By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In a statement to mark Respect Life Sunday, October 4, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia called attention to those who are most vulnerable in recent debates on health care reform – the unborn, the poor, the elderly and the immigrant – and called upon Catholics to “examine how well we, as a nation and individually, are living up to our obligation to protect the rights of those who, due to age, dependency, poverty or other circumstances, are at risk of their very lives.”
Cardinal Rigali, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said the unborn are the most at risk in America today. “ . . . (D)espite the opposition of 67% of Americans to taxpayer-funded abortion, all current health care proposals being considered by Congress would allow or mandate abortion funding, either through premiums paid into government programs or out of federal revenues.”
Noting that the unborn are not alone in being under attack in current proposals, Cardinal Rigali called for health care that recognizes the humanity of the immigrant. “How can a just society deny basic health care to those living and working among us who need medical attention? It cannot and must not,” he said.
He also also addressed a dangerous and false cultural attitude that some persons are not worth protecting because of their perceived “low quality of life.” He stated that “death is not a solution to life’s problems. Only those who are blind to the transcendent reality and meaning of human life could support killing human beings to mitigate economic, social or environmental problems.”
“The antidote to such myopia is to recover an appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of each unique human being,” he said.
He also pointed out that the widespread use of contraception and abortion has created “a cultural hostility to children” who are often depicted as “costly encumbrances who interfere with a carefree adult life.”
There is no need to counter the thoroughly discredited myth of “overpopulation,” he said. “In fact, if married couples were to have more children, Medicare and Social Security would not be hurtling toward bankruptcy.”
He rightly points out that in 1955, there were 8.6 workers for every recipient of Social Security. Today there are only 3.5. If the current low birth rates continue, within 25 years there be only 2.1 workers supporting each beneficiary.
“Children, and those who are dependent on us due to disability or age, offer us the opportunity to grow in patience, kindness, and love. They teach us that life is a shared gift, not an encumbrance.”
He concludes with a profound reminder: “At the end of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
The Cardinal’s full statement can be found here: www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/09rigali-stmt.pdf.
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