- God will “demand an accounting” from Catholics and from societies who fail to welcome the poor, the weak and the unwanted unborn, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told a Catholic doctors’ group in Phoenix on Friday. Each of these people is “an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love,” he said.
The Archbishop of Denver urged the Phoenix Catholic Physicians’ Guild not to be among those who refuse to defend the sanctity of life or those who abuse the freedoms given to them by God and their forerunners. He illustrated his concerns with a lengthy discussion about American society’s treatment of the physically disabled, especially those with Down syndrome.
“Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year,” the archbishop said. “They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle.”
He lamented the use of prenatal testing to encourage women to abort children whose tests show an increased likelihood of genetic disorders. He quoted a British medical school professor who noted the risk of false positives in such tests and blamed them for “causing the death of normal babies.”
“Those words sound almost humane – until we realize that, at least for the med school professor, killing ‘abnormal’ babies like those with Down syndrome is perfectly acceptable,” Archbishop Chaput commented.
He also described how his friends who are parents of the seriously disabled have responded to their children.
“None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it,” he added, explaining that they speak about their child with an “unsentimental realism” that flows out of real love.
This love is “the kind that courses its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God. And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage.”
The archbishop suggested that such love, or its lack, proves the true nature of individuals and the true state of society.
“Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs; in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned or homeless – each one of these persons is an icon of God’s face and a vessel of his love. How we treat these persons – whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste – shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.”
Because God will “demand an accounting,” Archbishop Chaput warned, Catholic public officials cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others, and “abusing the faith” of Catholics. Doctors who are Catholic cannot support procedures or policies that attack the sanctity of the unborn or the elderly or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.
Further, Catholic citizens “cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life,” the Archbishop of Denver said.
Archbishop Chaput also criticized the “compulsively” misleading nature of marketing and entertainment, which misrepresents the sustainability of youth, the indignity of old age, the avoidance of suffering, the denial of death, the impermanence of human life, the dysfunctions of family, and the place of virtue and religious faith.
“It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves. And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other -- and greater -- generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.
“What have we done with that freedom? In whose service do we use it now?” he asked.
The archbishop noted the dependence of the United States upon a moral people shaped by their religious, particularly Christian faith.
“Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on,” he warned.
He praised the Phoenix Catholic Physicians’ Guild members for serving the “sacred vocation” of the medical profession.
“That vocation of healing comes from Jesus Christ himself. I don’t mean just curing people’s aches and pains, although physical healing is so very important. I mean the kind of healing that comes when a suffering person is understood and loved, and knows that she’s understood and loved.”
“The task you need to take home with you tonight is this. Be the best doctors, nurses and medical professionals you can be. Your skill gives glory to God. But be the best Catholics you can be first. Pour your love for Jesus Christ into the healing you do for every person you serve.”
He encouraged his audience to love the Church and defend her teachings while trusting in God, believing the Gospel, and refusing to be afraid.
“Changing the course of American culture seems like such a huge task; so far beyond the reach of this little gathering tonight. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way.
“Redeeming and converting a civilization has already been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling you and me to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him,” Archbishop Chaput emphasized, bringing his address to a close.
To read Archbishop's full address to the Catholic Phsycians Guild of Phoenix, visit, http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/2791.