Statement of Respect for Life Month from Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Chairman U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities
The month of October brings with it our annual observance of Respect Life Month. As part of the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis, this year’s celebration highlights the example of that great saint.
As the faithful protector of both Jesus and Mary, we find in St. Joseph a profound reminder of our own call to welcome, safeguard, and defend God’s precious gift of human life.
Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Joseph took her into his home at the word of the angel. He guided their journey to Bethlehem, found shelter, and welcomed the infant Jesus as his son. When Herod threatened the life of the Christ Child, St. Joseph left his homeland behind and fled with Jesus and Mary to Egypt.
Like St. Joseph, we are also called to care for those God has entrusted to us–especially vulnerable mothers and children. We can follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph as protector by advocating against taxpayer-funded abortion, which targets the lives of millions of poor children and their mothers here in the United States. We can imitate his care and provision by helping to start Walking with Moms in Need at our parishes, “walking in the shoes” of mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy, especially low-income mothers in our communities.
At times, we may feel uncertain of our ability to answer the Lord’s call. But He invites us to faithfully respond, despite our own fears or weaknesses: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
May we imitate St. Joseph’s faithful trust and courage as we work to uphold the dignity of every human life. St. Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!
Our readings today speak to us about God’s plan for marriage – which is a lifelong union, and divorce is not in God’s plan.
Does Catholicism support divorce? My next comments are not meant to hurt or offend anyone here that may be divorced or separated or married outside the church. We are here to help you, not to judge. But we must discuss the church teaching on divorce today.
The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize divorce. A marriage can only end when one partner dies or if there are grounds for an annulment . A couple may be granted a civil divorce and be divorced in the eyes of the state, but their marriage will continue ‘in the eyes of God’.
Some separated and divorced Catholics express the mistaken notion that their situation objectively sets them outside the Catholic community. This could not be further from the truth. It is essential that divorced Catholics know that they are not excommunicated under church law and that their right and responsibility to participate in the life of the Church—which they possess by virtue of Baptism—does not cease with the breakup of their marital union. In fact, participation in the life of the Church is essential for continued growth in the faith. If you are divorced and not remarried, you most likely will be able to receive the Eucharist if you are in a state of grace. Talk to one of us and we can help guide you.
It is true that Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried present a unique challenge for the Church’s ministry. In fidelity to the teaching of Christ and the prescriptions of canon law, the civil union is considered to be invalid. Couples in these situations therefore “find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law.” They may not receive the Eucharist or exercise other official functions within the Church until their situation is resolved. Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can and should remain active in many other ways, however, such as reflecting on the Word of God, attending Mass, fostering works of charity and justice, cultivating a spirit and practice of penance, and continuing to guide their children in the Catholic faith.
There are many scenarios that can exist, so the best thing to do is to talk to a priest if there is any doubt or if you have questions.
Your priests are here to support you in whatever way we can. We love you and want to accompany you, whatever your life situation may be. One of us is in the office each day from Monday to Friday and on some days two of us are available.
Also, please remember that I was married 30 years when my wife died in 2012, so I have experienced the good times and the bad times just like many of you here today.
May the Lord bless you all and all of your families.