March 25 marked the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life,” which promoted the sanctity of human life and addressed the issues of abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. Recently, Lynn Grandon, director of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Respect Life Office at Catholic Charities, spoke to the Denver Catholic about how the faithful can be defenders of life today.
Denver Catholic: What impact has “The Gospel of Life” had on the Church’s efforts to uphold the sanctity of human life?
Grandon: It’s been a definitive document. St. John Paul II gave … practical examples in all areas of life on how to uphold that dignity. It’s very clear, specific teaching that’s helpful to everybody in every area of life.
DC: How does your office promote the sanctity of human life?
Grandon: We are the educational and resource arm of the archdiocese for all life issues, mainly centering on medicine and science. We’ve also had to get a little more engaged in legislative processes happening in Colorado with different bills that have come forward challenging the sanctity of life. We work with the different parishes and their Respect Life leaders to educate them. Last year we created a 200-plus page manual on how parishes can implement respect for life throughout their parish with a committee charged to do that. Respect Life leaders were thrilled to have that guidance.
DC: Other archdiocesan entities also defend the sanctity of life by aiding pregnant women, and women with children. Can you speak to those efforts?
Grandon: When I first arrived here (from Illinois in 2011) I was charged by Archbishop Chaput with opening a pro-life pregnancy center directly across from Planned Parenthood’s Rocky Mountain headquarters. That center evolved into two centers (now called Marisol Health), which led to Bella Natural Women’s Care agreeing to be the medical providers for them. Then we linked up with Gabriel House (offers material supplies and social service referrals) and what is now known as Marisol Homes for the housing of women with unexpected pregnancies and single women with children. All of those medical and social service efforts are what we at Catholic Charities call our ‘continuum of care’ for women in need. We realized there’s numerous levels of care for women in crisis, so we linked arms to do that effectively and it’s working out beautifully.
DC: Besides supporting those organizations, what are some other concrete ways the faithful can defend the sanctity of human life?
Grandon: First, become educated. That’s where our office can help. We go into parishes at no cost and give substantial presentations on all those issues so people can dialogue effectively with friends, relatives, associates and neighbors. That’s key. As children of God we have to understand this element of our faith.
They can get involved with the Respect Life Committee at their parish and be the hands and feet to build a vibrant culture of life in their parish.
They can participate in the public efforts we have: Prayer in the Square (rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet) is held every first Saturday of the month (visit prayerinthesquare.com for locations). Our two annual events are 40 Days for Life, where we pray outside abortion centers (Feb. 26-April 5, visit 40DaysForLife.com), and our Celebrate Life march and rally held in January at the Colorado Capitol. This year we had 8,000 people show up — it’s grown every year. As believers we have to show Colorado that we are unafraid to stand for these issues.
Finally, I would make a simple appeal to people to use their creativity. In the Old Testament the Hebrew midwives were told by their government officials to kill the Hebrew male children. They refused. They went to pharaoh and said, “These Hebrew women have their children before we can get to them!” As sons and daughters of God we are the ones called to protect all human life. We have to be creative in our vocations, as the Hebrew midwives were, to transform the culture.