Social Justice: Restoring dignity during this Respect Life Month
By DeKarlos Blackmon
There is so much going on in our nation this fall. Most notably is the hysteria and excitement about the November elections. Many people are finding themselves at odds with friends and loved ones over what is read, seen and heard in the media. While the election cycle has dominated conversations of late, I think it’s important to seize the opportunity to reflect on our obligations as Christ’s faithful, and commit to modeling authentic Christian behavior during this Respect Life Month — especially in light of the political climate.
The fundamental aspect of Respect Life Month focuses on life because God especially “wished for himself” the human person (Gaudium et Spes, 24), and so the life of every person must be respected. While every election season seems to be seen through a lens tempered by what it means to be pro-life, we must keep ever before us that being pro-life also encompasses the serious concerns of extensive hunger, poverty, homelessness, violence, euthanasia, capital punishment and the absence of adequate health care. We must never allow others to dilute any of these issues, rather we must fight rigorously for each of these inherently pro-life issues. For in the depths of our consciences, we detect that moral law which holds us to obedience, summons us to love good and avoid evil, and speaks to our hearts (Gaudium et spes, 16). For anyone to refuse to recognize the intrinsic dignity of the human person would be likened to blasphemy in action.
Last month, as a result of the tumult and the strife throughout the country concerning violence this year, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, called all dioceses across the country to unite in a “Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities” on Sept. 9, the Memorial of St. Peter Claver.
When celebrating Mass at St. Austin Catholic School to commemorate the day of prayer, Bishop Joe Vásquez encouraged our young people to emulate St. Peter Claver, a man who recognized the presence of Christ in slaves, people whose dignity was disregarded by society. The bishop called our young people to remember that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, and that when we look at others, we should see the dignity of each person regardless of ethnicity or culture, age or gender.
We must pray for a restoration of dignity: an end to violence, discrimination, hatred and putting down others. These things destroy our dignity. In our world and country today, we must exercise a deeper understanding of each other which requires us to do more listening and less talking.
We must be mindful of how we see each other. Even if we disagree, we must always be willing to afford each other dignity and respect. In spite of the rhetoric we hear in our nation, we are still called to become beacons of hope because regardless of political leanings, we cannot escape the undeniable reality of our call to serve with mercy and love.
We are called to lead by example by contributing ourselves individually and collectively not by mutual exclusion, but by equality in dignity. For this reason, we cannot allow hatred, hostility, despair and indifference to prevail in our society. We must endeavor to stamp out the growing culture of aggression that is gripping the nation by standing up and speaking out against the destructive effects of violence in our land. As we follow that “law” within the depths of our consciences which summons us to love good and avoid evil, may we hold fast to our faith in Christ and defend the intrinsic value and dignity of all people, regardless of their racial, socioeconomic, or political background.