As Catholics we believe that all life — from conception to natural death — is sacred. Most Catholics know that this means abortion and euthanasia are morally wrong. But respecting life means so much more.

But many Catholics don’t realize there are a lot of other “respect life” issues that demand our attention in a secular society that has become increasingly disrespectful of human life.

What are some of these other respect life issues?

  • assisted suicide
  • capital punishment
  • unjust war
  • nuclear war
  • genetic engineering
  • hunger and poverty
  • economic and social injustice

As parish leaders, the question we have to ask ourselves is: Do the people in this parish need help in understanding these issues? Do they understand that respecting life often means standing in opposition to attitudes, values and actions that are accepted in the secular world?

In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Love of justice, the protection of life from conception to its natural end, respect for the dignity of every human being are to be upheld and witnessed, even against the current.

In his encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II offered a simpler explanation of what it means to respect life: “The deepest element of God’s commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person.”

But what does all of this really mean?

It means that in our parishes, our homes, our workplace, our schools and our personal lives, we have to make sure that we reflect in everything we say and do our belief that human life is sacred.

Our call to respect life is so profound that when we actually embrace the concept of respecting life we begin to look at other human beings as children of God. We begin to see that we have a responsibility for the well-being of one another. We recognize the need to protect the weakest and the most vulnerable. We discover that we have a responsibility to make this world a better place for everyone.

October is a good time to ask the people in your parish to think about what the words “respect life” means to them. Is their understanding of respect life broad enough? Is their commitment to human life strong enough? Is their love of human life deep enough?