by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The golden calf of the Bible is a metaphor for the modern idols of individualism and materialism, but these can be overcome by solidarity and community, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., in a homily on July 27 at the Cathedral of St. Peter here.
Cardinal O’Malley was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass for those attending the national Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference from July 26 to 29, hosted by the respect life office of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the pro-life office of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley showed how pro-life values were at the core of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
“There is a danger in becoming so fascinated by the gifts that we forget the giver of every good gift, and we allow God to be some sort of anonymous benefactor in our lives,” said Cardinal O’Malley.
“The Holy Father . . . gives us an encyclical about our call to be protectors of the gift,” he continued. “Many environmentalists are population control freaks, always pushing the anti-life agenda, therefore the Holy Father’s teaching is so important. Francis shows us the human ecology and [that] the duty to protect the most sacred gift of all is at the very heart of our concern for the earth, our common home.”
He quoted paragraph 120 of the encyclical which says, “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”
“The culture of death is a byproduct of the materialism and extreme individualism of our day,” said the cardinal. “The autonomous self who wants to be the center of the universe, who wants to be the golden calf — the extreme individualism that defines abortion as a right over a woman’s body.”
The recent Planned Parenthood exposé videos show a part of this mentality that refuses to recognize the most important gift of all, the dignity of human life, he added. It is also the same extreme individualism that tries to redefine marriage and promotes physician-assisted suicide.
There is, however, an antidote to this poisonous culture of death.
“Pope Francis in so many of his teachings is offering us an antidote to the evils being propagated by this materialistic and highly individualistic modern culture. The antidote is solidarity and community,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “People are most vulnerable to the culture of death when they see themselves as isolated and alone.”
The pro-life movement has to be about building community, he said. It must be a community that communicates a sense of solidarity and compassion — letting people know they are not alone as they face terrible circumstances.
We all depend on each other, and our choices affect each other, he continued. Human life depends upon the ministrations of others. By contrast, it is the culture of death that drives people into isolation and despair . . . and to make terrible choices.
“It’s not a matter that we can do whatever we want to do and not have an effect on others around us,” said the cardinal. “Abortion and euthanasia cheapen all human life.”
For this reason, pro-life people must change laws and change people’s hearts by installing a sense of solidarity and community. Unlike Cain who killed his brother, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper.
“We must be protectors of the gifts, especially the most precious gift of all: the gift of life,” said Cardinal O’Malley.
As the church prepares to begin a jubilee year of mercy, the pro-life movement must expand its efforts as a “field hospital” and “rescue the lost sheep on the periphery.”
“Who more [is] on the periphery than those who have had a tragic abortion in their lives?” asked the cardinal.
The pro-life movement must be like the mustard seed that quietly and slowly grows, and the leaven that permeates the dough.
“Our task is to be witnesses that Christ’s mercy is present, that life is precious, and that we are on this earth to take care of each other and protect the gifts,” Cardinal O’Malley concluded.