By Most. Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
We know that as Catholics we will often find ourselves swimming against the tide of modern culture. We are confronted with secularism, relativism, materialism and other “isms” that challenge our belief in a culture of life and dignity for all. Still, Catholics are more integrated in the modern world than ever before – in schools, workplaces and places of social gathering. We are exposed to other value systems and moral opinions, often expressed strongly to us. What do we do? The tide of culture is strong, yet we are called by God to stand up for what is timeless, the worth of every single human person. He asks that we not only carry this belief in our hearts but that we pursue it as a matter of justice in our communities and beyond.
We are approaching the season of Lent, a time when we are called to a sober examination of our conscience, when we are called to bring our sins and failings to the Lord so that we might plant our feet firmly on a path of forgiveness and reconciliation with Him. What a blessing for us to have this time to look inward, reconcile with our God and let go of what has been burdening us.
Perhaps a question for many of us this Lent is whether or not we have embraced our Catholic faith’s consistent ethic of life, and whether we have witnessed that ethic in our lives. Some are passionate witnesses to the protection of the unborn, others to the defense of the immigrant and still others to the dignity of the condemned. How many of us have taken all three of these examples of human life in our hearts and spoken them on our lips?
An opportunity to do this has come to us through the Holy Spirit. Two state ballot initiatives, one that would require parental notification when a young girl seeks an abortion and another that would end the death penalty in California, have been proposed. My brother bishops of California and I have formally expressed support for these initiatives and we have taken the extraordinary step of allowing dioceses in the state the opportunity to participate in the signature gathering process to ensure that the initiatives reach the ballot (I encourage you to read the Statement of the California Bishops at http://www.cacatholic.org/). It is my decision that the Diocese of San Bernardino will participate in signature gathering for the Parental Notification Initiative and the SAFE California Initiative and I expect full participation in this effort by our parish communities.
In the coming weeks you will have an opportunity at your parish to help these two important initiatives reach the ballot. Beyond that we will have an opportunity to advocate for them so that the voters of California can make them law. What a victory for life that would be!
Some may see these two initiatives as divergent and may struggle to understand why they are being addressed jointly. It is all the more important, then, that we engage in a process of teaching (and learning) about the common thread that runs through them – our belief as Roman Catholics that every human life is sacred, be it the unborn or the criminal. I look forward to taking this important journey with you.
I offer you my blessings and prayers that this Lenten season brings you closer to God and deeper in your faith.
PUBLISHED IN THE FEBRUARY 2012 INLAND CATHOLIC BYTE