Human Life and Dignity

 

 

 
 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protector of the Unborn

 

 
 

The Office of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach: “Human Life and Dignity Ministries” was created to broaden the scope and definition of the pastoral, educational, and advocacy initiatives within the Diocese of Boise. Every life is made in the image and likeness of our God with intrinsic value, despite stage of development or social condition. This ministry promotes the dignity of all life from conception to natural death. Primary ministerial focus will include: the unborn, adoption, post abortion healing, homelessness, euthanasia and assisted suicide, and capital punishment/death penalty. This does not preclude other diocesan offices, parishes or lay groups from focusing on other Human Life and Dignity areas.

Mailing and Street Address

Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise

Office of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach

1501 South Federal Way, Suite 400

Boise, Idaho 83705

 

Coordinator, Office of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach

Deacon Robert Barros-Bailey

rbarrosbailey@gmail,com

 

Pastoral Ombudsman for Human, Life and Dignity

Deacon

Vision

For the Universal Church and within the Diocese of Boise, there is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person. Efforts and energies within the spectrum of Human Life and Dignity ministries are often more intense and focused based on the overall vulnerability of the persons affected.

Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate that:

"The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human  life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'" (15).

As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The Diocese of Boise strongly supports all those members of its parishes that seek to advocate or involve themselves in ministries dedicated to promote the Church’s teaching on Human Life and Dignity in ways that are in line with the Catholic Christian values outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. All ministries, in every area of the Human Life and Dignity spectrum are equally important and supported.

The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. The right to life from conception to natural death is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights that leads Catholics to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace.

To achieve this goal, the Office of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach will support parish based ministries and church affiliated agencies within the scope of its resources in ongoing education, prayer, policy, and advocacy efforts to mobilize the Idaho Catholic community on issues of:

1. Abortion/Adoption/Post Abortion Healing,

2. Homelessness,

3. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

4. Death Penalty.

The focus on these issues does not in any way exclude the other range of issues that come under the focus of “Human Life and Dignity” as defined by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. Our office will also collaborate with the Diocesan Office on Marriage and Family Life on issues of Chastity, Contraception/Natural Family Planning, Theology of the Body and Marriage Preparation.  In this way, the Catholic community celebrates the gift of human life and witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Rededication to the Cause of Human Life and Dignity and Respect Life

This diocesan outreach to support Human Life and Dignity seeks to renew our call for individual Catholics and the many institutions and organizations of the Church to unite in an unprecedented effort to restore respect and legal protection for every human life—to be what the Holy Father asks us to be: a people of life and a people for life (The Gospel of Life, no. 78). It is our hope and expectation that in focusing on the need to respect and protect the lives of the innocent unborn and those who are disabled, ill, or dying, we will help to deepen respect for the life of every human being.

The Program

The Office of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach calls upon all the resources of the Diocese—its people, parishes, and related agencies — to pursue this effort with renewed energy and commitment in four major areas:

  1. Public Information and Education
  2. Pastoral Care
  3. Public Policy
  4. Prayer and Worship

This plan foresees dialogue and cooperation between the diocese, parishes, deacons and lay people individually and collectively. To effectively organize these efforts within the Diocese of Boise, the Coordinator of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach will oversee the Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity (DCHLD). This committee will be guided by the Pastoral Ombudsman for Human Life and Dignity. This committee will have three regional subcommittees:

  1. Northern: Northern and North Central Deanery Parishes
  2. Western: West and West Central Deanery Parishes
  3. East: Eastern and Southern Deanery Parishes

Each regional subcommittee will be guided by a deacon or lay vice- chairperson. Each region will strive to have a Human Life and Dignity Coordinator (HLDC) in each parish, approved by the Pastor. The HLDC will be the person primarily responsible for HLD activities within the parish. The regional vice-committee chairperson will communicate with parish coordinators on a regular basis to ensure proper communications and support for HLD events on all levels is occurring.

Pastoral Ombudsman for Human Life and Dignity

We seek the collaboration of every Catholic organization and individual person in this effort. Specifically, the Pastoral Ombudsman for Human Life and Dignity will:

  • Under the direction of the Coordinator of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach, serve as the Chair of the Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity.
  • Develop a positive working relationship with all agencies and ministry groups involved in the advocacy, catechesis and support for Human Life and Dignity teachings
  • Support efforts at raising awareness of Human Life and Dignity issues at the parish
  • Ensure that all agencies and groups are using approved materials and have a well-grounded and comprehensive knowledge of the full spectrum of the Church’s Human Life and Dignity teachings
  • When appropriate, represent the Bishop at Human Life and Dignity related gatherings or events
  • Work to develop annual training and support for all those involved in Human Life and Dignity work within the Diocese
  • Through ongoing professional development, become a subject matter expert on the full range of Human Life and Dignity issues.

