Respect life means to love without measure

COLUMBIA—The most effective way to teach the pro-life message, especially in a hostile culture, is to focus on God’s love and how it can transform lives.

That was the core message of “Love Without Measure,” the annual diocesan Respect Life Workshop held Sept. 25 at St. John Neumann School.

The event was sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston Office of Family Life and drew more than 150 respect life coordinators and committee members, and many Knights of Columbus who handle pro-life activities.

Father C. Sandy McDonald, pastor of St. John Neumann, celebrated Mass and the group prayed a rosary for life together.

Lisa-Ann Oliver opened the conference with, “Healing the Culture: Changing the Way We Think About Life.” She is director of special projects for Healing the Culture, a non-profit organization based in Kenmore, Wash., and dedicated to promoting a culture of life. 

Oliver explained the four basic desires of the human heart, or “four levels of happiness” as she described them. These desires, she said, range from the egotistical, based in material things and self-fulfillment, to the highest levels, which involve self-giving to others and having faith in God’s unconditional love.

She said people working in the pro-life movement need to focus on God’s love, especially during times when the tides of secular culture seem to go against the work they are doing.

“It sometimes feels like we’ve fought the same battle for 40-odd years,” Oliver said.

Many people in today’s world live their lives trying to find happiness in material things or ego-gratification, and that leads to a contraceptive mentality — that love and sexuality are only about immediate gratification. The key, she said, is for pro-life workers to find happiness in their work, and in turn to help others discover the joy of self-giving and surrendering to God.

“Through sharing the Gospel and spreading the good news, we can help others to learn that every human being has value,” she said.

Benedictine Father Matthew Habiger, a member of the Natural Family Planning Outreach Team, spoke on “What the Church Teaches on Love and Life.”

He gave a detailed, theological explanation of church teachings about the proper expression of human sexuality through marital love, and how it needs to be “open to the goodness of love and to the goodness of life.” The secular culture’s focus on contraception, abortion and artificial ways to overcome infertility completely deny the sacred aspect of sexuality and marital love, he said.

Father Habiger said it was important for Catholics to read papal encyclicals and other church teachings to more fully understand issues.

“Form your own conscience with great teachings, and then you will have zeal for sharing the truth,” he said. “You are all in the trenches promoting life and love and family, and each of us must look at ways we make that vision come alive. God relies on you and me to use our ingenuity to make his plan for love and life come alive in these times.”

He said truly effective pro-life work could only begin by addressing the contraceptive mentality of the culture.

“Abortion is simply a foolproof backup to failed contraception,” he said.

Dr. Peter Blyer spoke about his role as a family practice physician in Longs, and how doctors and patients have to work together to promote what he described as Christ-like health care.

He said recent health care legislation is problematic for Catholics because it does not do enough to prevent funding for abortions or to promote conscience clauses so medical professionals do not have to take part in procedures that are against their beliefs.

“We are called to keep our government responsible and to defend what proper health care is and can be,” Blyer said. “We need to pray for and support Catholic doctors.”