Diocesan Offices » Respect Life
“Actively promoting a renewed respect for human life is the responsibility of every Catholic. The parish pro-life committee assists in a special way by helping to make the parish a center of life, a place where parishoners understand the issues and the importance of meeting the needs of those who are most vulnerable – especially mothers and their unborn children, and those who are seriously ill or dying and their families.”
Day of Hope and Healing for Women: are you experiencing guilt, sadness, or shame following an abortion experience? For information, please call 855-364-0076 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Masses of Remembrance: for those who have lost a child through miscarriage, illness, accident, stillbirth or abortion or for those who have or are suffering with struggles related to infertility. Call the office of Respect Life at 470-1418 for more information.
Watch the June 1, 2015 presentation of "Catholic Considerations for End-of-Life Decisions," courtesy of Syracuse Catholic Television.
Click here to learn more about the Fertility Education & Care Center
2014 Respect Life Materials:
Download the Respect Life Parish Booklet
View Lifeline Winter 2014
View Liturgy Guidelines
View Word of Life
Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
In 1973, as a result of the Supreme Court decisions, “Roe V. Wade” and “Doe v. Bolton” abortion became legal in the U.S. for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason. The decision of Roe v. Wade was the direct result of two women attorneys from Texas, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. As young attorneys, they were interested in making names for themselves by arguing a landmark case through the court system to the Supreme Court. The issue of abortion was selected based on the personal experience of Sarah Waddington and due to the social climate in the late 1960’s.
Attorneys Weddington and Coffee made known they were looking for a pregnant woman so they could test the legality of abortion in the courts. Through referrals they discovered Norma McCorvey who claimed to be pregnant as the result of a rape. She was unmarried, unemployed, and pregnant for the second time. Her mother had custody of the first child and her family was not supportive. Norma McCorvey became “Jane Roe”. Henry Wade was the District Attorney of Dallas County Texas where Roe lived.
At about the same time in Georgia, twenty three people and a young woman “Mary Doe” presented claims against Arthur K. Bolton, Attorney General of Georgia, for an abortion based on mental health. Doe (a mental patient at a state hospital) was married, pregnant, and a 22 year old who was the mother of three living children. Two of her children were in foster care and the third had been placed for adoption.
On January 22, 1973, Justice Henry Blackman ruled on both the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton legalizing the right for women to get an abortion for virtually any reason through all nine months of pregnancy. This was done by defining “health” as almost any consideration inclusive of physical, emotional, psychological, or social. This is a simplified summary of complex legislation, but the law remains the same today and has resulted in approximately 1.3 million abortions each year in the U.S. This equates to roughly 48 million babies lost to abortion since 1973.
The “Slippery Slope Phenomena” is phrasing developed to explain the circumstances that take shape from the roots of something evil. A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Using legalized abortion as the determinate for how society treats our most vulnerable human beings – the unborn – it should not be surprising that other threats to life such as euthanasia, partial birth abortion, lack of bio-ethics, and capital punishment have also become natural pathways toward total disrespect for human life.
Late term abortions are often referred to as partial-birth abortion because of the procedure used to abort viable babies. Martin Haskel, the physician who developed partial birth abortions for use between the fifth and ninth month of pregnancy testified at congressional hearings that an estimated 80% of these abortions are “purely elective”, (healthy babies of healthy mothers) and the remaining 20% because of genetic problems. Many ob-gyns and specialists in high-risk pregnancies have come forward to state unequivocally that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve a mother’s health. On April 18th, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act” a ban on one type of partial-birth abortion. The procedure of dismembering late term babies in the mother’s uterus is still in use and available.
RU-486 (mifepristone) is a chemical which induces an abortion in the first seven weeks of pregnancy when used in conjunction with another drug, prostaglandin. It was approved for use by the FDA in 2000 and is widely available. The drug has been associated with several deaths and many complications, but remains in use throughout the U.S.
