the document reads. "They are afraid of being kept alive past life’s natural limits by burdensome medical technology. They fear experiencing intolerable pain and suffering, losing control over bodily functions, or lingering with severe dementia. They worry about being abandoned or becoming a burden on others."

Conventional wisdom in secular society suggests that when a person is robbed of their health, they are also without purpose and without hope. Physician-assisted suicide is presented as a mercy. It has been legal in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland for some time.

In the United States, physician-assisted suicide was first legalized in Oregon in 1994. The ensuing 14 years saw the movement defeated in every state legislature that was presented with an assisted suicide bill.

Then in 2008, the Washington state legislature passed a similar law. The act permits terminally ill state residents to receive a prescription for a lethal dose of a medication, which they can administer to themselves at will.

Perhaps because of the Washington law, assisted-suicide activities have renewed their efforts recently. Montana’s highest court is now wavering on the issue.

The USCCB sees this as "a renewed threat to human dignity." The statement predicts a "radical change" in society if the assisted-suicide movement is successful.

In plain language, the bishops outline the Church’s objection to assisted suicide.

First and foremost is the concern that people who seek to take their own lives could be suffering from a mental illness, such as clinical depression, a natural response to dealing with a terminal illness.

"They need help to be freed from their suicidal thoughts through counseling and support, and when necessary and helpful, medication," the bishops maintain.

Of second concern is the reality that a person’s free choice could be compromised by legalized suicide.

"Many people with chronic illnesses or disabilities—who could live a long time if they receive basic care—may be swept up" in a definition that leads to physician-assisted suicide, rather than receiving the true care and protection they need.

Third, the bishops object to the policy’s "devaluing" of human life.

The document continues, "The right to life is the most basic human life…It is the most fundamental element of our God-given human dignity."

At the Nebraska Pro-Life Conference, Father Christopher Kubat will explore the Bishop’s statement in detail. To read it online, go to www.usccb.org and search for "To Live Each Day." You will find a link to download the document in pdf format.


Locals Organize to Oppose Planned Parenthood

(SNR) - Last April, when Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced their intention to open six new clinics in Fremont, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Norfolk and North Platte, local pro-life people immediately began organizing grassroots efforts to stop the abortion provider in its tracks.

"They sort of awakened a sleeping giant," said Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Nebraska Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

Many people who have held pro-life convictions for years have been attending informational meetings and training sessions to put action to their beliefs.

As Mr. Schleppenbach pointed out, most of what Planned Parenthood offers is already available in the six communities through Title Ten family planning locations. The only service that Planned Parenthood could possibly add is abortion.

On the legislative front, Nebraska successfully passed LB 521, referred to as the webcam abortion ban, which became law at the end of August. This ban will prevent Planned Parenthood from using the same model they operate in Iowa satellite facilities. In Iowa, Planned Parenthood doctors in larger cities distribute abortion drugs to women in small towns via teleconferencing and remote control.

Still, more must be done to keep Planned Parenthood from opening facilities in these towns. State-wide pro-life, pro-family groups have joined together to form a coalition called Nebraskans Against Planned Parenthood (found on Facebook and Twitter). They have been organizing informational presentations and training sessions to help local citizens understand the legal ways they can work together to stop Planned Parenthood.

Connie Consbruck, president of South Central Nebraska Right to Life is delighted to see more people inspired to help prevent Planned Parenthood’s attempt to expand their influence in Nebraska.

It is believed that the six communities cited by Planned Parenthood were selected because each has a community college, where young people are easy targets for Planned Parenthood’s message of women’s health support, education, birth control, testing for sexually transmitted disease and the all-important sliding scale.

"They make it sound so wholesome," lamented Mrs. Consbruck. "It makes young people think that it [premarital sexual activity] is a socially-acceptable norm, which is really part of the culture of death."

Mrs. Consbruck has done her research.

"When Planned Parenthood sees pregnant women in their clinics, 97% end up having an abortion," she said. "They are responsible for 330,000 abortions annually. That’s a horrible number."

Mr. Schleppenbach said that the day of Planned Parenthood’s announcement, he received a call from Jim Sedlak, founder of STOPP (Stop Planned Parenthood). Mr. Sedlak offered to help to train and educate Nebraska citizens about their legal means of keeping Planned Parenthood sites out of their communities.

He visited Norfolk earlier this month and flew back to Nebraska this week to train volunteers in the other five communities.

"When people come listen to Jim Sedlak, he will expose who Planned Parenthood is," Mrs. Consbruck said. "They will be really amazed… They’ll get on board and help keep our community free from Planned Parenthood’s influence."

Nebraskans in the targeted communities are encouraged to contact their local Right to Life organization or their parish priest to get involved. In Hastings, Mrs. Consbruck invites people who wish to get involved to call her at 402-751-2368.

Hope for Disabled Unborn Children, Their Parents

(SNR) - Medical advancements continuously make it easier for doctors to see and evaluate unborn children, but this capability has become the proverbial two-edged sword.

