My hope is that our parishes and individuals pray fervently for the following intention: that human dignity will be recognized and respected in our land once more.
Within the greater culture of the United States and indeed our global community, the Catholic Christian understanding that women and men are made in the image of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ and called to love one another as God loves us is at best perceived as a minority opinion and, with increased frequency, met with hostility and repression. A few examples follow.
* Nationally, the rules and regulations proposed to implement federal health-care reform disregard the right of conscientious objection. Insurance coverage for contraception that works by inducing early abortion and for surgical sterilization is mandated. Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations will be forced to violate the very tenants of the faith that impelled the creation of these institutions that manifest love to one another through service. Forcing all medical facilities to perform all legal services including forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions cannot be far off.
* Stem-cell research funded with New York state tax dollars continues destructive human embryo research. As predicted, researchers are not content with "leftover embryos from in-vitro fertilization clinics that would be thrown out anyway" but are provided tax money to entice women to undergo invasive medical treatments to harvest their eggs to create human embryos solely for the purposes of research.
* Human embryos, human reproductive cells and human adult cells are proposed to be mixed with animal cells to create chimeras. That is, the transfer of a human nucleus into an animal ovum; or the crashing of complete human cells with animal cells; or the mating of a human reproductive cell to an animal cell, followed by the stimulation to develop a chimera, human/animal mix, for research.
* An increasing promotion of the philosophical concept of "personhood" in universities and medical schools as determinant of the need to respond to and care for individual human beings. Personhood theory suggests that unless a human has the capacity to express himself or herself, has awareness over time, and experiences desire, the human being is a human nonperson to whom no obligation for care is required. In practical terms it means that those individual who are classified human nonpersons may be terminated without impunity, as is the case with involuntary euthanasia in the Netherlands today.
* There is a minimum estimate of 17,500 individuals -- primarily women, some foreign nationals, some American citizens -- that are kept in sexual servitude in our nation today. Any pregnancy that might result from the enslavement and "sexploitation" of a woman can easily be aborted in clinics funded with government money. Meanwhile, the American public is served up a weekly television show that glamorizes sex club activities. The show is sponsored by leading multinational corporations whose products most Americans use each day.
* Changes in the law no longer recognize that children are entitled to enjoy the benefits of parenting from a father and mother in a relationship intended to be permanent and lifelong. The unregulated in-vitro fertilization industry allows the creation of a child for anyone with the funds, and the child’s right to relationship with his or her natural parents is disregarded.
These are just a few examples of the environment in which we as Catholics, members of the body of Christ, are functioning. Christian ethics no longer dominate in our culture, yet each of us has a role to play in continuing the creation of the kingdom of God here and now.
There are so many opportunities in our diocese for involvement in the pro-life movement. The pregnancy care centers, including Birthright, Women’s Care Center, Focus and Place of Hope, minister daily to women with crisis pregnancies. The Knights of Columbus is providing funds and leadership, along with parishes, to make ultrasound services available to all pregnant women. The Public Policy Committee of our diocese and the New York State Catholic Conference work for laws that affirm the dignity of each of us. Project Rachel continues to offer reconciliation as a way to heal those hurt by abortion. We are blessed to have groups such as Bioethics Educators, Rochester Area Right to Life, Feminists Choosing Life, Forty Days for Life, Chemung County Right to Life, the Pro-Life Planning Committee, ASCI Inc. and March for Life. These groups ensure that the public and our leaders get accurate information on the issues of our day and see the dedication of citizens to human dignity.
Every activity that is undertaken, each conversation that is pursued, every prayer that is prayed contributes to affirming the dignity of every human being. I thank all who are involved for being Christ to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
Armantrout is life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester.