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9/15/2016 1:52:00 PM
WATCH: Dignity of life
There are many kinds of threats
Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel
At St. André Bessette Church, Sr. Linda Patrick, Sr. Farroel Richardson and Claire Foster show support for human trafficking victims. Abortion is the most obvious threat to life in the U.S., but there are many other issues the church asks voters to consider. 

Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel

At St. André Bessette Church, Sr. Linda Patrick, Sr. Farroel Richardson and Claire Foster show support for human trafficking victims. Abortion is the most obvious threat to life in the U.S., but there are many other issues the church asks voters to consider. 

This is the second in a series on faithful citizenship. 

Since last December, activists have gathered monthly in front of St. André Bessette Parish in Northwest Portland in silent witness to the horror of human trafficking.

This illegal trade of human labor and its victims, the activists say, aren’t seen by much of the public.

“They are really invisible,” said Holy Names Sister Linda Patrick. She was one of the activists who participated in September’s human trafficking silent prayer vigil at St. André Bessette.

Called modern slavery, it’s just one of the present attacks on the dignity of human life. 

In the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, numerous threats to the dignity of human life are identified. Among them are abortion, euthanasia, cloning, the destruction of human embryos, genocide, torture, and the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks.

Matt Cato is the director of the life, justice and peace ministry for the Archdiocese of Portland.

“The bishops are very clear that the taking of innocent life is a very grave, immoral evil,” says Cato.

Abortion is an obvious example, he says. But the list of intrinsic evils does not end there. Cato mentions genocide, racism, the mistreatment of workers and drone attacks as other examples.

These are all issues for Catholics to consider when making electoral decisions.

Father Matt Libra is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northeast Portland. He says embracing the belief in the dignity of human life isn’t always easy. It can require a lot of growth.
Father Libra was appointed to be the pro-life activities director by Archbishop Alexander Sample in July.

“We as Catholics need to be good disciples of Jesus. This means letting our lives be informed by what he said and did, and treating people the way he treated us,” says Father Libra.

From his post, Father Libra sees an abundance of depersonalizing people around the world. This depersonalization and objectification makes it hard to identify the dignity of human beings.

“To be with and recognize people as people and not as things or problems or obstacles is very helpful for us in advocating for life and the dignity of human life,” he says.

All Catholic social teachings go back to this principal of the dignity of human life, says Father Libra.

For the life, justice and peace ministry, Cato is trying to unify Oregon Catholics around the importance of human dignity by focusing on a person’s early life.

Last spring, the ministry created the First 1000 Days of Life campaign to showcase the importance of a child’s development from conception to his or her second birthday. The campaign includes a weekly reflection from Cato’s office addressing that week in the child’s life. Issues mentioned by the campaign include abortion, malnutrition, prenatal care, undue stress and war.

“It’s not a call to action,” says Cato. “It’s a thousand days of creating awareness bit by bit.”

“Hopefully that’s one little piece in changing the culture,” he says. 

Increasing awareness is a goal for everyone promoting the dignity of human life. 

It can be hard to remember how serious an issue human trafficking is, says Sister Linda. For  victims suffering from human trafficking, resources are scarce. Victims can be trapped in their situations. One of the most important things people can do for the effort, she says, is spread  awareness. 

When approaching an election, choosing which people and which policies to embrace can be daunting. Awareness is crucial.

“The U.S. bishops are very clear: We’re not single issue voters,” says Cato. 

The church will never tell its followers who to vote for, he says. 

Rather, Cato advises looking at which issues are important to the faith of the church and making the best decision that one can.

“Be informed and vote,” says Cato.

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