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Gospel of Life Conference urges pro-life witness
Opening Keynote by Richard Doerflinger (click here)
MORE ON RESPECT LIFE MONTH:
Annual Respect Life Mass: 12 noon, Saturday, Oct. 30 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass will be concelebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., and Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley.
Visit the Respect Life Office at www.archden.org/respectlife.
By John Gleason
More than 125 people attended this year’s Gospel of Life Conference to rekindle their commitment to give courageous pro-life witness.
The 2010 Gospel of Life Conference was held Oct. 2 at Bonfils Hall on the John Paul II Center campus in south Denver. The theme of this year’s event was “Courage and Conscience: The Urgency of a Pro-Life Witness in a Changing World.”
Mimi Eckstein, director of the Respect Life Office, which sponsored the event, told the Denver Catholic Register the theme was timely, given that 2010 is an election year.
“How do we as Catholics make our decisions when there is so much at stake?” she asked. Our faith should guide us, she said.
“We turn to conscience to direct us,” she added, “and to our underlying courage to help us make the right decisions.”
Keynote speaker was Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Other presenters included Father Jorge Rodriquez, vice rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary; Luis Soto, director for Hispanic Ministry and executive director of Centro San Juan Diego, the archdiocese’s Hispanic institute offering pastoral and family care and outreach; and Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, the state level, public policy arm of the Church.
In addition to the talks, many of which were delivered in Spanish and English, people enjoyed breakout sessions, which were new to the conference this year.
“Small-group discussion allowed for more interactive participation by the people, rather than just a series of talks,” Eckstein said. “It was an exciting aspect of this year’s conference.”
The day began with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap, after which he gave welcoming remarks to the attendees.
During his opening remarks Archbishop Chaput examined part of the theme of the conference—courage—and what that meant for those attending.
“When many of my generation think of courage, we think of the lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz’—how he lacked the ability to be brave,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “But the word originally meant having passion or commitment. And in this sense, that is commitment to the dignity of the unborn.”
Taking the podium, Doerflinger said the topic given to him was “Where are we and where do we go from here?
“That’s a big question,” he said. “We’re in a public policy battle, especially in Congress.”
Doerflinger said last year seemed bleak for those engaged in the effort to restore legal protection for unborn children.
“We had a new administration and new Congress that supported abortion rights,” he said. “There were expectations that health-care reform would include plans by pro-abortion groups to make abortion a routine and ‘basic’ health-care service.”
But the news wasn’t all bad, he said, noting that 20 months later, the Freedom of Choice Act, which would have swept away all state laws restricting abortion, was not signed. Additionally, a proposed overturning of conscience protection rights designed to protect the conscience rights of health-care providers who object to participating in abortion has not taken place and although the Obama administration did issue guidelines for spending tax dollars on embryonic stem-cell research, that agenda is under attack not only from courts, but from the science community itself, according to Doerflinger.
“Science has moved on,” he said. “Adult and cord blood stem cells are treating a wide array of conditions.
“You want to talk miracle cures?” he continued, “the blind can see, and some of the lame are beginning to walk because of non-embryonic stem cells. Scientists can reprogram ordinary adult cells; make them act exactly like embryonic cells, without harming anyone.”
Doerflinger later told the Register that people can have hope.
“This congress and this president did not do as much damage to pro-life policies as many people had predicted,” he said, “because the pro-life community was stalwart in letting its voice be heard in regards to respecting the unborn.”
Camilla Ludwig of Englewood has been a supporter of the pro-life movement for many years. Although not a Catholic, she told the Register she attended the conference because getting the truth on what the pro-choice agenda really is can be difficult.
“So many things happen in Congress that we either don’t hear about or we don’t get the full story,” she said. “Anyone who respects the unborn should hear what (Doerflinger) has to say.”
Following a break, the audiences separated into breakout sessions. One of these sessions was titled “Fighting the Good Fight—Helping Catholics Make their Voices Heard.” Luis Soto conducted the workshop and told the Register that involving Hispanics in pro-life activities has been a challenge.
“The main reason is that in Latin America there is a different idea of Catholic social teaching, one that’s always centered on justice, poverty and employment—this is because we come from poor countries,” he said. “In the United States (Hispanic Catholics) as a group must rally around the unborn and stand up to those who support abortion.”