Regional Vice-Chairperson

Every “Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity” region is comprised of two deaneries and a number of parishes within a specific geographic area. Each region is guided by a deacon or lay vice-chairperson who is responsible to the Coordinator of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach through the Pastoral Ombudsman of Human Life and Dignity. The vice-chairperson will regularly meet or communicate with parish based coordinators on diocesan events, training and support. The vice-chairperson will also seek coordinators in parishes without one and ensure that all parish coordinators are being communicated with regarding diocesan events, training and support. Finally, regional vice-chairpersons are expected to support the Pastoral Ombudsman (HLD) in the planning and staffing of Diocesan events where practical and possible:

Parish Human Life and Dignity Coordinators

The Parish Coordinators are the most vital link in the Diocesan Human Life and Dignity Committee. The parish coordinator works with the regional vice-chairperson and pastoral ombudsman to organize, educate and advocate for human life and dignity in accordance with the doctrines and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Parish Coordinators should also:

  1. Be appointed by and report to their pastor and be responsible to him for all HLD activities on behalf of the parish. Keep the pastor informed on all programs and plans.
  2. Serve as chairperson of the parish Human Life and Dignity committee. Serve on the Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity.
  3. Act as the primary parish contact person for all information regarding national, diocesan or regional Human Life and Dignity activities. Keep the regional vice-chairperson of the Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity informed of related activities within the parish and any areas where diocesan support may be necessary.
  4. Through the Parish committee, parish staff and the pastor, keep Human Life and Dignity issues visible in the parish through the parish bulletin or other means of parish communication.
  5. Through the parish committee, encourage and organize activities that promote, praying, informing, educating, motivating, and serving the parish community.
  6. Read and follow the guidelines established in the Diocese of Boise’s “Human Life and Dignity Parish Coordinators Manual” as promulgated and updated by the Director of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach.
  7. Promote parish participation in diocesan or regional activities.

Diocesan Events

In addition to the many recommended parish events, the Director of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach will organize and/or support the following events:

  • Respect Life Month and Sunday (October)
  • Annual Young Adult Conference (November)
  • Novena and Masses for the Holy Innocents (December 28)
  • Human Rights Month (January)
    1. Human Life and Dignity Mass (Saint Johns Cathedral)
    2. Boise March for Life
    3. Moscow March for Life
    4. Salt Lake City March for Life
    5. Northwest Walk for Life in Spokane
  • 40 Days for Life (Lent)
  • ICYC (March)
  • Biennial HLD Parish Coordinator Training (September 2019)
  • Biennial HLD Diocesan Conference (July 2020)

Note: the HLD program year runs from October through July of the next year.

Respect Life Month and Sunday (October)

Respect Life Month is observed annually in October. Respect Life Sunday is observed on the first Sunday in October. The annual Respect Life Program is a year-round, nationwide effort to help Catholics understand, value, and become engaged with building a culture that cherishes every human life.

Although sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Respect Life Program is essentially comprised of the efforts of leaders throughout the Diocese of Boise through the efforts of the Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity and with the strong support and encouragement of our Bishop.

The USCCB produces materials to assist in parish efforts. Instead of acting as stand-alone resources, they are designed to be brought to life as tools in your hands—build off or adapt them to fit your specific needs. Parish Coordinators will have these materials sent directly to them every year by the Coordinator of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach in July of each year. Parish Coordinators should confer with their pastor as to its implementation within their specific parish.

Annual Young Adult Conference (November)

Young Adult Catholic Conference is a gathering of young adult Catholics from around the state of Idaho. The event is held at the new JUMP Center in downtown Boise, Idaho. It is a weekend of encounter, connection and involvement. The best national speakers are invited; have incredible music, and a chance to more deeply encounter Jesus Christ.

The Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity sponsors an information and engagement table at this event with particular emphasis on encouraging young adults to be involved in HLD work throughout parishes and campuses in Idaho.