Emergency Contraception (EC) or the “Morning After” Pill is a single or two dose pill containing a high dose of progestin. It claims that if taken within 72 hours of “unprotected” sex, it will prevent ovulation. However, it can also prevent an already conceived embryo from implanting in the endometrium, causing an early abortion. The FDA approved its use in 2006 for women 18 and older. In 2009, a Federal District Court judge in NYS ordered the FDA to lower the age of use to 17 and also allow men 17 and older to purchase Plan B for their partners. The FDA, under the Obama Administration, decided not to appeal the order and the age of use stands at 17. Emergency Contraception is available at pharmacies and clinics without a prescription and no parental notification is required.
Family Planning Advocates have argued continuously that access to contraceptives such as EC would lower pregnancy and abortion rates. The most recent findings by large studies in 2007 tell a different story. Not a single study showed that EC reduced pregnancy or abortion rates. Pregnancy resource centers are reporting that many young women are using EC multiple times as a regular form of birth control.
Ella (ulipristal acetate) is the newest form of “emergency contraception”. It does not operate as other forms of EC do. It blocks progesterone receptors in the uterine lining and destroys the capacity of the mother’s reproductive organs to produce the progesterone necessary to support an embryo through the first ten weeks of pregnancy. The American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists properly calls Ella an embryocidal drug. Ella has been approved by the FDA for sale in the U.S.
See “Fact Sheet: Greater Access to Contraception Does Not Reduce Abortions” at: www.usccb.org under Pro-Life Secretariat.
Respect Life Ministry is pleased to continue to offer the diocesan program, “Be Happy, Healthy & Holy”. Sharon Flanagan, Diocesan Abstinence Educator, is available to talk to teens about the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage, God’s plan for sex, chastity, at-risk behaviors, and goal setting. During the 5 years of the program, Sharon has presented to more than 9,750 youth and 2,300 adults. These presentations are offered to people in Confirmation formation, parish youth groups, and Catholic high schools. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please contact Sharon Flanagan at: email@example.com or call 315-470-1417.
STEM CELL RESEARCH: There has been marvelous success using stem cells to treat illnesses such as cancer, Parkinsons Disease and spinal injuries among others. The successes are the result of using stem cells harvested from adult human stem cells (from fat cells, skin cells, etc), and from the placenta and umbilical cord blood of newborns. There has been a public trend to push for the use of embryonic stem cells, but as researchers have still produced no cures using embryonic stem cells, their use falls more out of favor. Using embryonic stem cells always destroys the embryo and for this reason, the Church opposes their use. The Church favors the use of adult stem cells and supports the discovery of Induced Pluripotent Cells (IPS) which are formed from adult skin cells but tend to behave as embryonic stem cells. The Church teaches that human embryos are human beings afforded rights and dignity and that sacrificing one life for another is never an option. See the US Bishops’ Statement: “On Embryonic Stem Cell Research” at: www.usccb.org.
CLONING: Human cloning is a way of producing a genetic twin of an organism without sexual reproduction. Results from poll after poll indicate there is significant opposition to cloning. There is a two-fold interest in cloning from researchers. One is for human/animal hybrid cloning and the other for the creation of embryos to use as research material. While there is a small element in the scientific world that aspires to clone a human, most scientists and ethicists agree that at this time attempts at human cloning with the intention to bring to live birth would be unethical. Human cloning fails to respect human dignity. Human life begins at creation and scientifically creating duplicates of God’s unique creatures does not respect our individual dignity. See: “On Embryonic Stem Cell Research” at: www.usccb.org.
The Church’s position on capital punishment has evolved from traditionally supporting the state’s right to end the life of a criminal in order to protect greater society, to only using capital punishment if there are no other means to protect society. See: “Capital Punishment – What the Church Teaches” at www.usccb.org.
