Back on Sept. 15 the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure took place in Portland.  It was the 21st time that Portland hosted the event to raise funds for the cure of cancer and to pay tribute to survivors. The media reported that participation was down by several thousand people. Both a poor economy and the decision of the Komen Foundation to stop funding Planned Parenthood were cited as reasons.  That was it.

It was amazing how quickly that decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood was reversed. It took only three days, so vitriolic was the opposition of the friends of Planned Parenthood. So they got their way and they weren’t willing to support the event?  I am not so sure.  The economy probably brought down some of the financial support usually provided for the race, but I’m quite confident that many people, like myself, were deeply disappointed that the Komen Foundation reversed its decision about support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that has taken the lead for many years now in the anti-life movement.

Pressure from anti-life organizations continues to mount on our fellow citizens through the decisions of government and the widespread media support they enjoy.  All the more reason that, once again, Catholics across these United States of America will be observing Respect Life month this October, trying to do our best to spread the message that human life is truly sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.  

We Catholic people understand that all human life is a precious gift from God.  Each one of us has a responsibility to protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence.  Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception to natural death.  

Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed.  For many this is a hard teaching, but its ethical basis is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.

During this year’s Respect Life month we shall begin the observance of a Year of Faith across the Catholic world.  It will start on Thursday, Oct. 11, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  Our Holy Father has invited each one of us on a journey of faith to open our eyes to the grandeur and beauty of all human life so that we become even more its courageous and effective defenders.  During the Year of Faith we are asked to study the teachings of Catholicism and to strengthen our personal relationship with the Lord.  One particular teaching that deserves our attention and reflection in the coming year is Pope John Paul II’s pro-life encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life.  
During this coming Year of Faith our country will be observing a very sad anniversary, the Roe v. Wade decision which struck down all state laws restricting abortion.  This will mark 40 years of a “culture of death” spreading across our nation and our globe.  

Ever since the so-called “legalization” of abortion, more than 53 million children have lost their lives.  Their parents and family members have been forever, unalterably changed.  This decision became a catalyst for the decline in respect for human life and now has led to a growing acceptance of death as the “solution” to personal and societal problems.  
Here in Oregon assisted suicide is promoted as a reasonable solution to the problems of old age, sickness and disability.  Human embryos are created by many doctors in their clinics and most of them are eventually discarded or die.  Even many persons who style themselves as part of the pro-life constituency are still vigorous defenders of the death penalty as an answer to violent crime.  Life truly has been cheapened and its grandeur and beauty largely ignored.

It would seem that many old-timers in the pro-life movement have grown weary in the struggle and have begun to look for ways to tolerate the violations of human life which are becoming more and more widespread in our world.  

Fortunately, many young people are not so easily discouraged.  More and more of them are beginning to offer the church and our nation a much needed witness of hope.  Participants in the national walks for life every January are largely young people.  Those who join me every January at the pro-life rally either at our State Capitol or Portland’s Pioneer Square are also young folks.  More and more young people are choosing pro-life work as a profession.  Our young clergy and religious are more outspoken about the importance of protecting human life.  To what can we attribute such a reversal?

Many would say it is the example of Blessed John Paul II.  He himself was tested as a young man by the loss of all his family and the brutal occupation of his homeland by the Nazis and Soviets.  He was intent upon calling young people to follow Christ more closely and, as he invited young people at World Youth Day in Denver back in 1993, to share “the liberating message of the gospel of life (which) has been put into your hands.”  Pope Benedict XVI has carried on this task and recently reminded young pilgrims who came from his homeland to Rome, “The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life, but for great things, for goodness.”  These sentiments of the pastors of the universal church have touched our young people deeply and have led many of them to a liberation from the rampant secularism of today’s society which can never fulfill the human person.  

Respect Life month will begin here in this archdiocese with the Rosary Bowl observance at the Fairgrounds in Salem on Saturday, Oct. 6 and the annual Respect Life Mass at our Cathedral on Sunday, Oct. 7.  As we begin the Year of Faith I encourage you to take some time to study and reflect on the wise and inspiring teachings of our church concerning human life.  In making decisions about where and how you want our nation’s government to move forward in this unrelenting darkness of secularism, think first about what needs to be done if we are to be successful in transforming America’s pervasive secular culture and building a civilization of life and love and hope for all God’s children.