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October 15, 2008
Two ways to invest in human dignity this month
For Catholics, October is Respect Life Month. This is a good time to suggest two very practical ways Coloradans can honor the theme of human dignity this fall.
Here’s the first way. Over the years I’ve had the privilege to know many strong Catholic families raising children with disabilities. The parents understand through direct experience how precious every human life is, no matter how burdened by special problems and needs. Their witness of love is extraordinary, but it isn’t easy; and here in Colorado, it’s often harder than it should be.
While public support and government services for the disabled are far better than they were 50 years ago, resources are still scarce. Colorado’s Amendment 51, on the ballot this fall, would provide urgently needed help for thousands of persons with disabilities who otherwise have no medical or vocational safety net. More than 12,000 Colorado children and adults who have developmental disabilities—Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and similar difficulties—are currently stuck on state waiting lists for needed care and support. In fact, our state has more people who desperately need special care than currently receive services.
Worse, thousands of persons with disabilities have been waiting for their state help for more than 15 years. As Amendment 51 supporters note, many of the disabled, through no fault of their own, need help to eat, dress and bathe. Others need constant assistance and supervision because of major medical issues, lack of basic life and safety skills, or because family caregivers can no longer provide care due to age, illness or death. Still others are young children with autism who cannot access early intervention services that they desperately need and which are proven to be effective.
Amendment 51, through a modest increase in Colorado’s sales tax, will directly help thousands of children and adults with disabilities. Catholics can legitimately disagree on the best public policies to provide things like immigration justice, health care, national defense and support for disabled persons. But I would strongly encourage Colorado Catholics to consider voting yes on Amendment 51. Our task as Christians is to advance the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. In affirming the dignity of persons with disabilities by easing their urgent needs, Amendment 51 is thoroughly prolife and worthy of our support at the ballot box.
Here’s a second important way we can honor the theme of human dignity this fall. Denver’s annual Gospel of Life conference will take place Saturday, Oct. 25. Founded to continue the work of Pope John Paul II’s great encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), the conference offers a different variation on the theme of human dignity every October. This year, 40 years after the release of another great encyclical—Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”)—the conference will examine the continuing importance of “Humanae Vitae,” the reasons it’s so often misunderstood, the social and personal consequences of ignoring its wisdom, the purpose of human sexuality and the keys to a joyful marriage. Conference speakers are excellent every year, but this year especially so: Bishop James Conley, author Alice von Hildebrand and the marriage ministry team of Christine and Christian Meert.
The Gospel of Life conference is one of the most useful, enjoyable and important events on the annual archdiocesan calendar, and “Humanae Vitae” is one of the most courageous and prophetic Church teachings in recent decades. I’ll be there on Oct. 25, and invite you to join me for this wonderful gathering.
Editor’s note: The Gospel of Life Conference is open to the public and will begin with Mass at 8 a.m. in Christ the King chapel, celebrated by Archbishop Chaput. Keynote speakers and panel discussion will follow in Bonfils Hall. The cost, which includes lunch, is $15 per person. The conference will run until 2:30 p.m. For more information or to register, call the Respect Life Office at 303-715-3205, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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