Next stop for life, the Supreme Court

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Deacon Geoff Bennett is Vice President of Parish and Community Relations at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the Respect Life Office.

It is inspiring to see states across the country significantly restrict abortion this year, primarily by banning the destruction of life within the womb once a fetal heartbeat is detected. These laws are also a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that nationalized the question of abortion and legalized the subsequent killing of tens of millions of babies.

Advocates of abortion and defenders of life are on a collision course at the Supreme Court. The only morally acceptable outcome to this issue is to outlaw abortion and to embrace the gift of life. The battle is rapidly intensifying. Any advocates for life standing on the sidelines need to join the fight with their voices and their votes. There is no room for complacency.

And while some would like to paint this as a purely partisan issue, consider that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, recently signed a fetal heartbeat abortion ban in that state.

Meanwhile, consider how emboldened abortion activists have become in recent years. Have you ever seen someone on a power trip? I know I have, and they are people who think they are the smartest ones in the room. If they were half as smart as they thought, they would be dangerous. Unfortunately for children about to come into this world, they are dangerous. I’m talking about those people who  have taken it upon themselves to decide if a child should live or die.

Ever since Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen people debate where to draw the line on killing a child in the womb. Should the life of the child be terminated prior to detecting a heartbeat, before the child can survive outside the womb, or maybe just prior to being born? The bottom line is that we are talking about killing a human being out of convenience. But even being born may not protect a child from a mother’s choice of life or death.

Science has proven what those in the pro-life movement have always known: The child in the womb is a unique human being, never to be duplicated. Some abortion supporters have now crossed the line into advocating for infanticide. They argue that it is a woman’s choice — even after birth. So, what we have now is the mother being given the role of judge and jury, with a doctor enrolled as executioner.

Explaining his support of a proposal to loosen abortion restrictions, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was asked in January about a woman going into labor who desires a third-trimester abortion. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said, “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” according to a video.

That discussion would be about whether mom wants the baby to live or die.

As of this writing, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused at least 50 times to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

And just when you think that our elected officials (those who think they are the smartest ones in the room) can’t say anything more foolish, we have Alabama state Rep. John Rogers. During debate over the abortion ban in that state, he said, “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later. You bring them into the world, unwanted, unloved. Then you send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now or kill them later,” according to a video.

Who is qualified to make the decision that anyone is “unwanted” and should be killed? I challenge even those who support abortion to stand up and condemn these misguided and callous politicians. When is this kind of rhetoric going to have consequences? Are these the type of people we want representing us?

COMING UP: Repenting and renewing our role as shepherds

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Jesus tells the disciples in St. John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” contrasting his goodness with the thieves who come only to steal and destroy.  This past week my fellow U.S. bishops and I sought to act as good shepherds by approving three measures to increase our vigilance and prevention of the evil of sexual abuse by bishops, shepherds who have betrayed the flock entrusted to them.

This last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, which should remind biological and spiritual fathers of their great responsibility of protecting and raising up new life. This mission is further emphasized by the Rite for the Ordination of a Bishop, which says, “In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. Since you are chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.” This is the model for all bishops.

But the scandals of Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Bransfield and others have made it clear that our vigilance has not been adequate. To quote from the just-issued “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitment” statement, “We, the bishops of the United States, have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside of the Church over these failures.  The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance, and a desire to do better.” This sentiment was clear in my interactions with my fellow bishops in Baltimore this past week.

As evidence of our commitment, we overwhelmingly passed a set of directives for the bishops’ conference to implement Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi document on handling abuse by priests and bishops. These directives include the creation by May 31, 2020 of a third-party phone and online system that receives reports of potential violations by bishops, the establishment of a protocol in which the Holy See designates and authorizes metropolitan archbishops to investigate cases of alleged abuse by bishops, and the expectation that the investigating bishop involve lay experts in assisting with these inquiries. For any investigations that falls under my jurisdiction, I will ensure that lay experts are involved, as I’ve done throughout my time as a bishop. As the new directives indicate, I will also appoint a lay person to receive complaints from the third-party reporting system, publicize how to make reports, ascertain the credibility of reports and gather any additional information necessary for an investigation to commence.

I also want to highlight that the bishops overwhelmingly approved protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons and that we adopted a code of conduct for bishops, which explicitly states that the Dallas Charter will now include bishops.

All these measures are in addition to those we have been enforcing since 2002 in relation to preventing sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Archdiocese of Denver has a strong track record of actively working to protect children, including annual audits, background checks of employees and clergy, and a code of conduct that previous bishops and I have all signed, and a robust training program aimed at fostering safe environments for children. The effectiveness of these measures over the past 20 years has made us a model for other institutions seeking to combat abuse.

Pope Francis rightly noted in a January 2019 personal letter to the U.S. bishops that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs or committees.  They can only be resolved by humility, listening, self-examination and conversion.

My brother bishops and I hope that by obeying the Word of God, seeking the will of the Father and embracing what the Church expects of us, we will imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Read more

Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi can be read at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html

The USCCB Directives implementing Vos estis can be read at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2019-june-meeting/upload/usccb-modified-amended-directives-2019-06.pdf

Reach out

Christi Sullivan serves as the Protection Specialist for the Office of Child and Youth Protection and can be reached at 303-715-3241 or Christi.Sullivan@archden.org.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Dr. Jim Langley, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 720-239-2832 or Victim.Assistance@ArchDen.org.