The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Days of Human Dignity initiative is meant to orient Catholics toward the innate dignity in every person.
The annual initiative begins in January with several events related to ending abortion and addressing racism.
This past holiday weekend, the archdiocese hosted a panel discussion about reparations for slavery, celebrated a Memorial Mass for the Sanctity of Life and observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an ecumenical prayer service.
A common thread ran through each of these: the God-given dignity of every human person.
Yet the most vulnerable people are continuously devalued.
The child in the womb, a burden for women who are unprepared, can be denied its life before it’s even fully realized.
People of color are victimized again and again by systems built to keep them impoverished or imprisoned.
Immigrants and refugees see their families torn apart first by violence and then by unjust policies that bar them from a safe haven.
All of these issues were raised during the weekend events. Speaking at the Mass for life Jan. 19, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz lamented abortion on demand. He called for just laws that prohibit abortion and urged the faithful to tend to the needs of mothers in crisis.
“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to give dignity to the mother, but not to the child.’ You can’t say, ‘I’m going to give dignity to the child but not the mother.’ They go together,” he said.
He also announced the U.S. bishops new initiative called “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” which will begin in March.
Father Manuel Williams, homilist for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day service Jan. 20, called Catholics to concrete action to curb racism and other attacks on human dignity.
“At this moment in our church’s history, we have to invite our whole church, the magisterium, our sisters and brothers to truly be a pro-life church — to say that black lives matter, to say that life is sacred not only at conception, but at 16, walking around the neighborhood,” he said.
“We have to say life is sacred even when they depend upon food stamps. We have to say life is sacred even when they listen to ungodly music. We have to say life is sacred when somebody is sitting on death row,” he said. “We have to say life is sacred when they are put into the criminal justice system.”
Archbishop Kurtz and Father Williams both addressed what Pope Francis has called a throwaway culture, one where the value of a life comes not from God, but from its convenience, its usefulness, its desirability.
The pope addressed this very issue last week with bishops from the U.S. making ad limina visits. After meeting with Pope Francis, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, said the pope asked,“ ‘Do we always want to simply eliminate those who are inconvenient?’ ”
Bishop McKnight said Catholic voters need to be aware of the temptation “to get rid of unwanted people” — the unborn or the aged, immigrants or the poor. “There is a certain consistency that is required of us as Catholics.”
In fact, the U.S. bishops have called on Catholics to become “faithful citizens,” people who take their values to the polls and public forums.
Right now in the Kentucky legislature, lawmakers are considering at least three bills that relate to human dignity.
Senate Bill 1 is troubling to Kentucky’s Catholic leaders because it could prove harmful to immigrants.
House Bill 237 has the support of Catholic Church leaders because it seeks to end the death penalty for people who are mentally ill.
House Bill 67 seeks to amend the constitution to explicitly state that there is no right to an abortion in Kentucky. This bill also has the church’s support.
Take to heart the call to action issued by Archbishop Kurtz and Father Williams: Stand up for human dignity with your vote, by contacting your lawmakers and through service to those in need.