I am writing this column before leaving for the March for Life in Washington, D.C. I am looking forward to joining with my brother bishops, priests, hundreds of young people from our diocese, and hundreds of thousands of the faithful who will gather to bear public witness to the Gospel of life. We gather to protest a destructive force in our society and in the lives of many people: legalized abortion. The legalization of abortion has obscured the distinction between good and evil in our nation. The Catholic Church’s efforts are second to none not only in educating people about the evil of abortion, but also in offering counsel, encouragement, and help to women and families in difficult situations. I thank all in our diocese who are serving the Gospel of life.
One way we can serve the Gospel of life is through legislative advocacy. Legislation to permanently prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion across all federal programs has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 3). After the passage of the healthcare legislation last year, the U.S. bishops urged the amendment of that legislation to prevent it explicitly from either providing abortion directly, or funding healthcare plans and community health centers that do so. Our bishops’ conference criticized the 2010 healthcare reform bill for lacking provisions that would ensure taxpayer money did not fund abortion.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
I am writing this column in the midst of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 17-25). This week reminds us of the call for Christian unity made by the Second Vatican Council. Full communion among Christ’s disciples is the goal of the ecumenical movement, the movement for the restoration of unity among all Christians. The Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to this goal, as Pope John Paul II stated in his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint.
At the hour of His Passion, Jesus prayed ‘that they may be one’ (John 17:21). Christ’s prayer to the Father for the unity of His disciples is a model for all of us. I invite you to remember in your prayers this week the intention of the unity of all Christians. We are still far from the unity which Christ wills, yet we should not lose hope. There have been many achievements through ecumenical dialogue these past forty-five years. There is continuing and deepening dialogue. In this dialogue, we must call upon the aid of the Holy Spirit, since ultimately Christian unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Last year, I received a Vatican appointment to serve as the Catholic Co-Chair of the International Catholic-Reformed Theological Dialogue. This is one of four major dialogues between the Catholic Church and our principal Western ecumenical partners (the other three are Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist). The “Reformed” communion includes about 75 million members of 230 denominations, including various Reformed, Congregational, Presbyterian and United churches. I ask for your prayers as we prepare for the fourth phase of international Catholic-Reformed dialogue. Our first meeting will be in Rome this April. The theme of this phase of the dialogue is Justification and Sacramentality: The Christian Community as an Agent for Justice.
Catholic Schools Week
We are about to celebrate the annual Catholic Schools Week (January 30-February 5). The theme this year is Catholic Schools are A+ for America. This theme celebrates that Catholic schools are an added value for the United States. This is demonstrated and proven by our schools’ excellence in academics, high graduation rates, and strong moral values. From my visits to several schools in our diocese this past year, I can attest to their excellence.
It is good to have this week to celebrate our Catholic schools. It also affords an opportunity to spread the good news about Catholic education in our communities. Our diocese is strongly committed to the mission of Catholic education. I thank all who support our schools with financial donations, so greatly needed to ensure their future viability. I also thank our Catholic school principals, teachers, and staffs for their hard work and dedication.
Many of us were encouraged by the words of Governor Mitch Daniels in his address to the Indiana House on January 14th, when he stated that school choice is a civil and human right and a matter of justice for parents and children.
Parental choice is indeed a matter of justice, based on the truth that parents are the primary educators of their children and thus have the right to choose the school best suited for them. The Bishops of the United States have stated that “the entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.”
Catholic schools make an enormous contribution to society by serving the common good. They are indeed an A+ for America and for Indiana!
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