Direct euthanasia is the putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick or dying persons. Physician-assisted suicide is the action of a physician either directly or by prescribing drugs specifically meant to end life. The Church teaches that while we are not obligated to use all available medical procedures in every set of circumstances, we are responsible as stewards of life to never directly intend to cause one’s own death, or the death of an innocent victim, by action or omission. Experiencing one’s own suffering or the suffering of a loved one tempts people to see active intervention as an answer. It is important for people to make critical decisions regarding end-of-life care. The New York State Catholic Conference has designed a Health Care Proxy that conforms to NYS law. The Proxy will name an agent to speak on your behalf should the need arise. When selecting an agent to serve as a Health Care Proxy it is important to select someone who shares similar moral values, religious beliefs and wishes. A Health Care Proxy must be signed, dated, and witnessed. The NYSCC Health Care Proxy form is available through the Syracuse Diocese Respect Life Office or online at: www.nyscatholic.org or from the National Catholic Bioethics Center at: www.ncbcenter.org. Also see the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” for more information on Church Teaching and health issues. It is available at: www.usccb.org.
Marriage, the Church teaches, is celebrated and lived as a Holy Sacrament. It is the union of one man and one woman, body and soul, for life. It was designed by God to be shared in love and service to one another, and to create a family in love. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a body of knowledge based on naturally occurring signs and symptoms that identify signs of fertility or infertility. NFP is not contraception, rather a method of fertility awareness and appreciation. It is highly effective when a mutually motivated couple shares in the responsibility of family planning. Many couples say that NFP deepens their spiritual life, strengthens their marriages and enriches respect for one another and the gift of life. A recent study suggests that couples who practice NFP have a divorce rate of only 3%. NFP is taught using the “Napro Technology” method by the Diocesan NFP Coordinator, Joan Nolan. Joan may be contacted at: 315-488-3139 x16 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also several other instructors throughout the diocese. To find an instructor in your area, please contact the Respect Life Office at: 315-470-1418 or email@example.com.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a reproductive technology in which a new human being is conceived by joining egg and sperm in a glass dish (In Vitro is Latin for “in glass”). This technology depersonalizes the act of generating a child into a technical process in a laboratory rather than the loving act between spouses designed by God for our cooperation in the formation of a new human being. The technology is also fraught with ethical immoralities. Eggs and sperm can be purchased from donors in search of creating “designer babies” or babies with specific traits and physical characteristics. Embryos – individual, distinct human beings – must be created in order to be implanted in the mother’s womb to try to achieve a successful live birth. Fertility clinics routinely produce many embryos for each mother because the death rate for IVF embryos is high. Clinics will also routinely transplant several embryos at once into the mother’s womb hoping that at least one embryo will survive. If more embryos than are wanted continue to develop in the womb, many clinics will offer “selective reduction” (targeted abortion) to eliminate the unwanted “extra” children. This can take a terrible psychological toll on the couple who so desperately desires children. At present, there are approximately 500,000 embryos in frozen storage today that have been left at fertility clinics. Many of the parents of these embryos leave them in this condition because they cannot knowingly give their children up to be used as research material or allow them to be destroyed or implanted in someone else’s body. These abuses (and other abuses regarding using embryos for scientific research) are a natural outgrowth of the original decision to turn child bearing into a manufacturing process. The new life that is sought may be highly valued - as a means to meet parents’ goals for family size or as a means for scientific knowledge – but this human life is not respected as human beings deserve to be respected. For more information on marriage, NFP, and IVF, please see the Bishop’s Statements, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan”, “Married Love and the Gift of Life”, and “Life-Giving Love in an age of Technology” at:www.usccb.org.
“Rachel mourns her children; she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the Lord: Cease your cries of mourning. Wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward. There is hope for your future.” Jeremiah 31:15-17
Project Rachel is a program that addresses post-abortion stress (PAS). The Catholic Church recognizes that women experience deep unresolved conflicts with abortion. For Catholics, the pain of abortion is intensified by a sense of alienation from both God and Church. The intent of this program is to respond to that estrangement by fostering reconciliation and spiritual healing.