Human Rights Month (January)

Parishes are encouraged to participate in the various regional Marches for Life and invite anyone of any faith who believes in the sanctity and dignity of human life to participate. The marches are held every January on specific dates and locations. Efforts should be made to involve high school age youth and young adults in this activity. For more information on each event please go to the following websites:

March for Life Boise: http://www.rtli.org/march-for-life.html
Respect Life Mass (Saint John’s Cathedral, Boise): https://www.catholicidaho.org/405
Northwest Walk for Life Spokane: http://www.walkforlifenorthwest.org/

The Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity will provide parish coordinators with information regarding the Marches. At the Diocesan level, a Human Life and Dignity Mass is held every January at Saint John’s Cathedral with the Bishop to commemorate the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

40 Days for Life (Lent)

40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families. It puts into action a desire to cooperate with God in the carrying out of His plan for the end of abortion. It draws attention to the evil of abortion through the use of a three-point program:

  • Prayer and fasting
  • Constant vigil
  • Community outreach

The 40-day campaign tracks Biblical history, where God used 40-day periods to transform individuals, communities … and the entire world. From Noah in the flood to Moses on the mountain to the disciples after Christ’s resurrection, it is clear that God sees the transformative value of His people accepting and meeting a 40-day challenge. Parish Coordinators can encourage parishioners to sponsor this campaign in their own parish. For more information go to: https://40daysforlife.com/mission/

ICYC (Feb/March)

The Idaho Catholic Youth Convention in which Jesus is at the heart and center of the weekend is the premier annual gathering of high school aged teens. The main goals of the Idaho Catholic Youth Convention are:

  • To bring our Catholic Youth together in order to experience the bigger Church
  • To have fun and to help teens realize that our Catholic Faith is relevant, dynamic and powerful.
  • To give teens an opportunity to encounter Christ, to be touched by Him and to have their lives forever changed by His love.

The Diocesan Committee Human Life and Dignity sponsors an information and engagement table at this event with particular emphasis and staffing by Bishop Kelly High School teens and teens from Treasure Valley Teens for Life who minister directly to teen attendees and encourage them to get involved in HLD issues. Parish Coordinators can encourage and coordinate HLD themes and activities with the parish’s high school teen minister.

HLD Diocesan Conferences and Parish Coordinators Retreat

On odd number years (2019, 2021, 2023 etc.), the Diocesan Committee for Human Life and Dignity (DCHLD) will host a Parish Coordinator Training Retreat. In even numbered years (2020, 2022, 2024 etc.), the DCHLD Committee will invite all parish coordinators, clergy and laity involved in HLD ministries to attend the Idaho Catholics for Human Life and Dignity Diocesan Conference.  National, State and Local speakers will inspire and empower everyone with their expertise and amazing personal stories on today’s critical issues, demonstrating build a Culture of Life.

Diocesan Human Life and Dignity Focus Statements

 

Abortion / Adoption / Post-Abortion Healing

In the United States abortion is legal throughout pregnancy. Yet abortion is a violation of human rights incomparable in magnitude and an atrocity for the whole human family. Most Americans are surprised and shocked to learn about the lack of any meaningful legal limitations for abortion. Most know things have gone too far.   Together with those from many other faith communities, we work to bring about a society that recognizes abortion for what it truly is.

Many young people today comprehend the legacy of legalized abortion. As of 2019, they must look at 46 years of legal abortion and weep over the 60 million lives destroyed. They are aware that one in every four pregnancies ends in abortion, and they grieve for the world they will soon inherit. They mourn the fact that each year approximately 1.3 million abortions take place, and that thousands of them are done in the sixth month of pregnancy or later, when the child would likely survive if born.

Many who came of age at the time of legalized abortion were hopeful about what it was said to promise: an end to poverty and abuse. Who would not hope for these things? But legal abortion promised what it could not give. It promised women a freedom to participate more fully in society, but it took their children and broke their hearts. Countless women have suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually because of abortion; many have even lost their lives. Many men, too, mourn the loss of their children, while others carry the heavy burden of having persuaded their daughter, wife, or girlfriend to have an abortion.

Forty+ years after abortion was legalized nation-wide, some may think that the pro-life movement's efforts have amounted to nothing because abortion is still legal.

But that misses the heart of the matter:

  • Today fewer abortions are being done each year, and fewer doctors are willing to be involved in abortion.
  • More Americans identify themselves as pro-life, while the numbers of those saying they are "pro-choice" have declined significantly.
  • Ultrasound and other medical advances have made possible a greater appreciation of the humanity of the unborn child.
  • Since 1973, thousands of pro-life groups, individual parishes, Catholic social service agencies and pregnancy resource centers have provided practical assistance and support to thousands of women facing difficult pregnancies.
  • Many state legislatures have enacted measures to restrict or regulate the practice of abortion and reduce its incidence.
  • Above all, the pro-life movement is brimming with the vibrancy of youth.

