WASHINGTON (September 26, 2006)– In a statement marking Respect Life Sunday, celebrated in Catholic parishes this year on October 1, Cardinal William H. Keeler welcomed "true advances" in respect for human life in our society. He also criticized recent developments that, while "hailed as forms of technical progress" by some, are "regressive and harmful in their effects on human life."
Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, is Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Among the "signs of progress" welcomed by the Cardinal are the "enthusiastic involvement" of young people in pro-life education and activism, and "the growing number of youth committed to living chastely until marriage," a trend that has helped reduce abortions. He noted shifts in public opinion against abortion, spurred in part by "the public debate on partial-birth abortion," and against the use of the death penalty.
Among negative developments the Cardinal cited FDA approval of the abortion drug RU-486 and the Plan B "emergency contraceptive," which can harm women as well as unborn human lives. "In the field of stem cell research," he added, "the genuine and growing promise of treatments using adult stem cells is often downplayed or ignored, while exaggerated or even fraudulent claims are made for avenues that require destroying early human lives." Citing the example of a "Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative" on the November ballot in Missouri, he said the initiative claims to ban human cloning but "would actually elevate the cloning of human embryos for destructive research to the status of a constitutional right."
Cardinal Keeler said that powerful groups in our society ignore basic facts today to promote "a narrow and divisive view of the human person," just as the Supreme Court ignored basic facts in 1973 to create a constitutional "right" to abortion. "Let us educate and motivate ourselves to ensure that truth – the scientific and medical truth, and the profound truth about the dignity of each human person – will increasingly inform and guide our society's decisions about human life," he said.
The USCCB's annual Respect Life Program, established in 1972, provides educational materials for parishes to distribute beginning on Respect Life Sunday, celebrated the first Sunday in October. This year's materials discuss partial-birth abortion, capital punishment, environmental safety, the benefits of stable marriages to children, sexual ethics, and stem cell research.
The full text of Cardinal Keeler's statement will be available at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/RLP06Keelerstmnt.pdf. For more on this year's Respect Life Program see www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2006/06-167.shtml.