From indifference to solidarity

Today (Friday) hundreds of people from the Diocese of Fall River, youth and adults, are marching in Washington, asking that our country respect life from conception until natural death, with a particular plea that there be an end to abortion. The March for Life is held this week due to the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision (which legalized abortion) being January 22. The March used to be held on the anniversary itself, but a few years ago the march was moved to always be adjacent to the weekend, to make it easier for working people and students to attend.

One of the fixtures at the march from our diocese was Kevin Ward, a parishioner of St. Patrick’s Church in Wareham. Kevin will not be at the march this year. Today (Friday) his funeral Mass is being celebrated.  He died this past Sunday. Kevin was instrumental in organizing the Cape Cod Bus for Life, which is down in Washington at this moment. May the souls of those whose lives he worked to save greet him and put in a good word for him with Our Merciful Lord. We know that the pilgrims down in D.C. are praying for him and his family.

On Nov. 15, 2014 Pope Francis addresses the Italian Physicians Organization at the Vatican. He spoke about respect for human life. He condemned a “‘false compassion’ which holds that it is a benefit to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to perform euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child, considered as a right rather than a gift to be welcomed; or to using human lives as laboratory animals, allegedly in order to save others.”

He urged the doctors to have the “compassion of the Good Samaritan, who ‘sees,’ ‘has compassion,’ draws near and provides concrete help (cf. Lk 10:33). Your mission as doctors places you in daily contact with so many forms of suffering. I encourage you to take them on as ‘Good Samaritans,’ caring in a special way for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled. Faithfulness to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes requires brave choices that go against the current, which in particular circumstances may become points of conscientious objection. This faithfulness brings with it many social consequences.” The pope did not expand on what he meant by this, but one could assume that he meant that these doctors risk being ostracized or even losing their jobs.

He continued, “We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But it is harmful experimentation. Making children, rather than accepting them as a gift, as I said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, Who created things this way. Many times in my life as a priest, I have heard objections. ‘Tell me, why, for example, does the Church oppose abortion? Is it a religious problem?’ — ‘No, no. It’s not a religious problem’ — ‘Is it a philosophical problem?’ — ‘No, it’s not a philosophical problem.’ It is a scientific problem, because there is a human life there and it is not licit to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem. ‘But no, the modern school of thought’ — ‘Listen, in the old and the modern schools of thought, the word kill means the same thing!’ The same is true for euthanasia. We all know that with so many elderly people in this throw-away culture, euthanasia is being performed in secret. There is also another. And this is saying to God: ‘No, I will end life, as I see fit.’ A sin against God the Creator: think hard about this.”

On Tuesday Pope Francis released a letter he sent to the World Economic Forum, being held this week in Davos, Switzerland. In it he urged solidarity with all people on this planet. “The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family. The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very center of public policy.”

After reminding businesses and governments of their need to act in an ethical manner, the pontiff lamented, “All too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest. This typically views others as a means to an end and entails a lack of solidarity and charity, which in turn gives rise to real injustice, whereas a truly integral human development can only flourish when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good. In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth.

“In my Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, I drew attention to the importance of an ‘integral ecology’ that takes into account the full implications of the complexity and interconnectedness of our common home.”

We share this common home with people of various religions (or no religion). On Monday Pope Francis met with people from the Simon Weisenthal Center, which “seeks to combat all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and hatred towards minorities” (as the pope said in his remarks). He then spoke about how the center and the Holy See have “a shared desire to make the world a better place in respect for human dignity. This dignity is due to every person in equal measure, regardless of his or her ethnic origin, religion or social status.”

The pope recalled his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 2016. “I went there to reflect and to pray in silence. In our world, with its whirlwind of activity, we find it hard to pause, to look within and to listen in silence to the plea of suffering humanity. Silence helps to keep memory alive. If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember, lest we become indifferent.”

Sadly, the pope noted that there is, “in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed. May we continue to cooperate in the defense of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. May the Almighty help us to respect one another and to love one another more, and to make the earth a better place by sowing seeds of peace. Shalom!”

May our prayer in silence lead to action, together with our fellow Catholics; with other Christians (with whom we are praying for unity this week); with our older brothers and sisters, the Jewish community; and with all people of goodwill. By seeing the dignity of each other, we can work to defend it. 

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