Why so much youthful energy in the cause of life? Because the hearts of the young are open to life and are filled with love of life. The minds of the young are open to the truth about abortion. They dream of a world where people exercise their ability to choose in favor of life, and they live as if the dream were true. Their hearts are full of compassion for unborn children and for young women who are confused and suffering, and they look for ways to serve them. Many in the last generation fought for legal abortion; but more today know that women deserve better, and so fight for true freedom for women. Young people know that the future is in their hands, and their hearts yearn to bring a message of hope and healing to a culture in great need of hearing it.

Among those who defend abortion, there are many who do so despite the pain abortion has brought into their lives, or even sometimes because of it. Many contemplating abortion believe they have no other choice. We listen to them; we understand their sense of isolation and despair. We must strive to know their hearts.

We renew our offer of assistance to anyone considering abortion: If you are overwhelmed by the decisions you face, if you cannot afford medical care, if you are homeless or feel helpless, whatever your needs, we will help you. The Church and her ministries, inspired by the word and example of Jesus Christ, will help you with compassion and without condemnation.

Through Rachel’s Vineyard, Silent No More and other ministries, we will continue to help the broken-hearted. Those who resort to abortion out of a sense of desperation often find the cruel reality of abortion too difficult to bear. But it is too difficult only in a world without God and therefore without hope. We must reach these hearts and give them hope. These are the converted hearts that will at last bring an end to abortion.

The Pastoral Ombudsman for Human Life and Dignity will work with all parish ministries, affiliated agencies, and advocacy groups who seek to expose the truth about the effects of abortion, the advantages available through the option of adoption, and the moral motivation to choose life options over abortion.

The Office of Diocesan Pastoral Outreach will seek out those agencies either private or government that educate, promote and process the adoption of children and ensure that their program information is available to all parish coordinators and those who outreach to women struggling with unwanted pregnancies as a moral alternative to abortion. Our office will encourage the awareness and promotion of adoption by all parishes, apostolates, and organizations involved in the Human Life and Dignity ministry.

Homelessness

The Church, "sharing the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or affected in any way,” feels it has a serious obligation to join with those who are working, without self-interest and with dedication, to find concrete and urgent solutions to the housing problem and to see that the homeless receive the necessary attention and concern on the part of public authorities.  --John Paul II

These recent words of our Holy Father pose a special challenge for American Catholics. They call us to renewed reflection and effective action on the national disgrace of widespread homelessness in our midst and the broader housing crisis that undermines the life and dignity of so many of our sisters and brothers who lack a decent place to live.

In these brief reflections, we seek to call attention to the moral and human dimensions of the housing issue, to review the teaching of the Church in this area, to reflect on our own experience, and to suggest some future directions for national housing policy.

We come to this issue as ministers, not policy-makers, as lay people, not housing technicians. But we know from our own pastoral experience and the work of our dioceses and parishes across the nation that homelessness and poor housing are destroying lives, undermining families, hurting communities, and weakening the social fabric of our nation. Homeless people and those without adequate housing frequently turn to the Church for help. We see their suffering. We feel their pain. Across this nation, the Church is reaching out in an unprecedented way to provide shelter to tens of thousands of men, women, and children.

Within our parishes, we have the ability to assist in the eradication of homelessness in three distinct ways:

  1. Involvement
  2. Engagement
  3. Advocacy

The Pastoral Ombudsman for Human Life and Dignity will identify and support through education and communication those parish based ministries that seek engagement by providing assistance to the homeless populations within the Diocese. We will also facilitate increased involvement in affiliated agencies such as Corpus Christi House and Interfaith Sanctuary to further their ability to serve the homeless. Finally, working with civic leaders and the Diocese of Boise, promote more effective advocacy for the homeless through education campaigns with Idaho Catholics on the plight of the homeless and the need to support sound and effective government or non-government based assistance programs such as subsidized and affordable housing developments and job matching programs.

Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia Prevention

To live in a manner worthy of our human dignity, and to spend our final days on this earth in peace and comfort, surrounded by loved ones—that is the hope of each of us. In particular, Christian hope sees these final days as a time to prepare for our eternal destiny. Today, however, many people fear the dying process. They are afraid of being kept alive past life’s natural limits by burdensome medical technology. They fear experiencing intolerable pain and suffering, losing control over bodily functions, or lingering with severe dementia. They worry about being abandoned or becoming a burden on others. These issues can also lead to despair and lead one to artificially choose to end one’s life with the help of others.