The majority of women obtaining abortions are generally young – under age 25. In upstate NY the average woman seeking an abortion is white, between the ages of 20-24 with 12+ years of education. 93% of all abortions are because of social or “birth control” reasons. The other 7% are because of rape, incest, health of the baby, or health of the mother. NYS DOH statistics reveal that over half the women who have an abortion will have another. While this summary is the typical profile of the majority of women getting abortions, please know that women of any age can experience PAS. Fathers, grandparents, and medical personnel can also experience guilt and grief because of their involvement in an abortion.
For more information, call Project Rachel at (315) 424-3737. The phone is answered during regular business hours. Upon request, calls will be received outside of regular business hours. Collect calls will also be received.
Domestic violence is the most common, but least recognized form of violence in our society. Ruth Ministry was developed by the Syracuse Catholic Diocese to respond to domestic violence using our parish infrastructure. The Church plays a vital role in responding to domestic violence, because survivors often turn to parish staffs for information and guidance. Ruth Ministry is designed to prepare parishes to respond with compassion, knowledge and insight to ensure the physical safety and spiritual well-being of those abused. For more information, please contact Lisa Hall at 315-470-1418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Respect Life Ministry is pleased to offer studies in Pope John Paul II’s, “Theology of the Body”. Theology of the Body is a beautiful study in what it means to be human, the love God created you for, and how God desires each one of us to live in communion with Him – and one another – forever.
The DVD studies are an integral part of building a “culture of life” where each of us has a responsibility to uphold and respect the dignity of the other while coming to realize the freedom God has for us. DVD programs are available for many stages in life:
TOB for Teens teaches us about God’s love and the reasons for living a chaste life. It also teaches the beauty of reconciliation with God if you haven’t lived in a chaste way. The series can be used as a part of teen faith formation, in parish youth groups, or in Catholic high schools. It is a 12 DVD curriculum, complete with Leader guides, Student guides, Parent guides, etc.
The Gift – Your Call to Greatness is a one hour overview of the Theology of the Body. The session is geared to adults and is a great starter for parish bible study groups, Respect Life groups, etc.
An Intro for TOB for Adults is an 8 part DVD series delving into what it means to be human, how God created us, God’s plan for us, and male/female relationships. Excellent for adult faith formation, bible studies, etc.
Into the Heart for Adults is a 12 part DVD series which goes even deeper into the Theology of the Body. Intro to Theology of the Body is a prerequisite.
God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled marriage is a 6 part DVD series that discusses God’s plan for marriage, what the “I do” means, sexual honesty before and within marriage, and some practical benefits of natural family planning. This series is an excellent supplement to a marriage prep or marriage enrichment day in your parish.
All DVD courses have been provided to each of the 5 Diocesan Resource Centers courtesy of the Respect Life Office. They can be loaned free of charge from the Resource Centers.
The Respect Life Office is also available to meet with you or parish representatives to discuss how any or all of these series could be implemented at your parish/school. Please contact Lisa Hall or Sharon Flanagan to make an appointment for more information.
NY State: Catholic Advocacy Network: www.nyscatholic.org
National: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: www.usccb.org
National Catholic Bio Ethics Center: www.ncbcenter.org
Family Research Council: www.frc.org
Catholic Medical Association: www.cathmed.org
Theology of the Body Institute: www.theologyofthebody.org
Please donate generously to the Hope Appeal and the annual Respect Life Collection on Respect Life Sunday in October. It is only through these donations that education and ministry about Respect Life issues is possible. Thank you!
The Respect Life Office is designed to integrate Christ's teaching on human dignity into the diocesan parish structure. Information from state and national Respect Life Programs is directed through the diocesan Respect Life Office to parish representatives, to organize programs of education, pastoral service, spirituality/prayer and public policy for their parish community.
240 East Onondaga Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
Tel: (315) 470-1418
Fax: (315) 478-4619
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