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October 18, 2017

Lives Worthy of Respect

by Hunter Estes (SFS'19)

The beginning of October marks the beginning of a tradition at Georgetown known as Life Month. This year’s celebration of life kicked off in a rather dramatic way with a speech from his eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl and thoughts and reflections on why life is worth respecting from a preeminent set of panelists. The event was entitled “Lives Worthy of Respect,” and the range of speakers gave powerful personal testimony to why all lives are valuable.

The cardinal began the event by recalling a story of a woman he had met who had given birth to sextuplets. Despite the age of the babies, she proceeded to detail each of the unique personality traits of the children to him. The cardinal was astounded by the mother’s capability to distinguish the children and was moved by her love for the babies she had just ushered into the world. With this message, the cardinal reminded us of how God, quite similarly, views each of us, his children, as completely unique individuals with lives worth respecting.

Cardinal Wuerl went on to detail how the failure of our society to place distinct value on each individual life has led to a culture of death and the dehumanization of all peoples. He stated that, “Once you accept the thesis that it is all right to kill human life before it is born, or as it nears its end, or for some other reason, at almost any time, you accept two premises: that we, human beings, have the ultimate say over all life and who gets to live and that such a decision is ultimately arbitrary.” These lines strike at the very heart of the message which the dardinal took the stage to convey: The willingness to take a life before its natural end places unwarranted power in the hands of mankind and trivializes all lives. In these eloquent lines, Cardinal Wuerl defended a core element of Catholic Social Thought; namely, if we do not build our faith upon a foundation of life at all stages, then all other beliefs are undermined. For how can we fight for the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized without first recognizing the importance and value to be found in their individual lives?

After the cardinal’s moving words, a distinguished set of panelists took the stage, including Helen Alvare, law professor at George Mason, Tony Lauinger, vice president of National Right to Life, Sr. Mary Louise Wessel, founder and program manager for the Tenant Empowerment Network, and Brad Wenstrup, U.S. representative for Ohio’s second congressional district. Moderating the panel was Dr. Kevin Donovan, director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics and organizer of the event. The panelists each gave personal stories of how they got involved with the pro-life movement and touched on a range of life centered issues. Through their personal stories, the panelists conveyed that life itself is a matter worth respecting at all stages, from beginning to end.

At the close, President John J. DeGioia took the stage and offered reflections on the event and the rich tradition of defending life. He noted that “every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart.” Furthermore, he reminded the audience of our distinct duty to “respect, protect, love, and serve life—every human life.”

Hunter Estes is a junior in the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS'19) studying international politics.