Our society can be judged by how we respond to these fears. A caring community devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives. When people are tempted to see their own lives as diminished in value or meaning, they most need the love and assistance of others to assure them of their inherent worth. The healing art of medicine is an important part of this assistance. Even when a cure is not possible, medicine plays a critical role in providing “palliative care”—alleviating pain and other symptoms and meeting basic needs. Such care should combine medical skill with attention to the emotional as well as spiritual needs of those facing the end of life.

Respect for life does not demand that we attempt to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or unduly burdensome. Nor does it mean we should deprive suffering patients of needed pain medications out of a misplaced or exaggerated fear that they might have the side effect of shortening life. The risk of such an effect is extremely low when pain medication is adjusted to a patient’s level of pain, with the laudable purpose of simply addressing that pain (CCC, no. 2279). In fact, severe pain can shorten life, while effective palliative care can enhance the length as well as the quality of a person’s life. It can even alleviate the fears and problems that lead some patients to the desperation of considering suicide.

Effective palliative care also allows patients to devote their attention to the unfinished business of their lives, to arrive at a sense of peace with God, with loved ones, and with themselves. No one should dismiss this time as useless or meaningless. Learning how to face this last stage of our earthly lives is one of the most important and meaningful things each of us will do, and caregivers who help people through this process are also doing enormously important work. As Christians we believe that even suffering itself need not be meaningless—for as Pope John Paul II showed during his final illness, suffering accepted in love can bring us closer to the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of others.

The Pastoral Ombudsman for Human life and Dignity will seek parish based leaders in the effort to defend and uphold the principle that each of us has a right to live with dignity through every day of our lives. As disciples of one who is Lord of the living, we need to be messengers of the Gospel of Life. We will join with other concerned Idahoans, including disability rights advocates, charitable organizations, and members of the healing professions, to stand for the dignity of people with serious illnesses and disabilities and promote life-affirming solutions for their problems and hardships. 

We will seek and support ways to ensure that the families of people with chronic or terminal illness will advocate for the rights of their loved ones, and will never feel they have been left alone in caring for their needs. Support and promotion of existing “No One Dies Alone” ministries and “Hospice” are an essential part of addressing the need for dignity and care at the end of life. The claim that the “quick fix” of an overdose of drugs can substitute for these efforts is an affront to patients, caregivers and the ideals of medicine. This will be accomplished through a program of diocesan wide advocacy and education on this issue as well as training parish based deacons on the resources available to individuals and families facing this very emotional and critical issue.

Death Penalty

Ten years ago, the Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. Since that time, significant gains have been made. Several states, including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and most recently Nebraska, have ended the use of the death penalty, and other states have enacted moratoria. Death sentences are at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done, and we must recommit ourselves to end this practice in our country.

“Today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, one which contradicts God’s plan for man and society and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective. It does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.” - Pope Francis, March 20, 2015

Our faith tradition offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake. No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability. Our Catholic faith affirms our solidarity with and support for victims of crime and their families. We commit ourselves to walk with them and assure them of the Church's compassion and care, ministering to their spiritual, physical and emotional needs in the midst of deep pain and loss. We also acknowledge the inherent human dignity of those who have committed grave harm, affirming that, even as they repay a debt to society, they too should receive compassion and mercy. As we seek to tend to the eternal needs of those who commit serious crimes we must build up a culture of life in matters of justice and punishment. The Church’s opposition to the death penalty should not be seen as indifference to the sinfulness of crime and attacks on human life, but as an affirmation of the sacredness of all life even for those who have committed the most heinous of crimes.

The Pastoral Ombudsman of Human Life and Dignity will seek those parish based ministers and other affiliated advocacy groups to continue working for end the use of the death penalty, he will also encourage people through parish and diocesan based media resources to:

  1. Pray for victims of crime, those facing execution, and those working in the criminal justice system;
  2. Reach out to the families of those affected by violent crime by bringing Christ’s love and compassion;
  3. Learn about the Church’s teaching on capital punishment and educate others in this vital area of concern;
  4. Advocate for better public policies to protect society and end the use of the death penalty.

The Scriptures remind us: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Lk 5:7). As Christians, we are called to oppose the culture of death by witnessing to something greater and more perfect: a gospel of life, hope, and mercy. To help build a culture of life, capital punishment should be abolished.

 

 

 

 
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