SALT LAKE CITY — Catholics in Utah are preparing to participate in events in September that will usher in Respect Life Month in October.
“Every October, we consider more deeply why every human life is valuable and reflect on how to build a culture that protects life from conception to natural death,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops state on their website. “This year’s focus is on St. Joseph, defender of the faith, pray for us.”
In Utah, upcoming events that advocate for an end of abortion include a National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children commemoration; the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil; Life Chain, which is a public prayer event; and sidewalk advocacy training. Some of the activities are sponsored by the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
“Our Church has a beautiful teaching, that every human life is a gift from God,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis said. “It is sacred; it deserves dignity and respect at any age or in any stage, from the moment it is conceived until the person dies a natural death. As Respect Life Month approaches, I ask the faithful to reflect deeply and prayerfully on how they can follow our Lord and help build a culture that cherishes each and every human life.”
While Catholic opposition to abortion is well-known, the Church’s teaching on other aspects of its pro-life message are less familiar to many people, although some of these areas recently have been highlighted. For example, in 2018 the Holy Father approved new language for the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states, “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
In addition, last September, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented and published Samaritanus Bonus (The Good Samaritan) – On the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life. The document teaches Catholics how they should care for those who are dying or in critical care.
“In the face of challenges that affect the very way we think about medicine, the significance of the care of the sick, and our social responsibility toward the most vulnerable, the present letter seeks to enlighten pastors and the faithful regarding their questions and uncertainties about medical care, and their spiritual and pastoral obligations to the sick in the critical and terminal stages of life,” states the document’s introduction. “All are called to give witness at the side of the sick person and to become a ‘healing community’ in order to actualize concretely the desire of Jesus that, beginning with the most weak and vulnerable, all may be one flesh.”
Because people today are living much longer with chronic illnesses than they were in the past, “this has led to different ethical issues that have come up over the years,” said Dr. Natalie Rodden, a palliative medicine physician at St. Anthony North Health Campus in Westminster, Colo. “Subsequently there have been a lot of misunderstandings around end-of-life ethics and palliative care and what it does. So, this document [Samaritanus Bonus] is a truly special document because it’s a very clear statement from the Vatican about the good of palliative care and about many issues related to end-of-life care and to help clarify these misunderstandings and promote good ethical end-of-life care that is consistent with the Church’s teachings. As an end-of-life doctor who happens to be Catholic, I’m so grateful for this.”
Rodden said she thinks there’s a need for advocacy for people who have chronic illnesses, are dealing with dementia or have other ailments that cause them to be debilitated and require support. They need advocacy “so that they’re not forgotten, particularly around the elderly or people who are nearing end of life, to make sure that they are valued and that they are loved and that they’re not considered a burden or that their death is prematurely hastened – which I think is something that is at great threat by the physician-assisted suicide movement.”
Catholics should understand what the Church teaches about end-of-life issues, Rodden said, and Samaritanus Bonus “is a beautiful tool to help us learn.”
The full text of Samaritanus Bonus is available at https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20200714_samaritanus-bonus_en.html.
Additional information about care for those who are dying or in long-term care is available at https://www.usccb.org/end-of-life-care. World Day of Hospice and Palliative Care is Oct. 9.
Upcoming Pro-Life Events
On Saturday, Sept. 11 at 9:30 a.m. Christina Malloy of ProLife Utah will conduct a sidewalk advocate training at St. Ambrose Parish’s Vaughan Center, 2315 E. Redondo Ave., SLC. Lunch provided. Cost: $15 per person. RSVP to Christina.Malloy@ProLifeUtah.org.
Sept. 18 is the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. Locally, it will be commemorated from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery, 275 U St., SLC.
Beginning Sept. 22, Utah Catholics will participate in 40 Days for Life by praying outside abortion clinics in Salt Lake City and Ogden. For information visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/
On Sunday, Sept. 26 members of different parishes will join Life Chain, a peaceful, prayerful, public witness for unborn life. Participants will gather at 10600 S. State St. in Sandy, 1-2 p.m.