On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful
The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning,embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
What does it mean to enhance the life and dignity of the human person? In short it means to bring about life where there is death, respect where there is disrespect, hope where there is despair. There is no greater need to enhance the life and dignity of the human person than in the area of Abortion.
As we begin Respect Life month this weekend, with the 40 Days for Life campaign having started on Wednesday, certainly our thoughts are directed toward the protection of life in the womb. However, this year’s USCCB message, motivated by the Jubilee of Mercy is: “Moved by Mercy”. To be Moved by Mercy is to recall the words of Pope Francis: “We are called to show mercy, because mercy has first been shown to us.”
“My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.”
The parable of Dives (the rich man) and Lazarus presented in the Gospel (Lk 16:19-31) for the 26th Sunday in OT sets the perspective for the most recognizable principle of Catholic Social Teaching - the Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.
God from the moment he delivered Israel from slavery imposed on them the duty to care for the vulnerable as a reflection of the compassion He showed and would continue to show:
“You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. ... If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What will he sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate.” (Ex 22: 20-26)
- Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. (Misericordiae Vultus, 10)
- [Catholic Social Teaching is about how to live this merciful and compassionate love in society, which is the coming together of communities - the foundation of which is the family. As the family goes, so goes society. CST Principle of Call to family, community and participation.]
- It is our mission, as the local church in the Diocese of Toledo, to reflect the face of the Father’s mercy especially to those who are most in need. The members of our family of faith who have been affected by separation, divorce and remarriage deserve a greater experience of compassion and a renewed sense of welcome from their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fifteen years ago this weekend, we watched in horror and fear, as the deadliest and most devastating attacks on our country unfolded. I was in my first month of college seminary and can remember the events of that day vividly. My innocence was shattered when during the transition from one class to another, a classmate burst into the classroom and gave the dreadful news of what was going on. We all scrambled to the television and watched as the first of the two towers crumbled to the ground. I imagine each of you have your own memories of how that day unfolded, with the feelings and emotions that accompanied.
Yet, despite the fear and uncertainty that pervaded the hours and ensuing days - there are other enduring memories. The images of first responders and ‘good samaritans’ who ran into burning buildings, the news of ordinary citizens joining together in an attempt to retake a plane and prevent further destruction and so many who provided care and support to wounded victims, survivors and families - it all left our nation with a sense of unity, togetherness and pride in the shared core values of a people being tested.
Unfortunately, in the years since we’ve seen these scenes and images of destruction by violence and the coming together of communities multiple times. We continue to confront the reality of a world deeply divided and torn apart by hatred and fear with the hope that we can overcome the discord with unity.
Given September 3/4, 2016 (Largely transcribed and edited from Saturday Homily with additions for Sunday)
"That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics is not surprising."
With these words, written in 1891 - 125 years ago, Pope Leo XIII began the encyclical Rerum Novarum and ushered in a new age of teaching in the Church. This encyclical became the foundation and standard of what would come to be known as Catholic Social Teaching. The corpus of this teaching is focused upon 7 primary principals:
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Care for God's Creation
It is these 7 principles which we as Catholics are called to know and allow to form our conscience and actions as we fulfil our moral obligation of engaging in the shaping and building of society through political and economic endeavors. It is therefore that on this Labor Day weekend, on which we pause as a nation to reflect upon and celebrate the value of human labor, that I begin a series of homilies upon these 7 principles of CST, leading up to the general election in November.