The first Sunday in October is always “Respect Life Sunday.”
Given so many negative trends in our society, the need is obvious.
Meanwhile, we have a big election in a month, so that makes this even more timely.
And, meanwhile, every year I give you a report on parish finances.
I know that’s a boring subject, and some would rather I not bring it up,
but you work hard for the money you contribute to the parish,
and I want you to know it’s being used with care.
Let me start with the financial stuff and move on from that.
Last week we inserted a summary of the past fiscal year,
with some history from prior years,
and as usual, we included a proposed budget.
I’m not going to go over it in detail now, but after the 5 pm Mass Saturday
and after the 11 am Mass Sunday,
I will stay and answer any questions anyone has –
and that goes beyond the financial report.
But let me give a brief overview.
We planned for a tight budget and all was going well – till March!
Then, of course, the virus hit, and everything went sideways.
But something amazing happened: despite the shutdown through May,
you continued to be generous; weekly collections only dipped a little.
So we were all pretty nervous back in April, but God was good;
you were faithful, and we came through.
We applied for and received a so-called loan from the government;
I say “so-called” because if we fulfill the conditions,
we keep the money; and I am entirely confident that will happen.
Now, for the current fiscal year:
your weekly giving continues to sustain the parish.
Losing our annual festival was a big blow.
But again: God is good, our parishioners are wonderful,
and a number of those who sponsored the Queen of Hearts event
chose not to take their money back even after we had to cancel it.
All that means less of a deficit than we feared.
We never want to plan for a deficit, but the thing is,
most of our expenses are pretty fixed.
The help from the government was contingent on not laying people off,
and if we’d not accepted that help, we’d have a much bigger hole.
With so many people being out of work or facing reduced hours,
I am reluctant to stand here and ask anyone to dig deeper.
If we stay steady, we’ll be fine. That’s why we have reserves.
Now let’s talk about what we try to focus on this Sunday every year: this is “Respect Life Sunday.”
When this comes up, especially in election years,
there’s no avoiding the fact that this is, in part, a political question.
I say that because there are always folks
who don’t think anything political should ever be brought up in a homily.
Talking about respecting life rings hollow
if it never results in any change in society and in laws.
It’s not only about changing laws, and – in an election year,
about voting – but it certainly includes these things.
And for those who say a priest isn’t supposed to talk about politics,
let me explain something.
I can pretty much talk about anything that crosses paths
with the teachings of our Faith, and that is pretty much everything.
The only thing the Archbishop wants me to avoid
is endorsing or opposing candidates, which I’m certainly not going to do.
When we talk about respecting life, obviously that has wide application;
It’s entirely fair to say that it’s more than about legal abortion,
or euthanasia, which is helping people kill themselves,
or the death penalty.
So it is true that issues of poverty and bigotry and war
and how our country interacts with other countries are all connected.
In the same vein, it is likewise true that other issues on people’s minds,
like questions about the environment, or taxes and spending,
Family life, protecting the true nature of marriage,
law and order, respect for democratic norms, and more,
are also moral questions and they are important.
That said: our bishops have said some issues matter more,
And common sense says that as well.
Obviously with a lot of issues, one side isn’t clearly morally wrong,
and when we debate things like climate change,
people can legitimately take different approaches
on how serious you think that is – compared to other things –
and also on how you tackle the problem.
But certain issues aren’t like that.
There is no moral justification for legal abortion. None at all.
Same for euthanasia.
There is no justification for redefining marriage,
because that is ultimately an attack on the family as God designed it.
So it is not possible to be Catholic and support legal abortion,
any more than it was possible, 50 years ago,
for a Catholic to defend race segregation.
And it’s the same for redefining marriage.
Let me say a word about the death penalty.
The Church argues that we would be better off
if we got rid of capital punishment;
but Church teaching does not put it on the same level as abortion,
because we have always recognized there are situations
that can justify executing a guilty criminal,
but nothing can ever justify
killing executing an unborn child.
In the first reading, God reminds his people:
you are my vineyard, I formed you with great love and care –
but I want justice, not bloodshed, God warns them.
God expects the same of us.
Each of us has a solemn duty to work for justice,
especially protecting the right to life
of the unborn, the aged and the vulnerable.
There are lots of ways we can do that,
but it certainly must include
how we exercise our precious right to vote.