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10/08/2004
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Bishop urges faithful to be leaven for strong marriages
By Albert de Zutter
Catholic Key Editor

1008_RespectLifeMass.jpg
Albert de Zutter/Key photo
Bishop Robert W. Finn distributes Communion at the Respect Life Mass held Oct. 3 at St. Elizabeth Parish, Kansas City.
KANSAS CITY - Worshipers at a Respect Life Mass at St. Elizabeth Oct. 3 were praised for their fidelity to Catholic teaching on marriage as found in "Humanae Vitae," the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI most famous for its reaffirmation of the church's teaching on birth control.

"Your obedience to the law of God, the truth of Jesus Christ is life-giving, and at times shares in the sacrifice of the cross," Coadjutor Bishop Robert W. Finn told the assembly of about 185 adults and children at the Sunday evening liturgy.

"It is no easy thing to live in fidelity to chastity, whether as a married person or as a single person or in the celibate priestly or religious life," Bishop Finn said. "Such self-giving requires great faith and hope, and tremendous charity, not unlike that of Christ going to his cross and resurrection."

Bishop Finn said he intends "to do all that I can to serve the vision" of marriage and family life found at the end of "Humanae Vitae."

Toward the end of the encyclical, in a passage Bishop Finn read to the congregation, the pope exhorted bishops to "work ardently and incessantly for the safeguarding and the holiness of marriage, so that it may always be lived in its entire human and Christian fullness. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time. As you know, it implies concerted pastoral action in all the fields of human activity, economic, cultural and social; for, in fact, only a simultaneous improvement in these various sectors will make it possible to render the life of parents and of children within their families not only tolerable, but easier and more joyous, to render the living together in human society more fraternal and peaceful, in faithfulness to God's design for the world" (No. 30).

"What a great vision. What a powerful communication," Bishop Finn said.

He said that everyone has experienced the desperation expressed in one of the Scripture readings: "How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen" (Habakkuk 1:2-3). "Faith gets us through that moment," he said. "Faith always involves believing in something and someone. We believe great truths because someone is worthy of our trust. Jesus Christ is the fullness of our revelation of the Father."

The vision of the encyclical "still has its time," he said. "It will surely come. In the midst of crises and trials, God gives his word that he will fulfill his plan. The world needs the gift that God has entrusted to us."

He said those people who follow the teaching of "Humanae Vitae" through Natural Family Planning present "a powerful image to the world." While faith is "falling into love of the Father, content is also important."

"It is important to learn that catechism, to read the great and inspiring encyclicals, to safeguard the truth, because there are so many lies. We are called to be light and life for the world," Bishop Finn said.

He said Pope Paul VI was right in warning about the dangers of the "contraceptive mentality," and seeing how easy it would become to justify infidelity and other moral lapses.

The pope warned that "it is wrong to make it easy for the young to disregard the moral law. He knew the dangers of not protecting the great gift that was entrusted to us."

The 1960s and the advent of the birth control pill resulted in disregard for marriage and family life, the bishop said.

"So much was lost and so much has happened as a result of the pill," he said.

"I need you to be leaven, to build and inspire strong faithful marriages - faithful to the Holy Spirit and the teachings of the church. We haven't always preached this so faithfully. There's too much at stake. We must guard this trust. If we don't do that, we will have failed."

But, "if we work together, bearing our share of the burden for the sake of the Gospel, then, at the very end, we'll say (in the words of the Gospel), 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what we were obliged to do'" (Luke 17:10).

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