The dignity of human life and the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Bishop Shawn McKnight

Last week I celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph with pilgrims from our diocese as they began their trip for the March for Life.  I told them I was proud of them for their enthusiasm to witness the beauty of our Catholic faith as seen in our profound respect for the dignity of all human life, and I assured them of our prayers.  We are all grateful for the young people from our diocese (and their adult chaperones!) who made the sacrifice to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the march.  They were our ambassadors, standing in a peaceful and prayerful way for all who are without the necessary legal protections to safeguard their lives, most especially for the unborn who have no voice of their own.  In securing a basic recognition for the sanctity of all human life, we protect the foundation upon which all other human rights depend.

I cautioned our pilgrims, however, not to get discouraged or swayed by the ugly attitudes they might see on the streets of Washington or in the media while on their “pilgrimage.”  Many, perhaps even most, in our country do not recognize the unborn’s right to life.  Moreover, the growing political polarization of society has ratcheted up social tensions, threatening even basic civility.  Our Catholic faith compels us to respect the dignity of every person, made in the image and likeness of God, even if we disagree with them politically.  Two wrongs never make a right.

It is in this context that a very ugly scene played out on social media at the end of the week, which bounced around rapidly with little to no context.  At the time of this writing, it is unclear what in fact happened; however, it serves as a vivid depiction of the unrest in our society today.  How ironic that it took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the very place where Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous speech on racism and the need for unity in our land.  As our nation remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. today, let us be mindful of the consequences of our belief in the sanctity of all human life.  All human beings are deserving of basic rights which flow from their God-given dignity, whether they are unborn or born, and regardless of their ethnicity.  I hope and pray none of us would ever participate in the taking of human life or in violating our faith by the sin of racism.  This is essential in what makes our Catholic faith beautiful: we uphold the dignity of human life and we reject the sin of racism. May all our words and actions be in conformity to the faith we profess with our lips.