While it is important to diagnose medical conditions that can be treated while the child is still in the womb, and while it is helpful for parents to know about other non-treatable conditions so they can properly prepare to parent a special-needs child, a diagnosis of a serious condition that is "incompatible with life" can lead to moral and ethical controversy.

When such a condition is detected, parents are apt to receive thinly-veiled pressure to abort.

"Sometimes it can be presented in such a way that it might not even appear to the couple that it’s an abortion," noted Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Nebraska Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

Faced with a team of doctors, geneticists and other professionals when they are particularly vulnerable, many parents reveal later that abortion was the only option presented. The prevailing wisdom of our "culture of death" suggests that terminating the unborn child’s life is somehow the most compassionate thing to do.

One mother of a baby with Trisomy 13 wrote, "We had chosen to have a termination due to all the pressure from the doctors/genetic counselors/professionals… Maybe if the professionals we had talked to would have given us more information we would have made a different choice. To this day, I still live with the pain of the choices we made."

Frequently, parents can be made to feel like they are irresponsible or fanatical if they choose not to abort. Doctors have even been known to drop patients who refuse abortion after a difficult prenatal diagnosis.

Theresa Gray, grandmother of conjoined twins who died shortly after birth and founder of the 1heart2souls outreach program that supports parents who have lost infants or who have infants with disabilities, said that more than 98% of babies with a poor prenatal prognosis are aborted.

Mrs. Gray and her team work to get pro-life information to genetic counselors, obstetricians and clinics where parents will likely be given only abortion literature after a negative prognosis.

"This is disturbing and has to be challenged," she told LifeSiteNews.

Another resource for these parents is Be Not Afraid. Founded by Monica Rafie, who will speak at the Nebraska Pro-Life Conference Oct.15, this organization offers online support and resources for people facing a poor prenatal diagnosis, plus resources for parishes so that priests and pastoral teams can provide help and understanding for their own parishioners.

Mrs. Rafie launched the program after learning that her unborn daughter was diagnosed with a very serious set of heart defects.

"I have read that nearly 75% will abort with this diagnosis of heart defects -- although I haven’t been able to confirm that statistic," Mrs. Rafie told the Rochester Area Right to Life. "It was certainly an option offered to us early on."

Already an ardent pro-life worker, Mrs. Rafie had no intention of aborting her child, but she craved support. She had some online friends who had received similar diagnosis, and she reached out to others who had posted their stories on the Internet.

"I saw that there were online support sites for women who had terminated because of diagnoses as well as support sites for women who had already carried to term -- but I didn’t see anything directed specifically to those who were in the process of making a decision," she said.

So, she started her own forum to help women and couples deal with the decision process.

"If there is one thing we want to express to parents who are facing difficult decisions, it is simply this . . . be not afraid," Mrs. Rafie said.

For more information about Be Not Afraid, visit their web site at BeNotAfraid.net. Learn about 1heart2souls at 1heart2souls.org.


Voting: the Power to Uphold Catholic Morality in Society

(SNR) - As members of a free, democratic society, each U.S. citizen is entitled to express what he or she believes is right or true by voting in national, state and local elections.

For Christians, this includes an obligation to take a moral and ethical stand that aligns with the Lord’s teaching and will. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly urged Catholics to take this obligation seriously.

"The responsibility to make political choices rests with each person and his or her properly formed conscience," the USSCB stated in a document entitled, "The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."

In our country, the concept of voting in a way that honors and upholds our faith is a difficult one to fulfill. Political parties tread in murky waters in which there are few clear dividing lines.

When there are numerous candidates – such as the current state in the Republican Party’s presidential bid for 2012 – it can be difficult to discern each person’s viewpoints on the vast array of issues. Even more discouraging, it is nearly impossible to guess which candidates will follow through on their moral statements, and which are only saying the "right" things to win elections.

"It’s very frustrating," admitted Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. "Ultimately, if somebody doesn’t have the character of their convictions, they can say all they want as emphatically as they want, but there is very little to hold them accountable."

Recently, Mr. Schleppenbach and Father Damien Cook, director of the Archdiocese of Omaha pro-life office, did a "tag-team presentation" on faithful citizenship. With the upcoming presidential election, Mr. Schleppenbach thought it would be timely to have Father Cook speak on the subject at the Nebraska Pro-Life Conference.

"How does the Church guide us in analyzing candidates? Certainly, the Church has much to offer," Mr. Schleppenbach said.

He noted that whomever is elected president in November 2012 has the potential to name at least one – if not more – U.S. Supreme Court justices. As the Court decides matters of law that affect the whole country, this is a crucial area of concern for all faithful Christians and for all people who hold pro-life convictions.

At the conference, Father Cook will discuss our duty as voters, what it means to vote one’s conscience, the Church’s teaching on faithful citizenship, and how the Magisterial teaching applies to upcoming elections.

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