By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz spoke to more than 100 people representing pro-life and social concerns committees May 14 during the Respect Life Archdiocesan-Wide meeting at St. Agnes Church, 1920 Newburg Road.
Ed Harpring, coordinator of pro-life ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said the meeting aimed to bring together pro-life and social concerns groups from around the archdiocese. It’s the beginning of a process, he said, to help the two unite.
Representatives of 13 groups who advocate for life and social justice attended the meeting.
Archbishop Kurtz started by sharing how his family “profoundly influenced” his life. The archbishop said his older brother Georgie, who had Down syndrome, made him aware of the “precious gift of life.” After their mother passed away in 1989, the archbishop became his brother’s legal guardian. They lived together until Georgie died about 12 years later, he said.
The archbishop asked those gathered to think about the people in their lives who have made them aware of “the gift of life.”
He also told those in attendance about a letter to the editor he wrote in 1973 reacting to the Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the United States. He referred to that letter as his “first public act” in standing up for life.
“Christ calls us to do something. He doesn’t want us to be passive,” said the archbishop. “It is important for us to find a way to publicly stand up for life.”
Harpring said this meeting was a “good first step” to taking that public stance.
The archbishop also praised the passion with which people uphold Catholic social teachings.
And he discussed the importance of being educated about these issues.
He said that when it came to standing up for life and living out Catholic social teachings that the faithful “cannot afford to pick and choose.”
“There’s a hierarchy of truth within Catholic social teachings and it begins with the dignity of human life,” he said.
He reminded his listeners that the destruction of human life is always wrong — be it a child in the womb or the lives of many taken through a deliberate act, such as a bombing.
Pope Francis, he noted, has called people to counter what he calls a “throw-away culture,” by caring for people and God’s creation alike.
“It’s very important to know that all are called upon to respect the dignity of the human person and also God’s creation,” he said. “These are not multiple choice questions.”
The archbishop also talked about the importance of “walking with people in need” and “accompanying people who are hurting,” which is at the heart of Catholic social teaching, he said.
The archbishop said he’s had the opportunity, in the past 35 or 40 years, to accompany many who were suffering. He called on his listeners to think about their callings.
“Never take for granted how important you are in the life of that person who, maybe without you, wouldn’t be able to reclaim his or her life,” he said.
Harpring said he was pleased with how many turned out and how the meeting went.
The archbishop “set the stage for realizing that the common thread running through pro-life groups and social concern groups is giving a voice to the defenseless,” said Harpring.
The archdiocese aims to offer two of these gatherings per year.