Bishop Richard J. Malone delivered a keynote address to respect life coordinators that clarified Pope Francis' position on life issues. He also stated his views in no uncertain terms. "I believe that the primal evil in our time is the assault on unborn life," the bishop said during a Sept. 6 inservice held at the Catholic Center in downtown Buffalo.
During an hour-long talk that covered much ground, Bishop Malone referenced Pope Francis often. He said some of the pontiff's words in the early days of his papacy had been misconstrued to appear that he was not firm on the pro-life stance.
During an interview a year ago, the pope refused to talk about his views on abortion and contraception, saying the Church was emphasizing dogma rather than serving the needy.
"The pope was making a point that while we have to be working on all these causes like the cause of human life and the sanctity of marriage. The pope is saying, let's not forget as we work on all those causes that the heart of the matter is not a cause. The heart of the matter is Jesus Christ. That's all the pope was saying. ... If all we do is go after the causes and forget that a Christian, primarily, belongs to Christ and to live His Good News. The pope was not pulling back from the pro-life commitment at all."
Pope Francis has called Catholics to become missionary disciples, who live out their faith in a committed way through all aspects of their lives.
"Our faith's not to be something secondary in our lives, but as disciples the most important defining thing about our lives is that we belong to Jesus. That's what a disciple is - someone who belongs to the Lord," the bishop explained.
In Pope Francis' first exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)," he wrote about Concern for the Vulnerable, and the many ways the sanctity of human life is violated, such as through human trafficking, prostitution, and exploitation of undocumented labor.
Bishop Malone offered much praises for "Joy of the Gospel."
In the section on Concern for the Vulnerable, Francis writes:
"Among the vulnerable for whom the Church whishes to care with particular bother and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays, efforts are made to deny them their human dignity, and to do with them, whatever one pleases; taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's efforts to defend their lives, attempts are made to present their position as ideological absurdities. Yet, this defense of unborn life is grossly linked to the defense of each and every human right."
"That's the biggest no-brainer of them all, huh? If you don't have the right to life, every other right gets vaporized," the bishop said.
Pope Francis called abortion the "symptom of a throwaway culture."
"Think of that," the bishop said. "You throw away your coffee cup when you done. It's a pretty strong image isn't it? But, the pope, too, reminds us that we have to be committed to the entire spectrum of life."
On the other end of that spectrum, the bishop described an article he had just read on Stealth Euthanasia. The term describes hastening the death of the elderly or terminally ill by discontinuing nutrition and hydration, and increasing pain medication, before a patient is close to death. He told those gathered that there are many issues they need to be alert to.
Other speakers at the inservice included Louise Ziarnowski, coordinator for the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center in Buffalo, who told of the opening of St. Gianna's two new satellite branches in Niagara Falls and Dunkirk.
Bob and Barb Musilli gave an overview on Public Policy. Matt Boyle presented a banner project he has been working on. Paul Przybylski presented an update on pastoral care. Peter Adornetto spoke on 40 Days for Life.
The annual inservice allows parish Respect Life coordinators an opportunity to meet and share what activities have worked in their parishes. Mary Kowalczyk, from St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View, has been a part of the movement for 32 years. She sends out daily email briefs alerting people to issues making the news.
"They're a compilation and a summary of the more prominent things," she explained. "I try to stay away from things that are related to states and foreign countries. I try to keep it brief. That's why I call them news briefs. What interested me in what's happening in general and maybe in New York state. Sometimes there are controversial things in New York."
One woman heard of what Kowalczyk did and said, "You're Mary? I get your briefs." To be added to the list, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Przybylski, from St. Jude the Apostle Parish in North Tonawanda, praised the event and Calire for her countless hours working on various activities. He's known for praying the rosary in front of Women's services clinic on Main Street in Buffalo, and talking to the people who work there.
"Can't you get another job instead of killing babies for a living?" he says to the employees. "I see construction outfits. I said, 'I realize you're a construction outfit, but did you have to take this job?' I say I'm praying for you. Some of the workers swear at you, some don't. You do what you can."