Legislative Update

Embracing dignity in disabilities

By Tom Venzor  

Before I jump into my column, I want to remind you to register—if you have not already—for our annual Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet and Conference in Lincoln (Oct. 26-27). This year’s conference, entitled “Saving Lives in the Good Life,” will equip attendees with the solidarity and knowledge needed to build a culture of life within our homes, parishes, communities, and state.

Dr. George Delgado, our keynote for both the Friday night banquet and Saturday conference, will highlight the modern medical miracle that is the abortion pill reversal (“APR”) process. The APR process has helped hundreds of mothers, who have initiated the chemical abortion process, to reverse their abortion and have a second chance to choose life.

The conference will feature other speakers like Megan Drapa of the Vitae Foundation, Jennifer Warner of Ohio Right to Life, and the NCC Staff. These speakers discuss a variety of topics like effective, data-driven pro-life messaging; needed tools for persuasive pro-life grassroots advocacy; and building up a culture of life in your parish community.

It’s a banquet and conference you won’t want to miss—and you certainly won’t want your friends to miss out, either! Find more information and register at www.necatholic.org.

As I’ve discussed in an earlier column, every year the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities creates “Respect Life” materials to be used primarily during October (which is “Respect Life Month”) and, as well, throughout the following year. The Respect Life materials discuss various human life issues, especially ones I regularly write about: cherishing human life by protecting the life of the unborn child, carrying for loved ones at life’s end by opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia, promoting God’s mercy by offering post-abortion healing and reconciliation, and embracing God’s plan for creative love by disavowing contraception.

But another important theme stressed within the Respect Life materials is embracing the God-given human dignity of those with disabilities. This message is a critical one in what Pope Francis has called a “throwaway” culture. All too readily life is discarded once it is deemed worthless. And, unfortunately, life is all too readily labeled as worthless. If somebody lacks certain intellectual or physical capabilities, such as those that may accompany Down syndrome, they are viewed as burdensome and “life unworthy of life” to quote from that atrocious designation established by the Nazis. This reality is evident in the uptick of prenatal genetic testing that has led to the eugenic act of killing unborn children diagnosed with some fetal abnormality.

As the Respect Life material insert on disabilities states: “Many parents want perfect children, and our culture is obsessed with superficial perfection. Photos are airbrushed, and social media depicts seemingly perfect lives.” But such attitudes, which creep into the smallest of actions, can sometimes be emblematic of a deeper cultural disposition toward human life.

But this is not the “Gospel of Life” which is found throughout Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of our Faith. The Gospel of Life preaches the unconditional love of God which sees nothing but the incredible beauty of every life, as good and precious. As the Respect Life packet insert further states: “Many know this on an intellectual level, but those who love someone with a disability see it in their loved one’s face in a particular way. Our love for our children has nothing to do with their abilities. We love them simply because of who they are, and understanding this teaches us how to truly love everyone. We also begin to understand our own worth, which depends not on our skills or appearances, but solely on the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God and loved by Him. Our lives—all our lives—are worth living.”
This is a message that must permeate our society, our politics, our culture. This is a message that must be lived in our homes, our places of employment, our schools. This is a message that must run through our own hearts. Pray to God that we may see as He sees, with that merciful gaze that dwells on the beauty of His creation. As we regularly recite: Thy Kingdom Come!

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