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08/28/2009
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Bishop urges lay people to carry the battle for life
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

0828_prolifedinner.jpg
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Mary Purnell discusses ideas for the St. Patrick Parish, Kansas City, pro-life committee while Mike Purnell, Mike Dunsworth and Donna Curran listen. Nearly 250 volunteers from across the diocese attended an Aug. 16 dinner at St. Pius X High.
KANSAS CITY — Bishops and priests can’t do it. It’s up to lay people to carry the “battle” for life and against abortion.

And Bishop Robert W. Finn once again called it a “battle” as he spoke to nearly 250 parish volunteers at a Pro-Life dinner and workshop Aug. 16. The dinner, sponsored by the diocesan Respect Life Office, was held at St. Pius X High School in Kansas City.

“Be careful of this last point, the ‘battle,’” said Bishop Finn who heard criticism in April after he spoke of a “war” for life at the annual Gospel of Life Convention in Olathe, Kan.

“There are some who don’t want you to know we are in a battle, even while they themselves never cease to attack,” he said.

“Friends, when we do get attacked and clobbered, then let us know that Crhist has gone before us,” Bishop Finn said. “He told us, ‘In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,’” quoting John 16:33.

But Bishop Finn said that without lay people willing to fight, the words of bishops and priests would have no effect.

“You may be surprised if I say that these are, in some ways, more your responsibilities than they are mine,” he said.

“I want to assure you of my conviction that I cannot accomplish the work without you,” the bishop said. “God wishes to use you and me. Are you willing to do each and every one of these things?”

Bishop Finn urged lay people dedicated to the pro-life cause:

  • Think about your passionate beliefs.

  • Be teachers.

  • Pray — “a lot.”

  • Act.

    “We must make an examination of conscience to see where our beliefs are strongest, and where we still have doubts,” he said.

    “Is the life of the unborn child precious, but what about the heinous criminal on death row? Is he of value in God’s eyes? Is he beyond hope or redemption?” Bishop Finn said.

    “What about the foreigner? The poor and homeless?” he asked.

    “Is it true that, in some instances, the horror of injustice may not be as vital, as immediately life threatening, affecting as many lives,” Bishop Finn said.

    “When we do our examination of conscience, we must ask ourselves if we love each person as a child of God. We must purify our love. We must ask the Holy Spirit to teach us. We want to live and act as people of integrity, of consistency,” he said.

    Bishop Finn urged the lay volunteers to begin teaching with their own children.

    “You must explain the truth about human life to your children,” he said. “Teach and learn from those you love most, then you will be able to go out in conversation with your work associates, or even go out to a broader audience, or to a stranger in need. Write or speak in accord with your God-given abilities.”

    Bishop Finn urged the volunteers to “pray for the conversion of any and every heart you encounter in this work for life. You don’t know who will become your greatest ally in the cause for life.”

    “Invoke your guardian angel and the guardian angel of those you are encountering,” he said. “This was a favorite strategy of Pope John XXIII, now ‘Blessed,’ from the time he worked in the Vatican’s Secretary of State as a nuncio.”

    Bishop Finn also told the volunteers to pray the rosary, “one of the most powerful prayers we have to push back evil.”

    “Pray in atonement, in reparation to repair the tragedy of abortion and other sins against life,” he said. “There is so much hurt and damage that has been done, almost countless crimes against human life, and yet each one is held as a deep wound in the hearts of persons, individuals and family members.

    “They need our prayer for healing and we must beg God to forgive and reconcile, to join our sufferings to those of Jesus Christ, so that they can become redemptive rather than cause despair and lasting bitterness,” Bishop Finn said.

    “And now you must act,” he said. “I must act, but you also. I cannot do it without you. I am shepherd and I must lead.”

    Bishop Finn told the pro-life volunteers the same message he tells high school students who are about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation: “Be apostles.”

    “You must be witnesses for Christ in every circumstance and to those you meet each day,” he said.

    “I cannot be there when a work associate or a school mate is in need,” the bishop said. “You may be called — indeed you are — to be Jesus Christ at that moment. You will save lives.”

    Bishop Finn told the volunteers to take initiative and not to wait for him or the Respect Life Office to act and do the work.

    “Never act contrary to your pastors, to whom I have entrusted a most solemn responsibility,” he said. “But then, do little things and do great things. Act to accomplish some good when and how you can. Don’t be reckless, but be daring.”

    Bishop Finn noted that since the Supreme Court decision was issued in 1973, it has been the consistent opinion of the U.S. bishops that the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States must be overturned.

    “It is a grave evil that has become a fundamental element of law in our country,” Bishop Finn said. “It must be opposed. We always seek to do it legally, but with the fervor of American freedom, and the fiery insistence born of the Holy Spirit.

    “We must overturn unjust laws,” he said. “We must change a law that exposes human life to the terror of abortion.”

    At the same time, Bishop Finn noted that the Catholic Church has done more than any private institution “bar none, to support life at every stage.”

    “We do more to help the poor, the sick, the hopeless, certainly women in difficult pregnancies and those with young families,” he said.

    “We will never stop doing these things. We must not,” he said. “We will do them out of a conviction about the dignity and value of every human person and out of a motive of love of Christ.

    “But these things are not enough,” the bishop said.

    “We must defeat or overturn destructive laws,” he said. “As private citizens, we have to support elected officials who support life, and defeat or remove those who boldly declare a pro-choice, anti-life agenda.”

    Bishop Finn said that “evil will not give up without a fight.”

    “Evil and selfishness looks for us to drop our guard,” he said. “The Freedom of Choice Act has not been enacted, but piece by piece, all its elements are finding their way into law. The efforts that have been won painstakingly over the last generation, limits on abortion that can be shown statistically to reduce the number of abortions in our country by hundreds of thousands per year are today being nullified.

    “We must do much charity, much work in mercy, and develop more safety nets for those who are in need,” Bishop Finn said.

    “But at the same time, we must work for the change of what is unjust. Our first call is to provide and protect justice — and the primordial human right is life — for those who are most vulnerable, who have no voice of their own,” he said.

    “We will act with respect, and we will not ever, ever resort to violence, but we must not cease to work actively against evil any more than we would abandon the initiatives of active charity that mark the work of Jesus Christ.”At the end of the banquet, and at Bishop Finn’s urging, the pro-life volunteers gave a standing ovation to Adrienne Doring, founding director of the Respect Life Office. Doring is leaving the position in October, just before the birth of her and husband Greg’s first child.

    Doring then gave “Pillars of Pro-Life” awards to parish committees for particularly outstanding programs.

    Earning the Pastoral Care Award was joint committee St. Ann Parish in Independence and St. Cyril Parish in Sugar Creek for outreach to a local crisis pregnancy center. Runner-up was St. James Parish in St. Joseph.

    Earning the Public Policy Award was St. Gregory Parish in Maryville for its efforts against embryonic stem-cell research. Runner-up was St. Therese Parish in Parkville.

    Earning the Education Award was St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, for its participation in the postcard campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act, and for erecting white crosses on the church and school grounds during Respect Life Month in October, marking the lives lost to abortion. Runner-up was Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Parish in Kansas City.

    Earning the Prayer Award was Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Raytown, for various efforts including a daily rosary before Mass for life. Runner-up was St. Mark Parish in Independence.

    END



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