OUR CORNERSTONE AND FOUNDATION
THE BISHOP'S PROGRAM FOR PRO-LIFE
Basic human rights are violated in many ways: by abortion and euthanasia, by injustice and the denial of equality to individuals or various groups of persons, by some forms of human experimentatation, by neglect of the underprivileged and disadvantaged who deserve society's concern and support. But society's responsibilty to ensure and protect human rights demands recognition and protection of the right to life as antecedent to all other rights, and the necessary condition for their realization. It is unlikely that efforts to protect other rights will ultimately be successful if life itself is continually diminished in value.
Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities
The original Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities was issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1975. The Pastoral Plan has twice been revised in light of contemporary situations, most recently in 2001. While circumstances and threats to human life have changed, the Bishops' central message regarding the diginity of human life has remained constant, along with their continuing exhortation to work for the creation of a culture where no one's life is devalued and dismissed.
The Bishops wrote: "As pastors and teachers, we proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God; that each person who receives this gift has responsibilites toward God, self and others; and that society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and sustain human life at every stage of its existence."
THE 4 CHALLENGES OF THE BISHOPS' PLAN
I Education and Public Information
" An ongoing, long range, and intensive educational effort in the Catholic community can provide an understanding of the issues and lead people to conviction and commitment. Such efforts should utilize the best medical, sociological, and legal information available... Ultimately, however, moral and theological arguments present the central issue of respect for human life in its most intellectually compelling terms.
Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, 2001
" Prayer is the foundation of all that we do in defense of life. Our efforts - whether educational, pastoral, or legislative - will be less than fully fruitful if we do not change hearts and if we do not ourselves overcome our own spiritual blindness. Only with prayer - prayer that storms the heavens for justice and mercy, prayer that cleanses our hearts and souls - will the culture of death that surrounds us today be replaced with a culture of life."
III Pastoral Care
" Pastoral care encompasses a broad range of services provided with competence, compassion, and dignity. It includes spiritual assistance and essential material help, and may include supplementary services beyond those available in the community. Providing pastoral care to those in need is a primary way that the Church expresses its love for all God's children."
Such care should include efforts "for women with problems related to pregnancy; for all those who have been involved in an abortion; for those who are disabled, sick and dying; and their families and caregivers; for those who have lost loved ones to violent crime; and for those in prison sentenced to death."
IV Public Policy and Advocacy
" Protecting and promoting the inviolable rights of persons is the most solemn responsibility of civil authority. As Americans...we are committed to governance by a system of law that protects human rights and maintains the common good...'We cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights and progress while eliminating or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we practice the Gospel of life only as a private piety.'"