Protecting life “must extend to human flourishing”

St Christopher’s Cathedral overflowed this weekend, as the faithful gathered to celebrate Respect Life Sunday.

Archdiocesan chancellor Dr Patrick McArdle said while the focus of Respect Life Sunday has often been exclusively on the protection of life at the beginning and end – the importance and significance of human existence is not just being alive; it is about being able to flourish.

“Protect life, but that protection must extend to human flourishing and all that it takes to achieve it,” he said.

“On Respect Life Sunday we not only seek to protect life from danger but also to promote all that is necessary to live a life that is truly human.  No-one can claim to respect life and still tolerate the appalling living situation of so many of our Indigenous sisters and brothers.  Just being born as an Indigenous Australian means a lower life expectancy, high rates of infant mortality, higher rates of disease, poorer outcomes on almost every measure – to accept this is not respecting life.”

Similarly, he noted, the plight of so many Australians living with disability whose stories were told at the Royal Commission demonstrates that respecting life is a hollow claim while so many are undervalued, discriminated against and excluded from the Australian community. 

“Not only was human flourishing absent from the stories of so many who spoke with the Royal Commission but there were actual barriers tolerated by our society and in many cases put in place by us,” he said

“This is not respecting life.”

After Mass, over a shared meal, various speakers provided updates and encouragement from their sectors.

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First Steps Pregnancy Support board member Dr Ingrid Kensey said respecting life could be as simple as taking micro actions in our everyday lives.

“Life can be inconvenient and messy and full of pain,” she said.

“Do we welcome all of that? Are we judgmental? Are we personally open to life? Do we welcome children in our parishes and our homes? Real change always starts in our hearts, and that is something we can all do.”

Dr McArdle said Respect Life Sunday was particularly relevant this year, with life itself under attack by governments across Australia.

“It is implied that one can either be ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ but not both,” he said.

“As Christians we believe fundamentally in life as the essential good and we believe in free will – the capacity, indeed the imperative of all human beings to choose and to be responsible for their choices. Christians believe in the absolute value of life and the absolute value of choice.”

Dr McArdle said as governments respond to demands to make decisions to end life easier, simpler and as consequence-free as possible, it was important to remember that all our choices do bring consequences and that personally and socially we will be called to account.  

“We need to question our political leaders; we need to ask them how their social obligations are satisfied by placing people in harm’s way; we need to signal to them that many people, probably most, believe that life is a fundamental good that our political leaders have a duty to protect,” he said.

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