Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"A coordinated, comprehensive, communal and Catholic respect life strategy"
by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
(From the May 15, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Over the past four years, the three dioceses in the State of Washington have experienced leadership transition. In the fall of 2010, I was appointed to Spokane, and within a few months Archbishop Sartain and Bishop Tyson were named to Seattle and Yakima, respectively.
Shortly after we three new bishops had our first meeting as the Washington State Catholic Conference, we all agreed to devote significant time and effort to developing a state-wide respect life strategy. We decided it should be coordinated, comprehensive, communal and authentically Catholic.
Not only did we want to have a strategy that reflects the direction given by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but also one that makes it clear to our parishioners what a fully Catholic approach must include.
We all recognize and respect that there are other groups and individuals who are dedicated and work very hard to promote the dignity of human life in our state. We cooperate with them where and when appropriate. However, we also recognize that some of these groups and individuals focus exclusively on one or a select few of the various aspects of the respect life agenda. Some only advocate an end to the death penalty. Others are concerned only with abortion or euthanasia. Regrettably, some groups use tactics and harsh language that the bishops consider counter-productive to the cause. Such divisions within the respect life community understandably leave many Catholics alienated to the point that they withdraw from being actively engaged. This is a pastoral problem we cannot ignore, as the promotion of respect for human life is a duty of us all.
In crafting a truly Catholic way of promoting respect for human dignity in Washington State, we bishops committed ourselves to developing an approach that includes the full range of life issues and which stands above the partisan political fray, which sadly too often ends up offering more heat than light. We also committed ourselves to taking an approach encouraged by Pope Francis, one that aims at creating an environment where honest and civil dialogue, especially with those who oppose us, can take place, and one in which the most vulnerable receive the broad support of society.
At our recent meeting of the Washington State Catholic Conference, the three bishops decided on two new initiatives that will serve as points of reference for the official Catholic approach in promoting respect for human life and dignity in our parishes.
The first is a state-wide conference, which is scheduled for Oct. 24-25 in Tacoma, titled The Cornerstone Catholic Conference: Building a Culture of Life. The bishops of all three dioceses will attend and participate. There will be presentations by nationally known figures on a full range of topics, including protecting the life of the unborn (abortion), the elderly and sick (doctor-assisted suicide) and those on death row (capital punishment). You may visit the Cornerstone Catholic Conference website at www.cornerstonecatholic.com. Online registration for the conference will begin in May.
The second initiative is called PrePareS, which stands for Pregnancy and Parenting Support. It is a clearly identified statewide Catholic initiative, serving women and couples during and after pregnancy, even to the fifth year of the child. This approach aims at saving the lives of unborn children by addressing issues which too often inhibit a woman from choosing life for her child.
As Lisa Green, the Childbirth and Parenting Assistance Program (CAPA) Co-Coordinator at Catholic Charities notes in the accompanying article, “PrePareS network will ‘walk the journey’ with those pregnant and parenting women, men, and families, who find themselves lacking a healthy support network. They will be able to access mentors and holistic wrap-around services – from the time of awareness of pregnancy to the child’s fifth birthday. Services provided through the PrePareS network will include: Client intake and assessment by trained staff professionals, pregnancy testing, parish-based mentors for mothers and fathers, area coordinators to help train and support mentors and parish volunteers, parent support groups, Individual and couples counseling, and rapid response and referrals for emergent needs – e.g. food, formula, diapers, housing and clothing.”
As we initiate and publicize PrePareS, we realize that it will be difficult to connect with women and men who are afraid and feel alone in facing an unplanned pregnancy. This will require especially designed outreach to parents needing support, such as billboards with the statewide 1-800 number, social media, a statewide web site, advertisements located in public transportation, public service announcements on radio and newspapers. This also means that we have to first meet the emergent needs of these women and parents for things like diapers, clothing, formula, and make sure someone who is compassionate and caring is available.
While there are some details to resolve, I thought it useful to announce now this important development, as this is a program in which every Catholic family can be proud to become involved. The goal is simply the promotion and protection of the life of the unborn, not only until the moment of birth, but afterwards as well. In a word, we are saying by this approach that we are not just pro-birth, but authentically and fully pro-life.
My own pastoral experience has taught me that oftentimes women contemplating abortion are motivated by the fear of being isolated and left alone, not only in bringing a child into the world, but raising the child on her own. PrePareS, a truly Catholic approach, places the emphasis on making sure that the world is a safe place for the child to be brought into, as well as a wholesome environment to be raised in with community support and involvement. Again, this program reminds us that it is not sufficient to be pro-life on behalf of the unborn only from the first moment of conception to the first moment of birth. Rather, we need to walk with both newborns and parents to see that the first and formative years of their lives begin on a stable footing. And, by doing so, we will demonstrate that we are serious about creating a culture of life, one which communicates to a woman with child that we value the challenges she faces in being a mother and that we will be reliable partners in offering her an alternative to abortion which she can trust.
I invite all Catholics, especially all those presently involved in the pro-life movement in whatever way in our state, to embrace and fully cooperate with these efforts in union with the bishops. The statewide conference in October, and the PrePareS initiative, which will be done with the help of Catholic Charities and the many organizations listed in Lisa’s article, have the promise of elevating the way we advocate for these important issues beyond the political rancor that too often dominates public debate. Even more importantly, the bishops’ decision to move in this new direction aims at uniting our efforts around an effective and holistic agenda – one that is coordinated, comprehensive, communal and authentically Catholic.
Those who need our voice, need us to speak with one voice.
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