October is a busy month
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
There’s a lot going on at this time of year. The U.S. Bishops have designated October as Respect Life Month, while coalitions of victims’ rights groups observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Political pundits continue to enjoy the “Year of Campaigning” while our Church has officially kicked off its “Year of Faith.” My head feels like a giant food processor and all of it is mixing together.
As it should. Let’s take them one at a time and see how these threads might be interwoven.
Respect Life Month. Let’s hear it for the Bishops who remind us each and every year to take time to renew our defense of human life and human dignity. Respect Life is not a bumper sticker. It’s not a single issue. It’s an attitude, a lifestyle, a choice. And we do need the reminder.
The Bishops have been steadfast in their insistence that all human life is sacred and that all attacks on human life be vigorously opposed. They have connected the dots for us, and shown us that issues of abortion, the death penalty, war, poverty, and limited access to health care are not just some random assortment of social questions about which the Church takes a position.
Rather, our Church’s teaching is a beautifully woven tapestry of charity and love of all human life; our actions and our advocacy must always be in support of human life. Violence, whether in the womb or in the streets, in our hearts or in our homes, must be confronted and challenged.
Which brings us to Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The fatal beating of a college freshman in her dorm room on my son’s campus just a few weeks ago has made me more sensitive to this issue this year. The coed’s boyfriend has been arrested and charged in the killing. And while my son did not know the victim well, he had sat next to her in a class; he knew her name, her face, her smile. She was a living breathing child of God, and that alone justified respect, not to mention the protection of the law.
Domestic violence disavows respect for life. It spits in the face of human dignity. The Catholic Church has been a leader in raising awareness and breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Because many abuse victims feel safe in church, the church has become a kind of ‘first responder’ which provides safety, counseling and referral to shelter and other services.
I’m proud of our church’s record in helping both the abused and the abusers to find help. But what about the rest of society? Shouldn’t our government be taking a lead?
That question brings us to this election year. So far I haven’t heard the Presidential contenders say anything about domestic violence. So I’m doing my research. I want to know what the candidates plan to do to prevent it, and how they propose to help victims. Ditto for the candidates running for Congress and the State Legislature.
There are a number of issues important to me – and to our Church – about which we’re not hearing much. The talking heads on TV focus only on the issues they care about, while the candidates focus on what their polls tell them will portray them in the most positive light. I want to know more. So I’m digging. In addition to the candidates’ own websites (all accessible through the New York State Catholic Conference website at www.nyscatholic.org), I’ve gathered a great deal of info at the website www.ontheissues.org, which gives candidates’ positions on everything from abortion and gun control to civil rights and environmental policies. I’ve also placed phone calls to candidates’ offices; I’ve had two call backs so far and I’ve actually received some substantive information.
Yes, it can be difficult and time-consuming work, but we are called to take our civic responsibilities seriously. We should exercise due diligence in examining party platforms and candidates’ positions through the lens of Catholic values and principles. We should look at a broad range of issues – all of those issues that combine and color the rich fabric of respect for human life.
And what better time is there to study the Church’s teachings and deepen our understanding of the faith? It’s officially the “Year of Faith”! Take a few minutes each day to look something up in the catechism (available on-line through www.usccb.org). Spend an evening reading the U.S. Bishops’ statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (www.faithfulcitizenship.org). Then get out and vote. It’s not only your right; it’s your moral obligation.