Dear Friends,

In 1972, the year before the United States Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion in the United States, the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated the month of October as a special season to promote a culture of life throughout our land.

As it does every year, this sacred season calls us to focus our prayers upon a renewed commitment to treasure and preserve human life from the moment of conception to natural death. As such, we have and should continue to work tirelessly to create a culture that moves beyond the cavalier attitude that has sadly resulted in far too many lives being lost through abortion, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide and capital punishment.

The theme for our reflections this year is Radical Solidarity.

Years ago, Saint John Paul II affirmed that solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people … On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good … to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” In short, solidarity is the means by which we put our love for others into action, making their good a goal for our own lives.

At this critical moment in our world and particularly in the United States, we have been entrusted with new challenges to build a civilization of authentic love, rooted in a fundamental respect for the dignity of every human life. Notwithstanding the fact that the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year has given us hope, it has not diminished the work that still needs to be done to ensure that every human life is valued and loved.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision, some areas of our country now protect the child in the womb, while other areas, sadly, are doing all they can to increase access to abortion. Here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, tragically, efforts to protect human life are being compromised more than we might realize. Plans are being made to terminate Real Alternatives, a statewide contract maintained by federal and state funding, which has been in existence for over 27 years and has provided a critical lifeline to nearly 350,000 women who have suddenly found themselves in need when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy.

Nearly half of Real Alternatives’ service providers consist of Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services sites throughout our state. These important human services sites provide critical pregnancy and parenting support from the moment mothers find out they are pregnant through 12 months following the birth of their babies. The termination of this vital contract, should it occur here in the Diocese of Scranton alone, will almost certainly result in diminished funding for Saint Joseph’s Center and challenge the very existence of relief programs for pregnant women in Scranton and Carbondale. Most notably, Shepherd’s Maternity House in Stroudsburg, which provides a safe home for women facing unexpected and challenging pregnancies, could lose over 80-percent of its annual funding that comes through a grant from Real Alternatives.

Simply put, brothers and sisters, if we desire to live our lives as Christians with authenticity, we have no choice. We cannot merely speak of our respect for human life or self-righteously criticize those whose beliefs may be different from our own.

We must enliven our words with action.

We must be fearless in our defense of the unborn – but also mothers in need, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the disabled, the prisoner, the immigrant and all whose lives are in jeopardy. Nor can we shrink from confronting life issues in our prayer, in what and how we teach as a Church, in the pastoral care that we offer and, in the initiatives, and public policies that we are able to influence through our right to vote.

Brothers and sisters, the radical solidarity that so reflects the teaching of Jesus refers to something much more than just a few sporadic acts of generosity or the empty words of the self-righteous. A culture of radical solidarity, as Pope Francis has proclaimed, “gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives … and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”

May each of us who seek to live as authentic disciples work together to build a culture of life through radical, sacrificial, Christ-like love and service of every human life made in the image and likeness of our Creator.


Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton