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Respect Life Week comes to a close

Liz O'Donnell | Friday, October 10, 2008

Although Respect Life Week is coming to a close, its organizers are still eager to spread its message. “Our hope is that every Notre Dame student – every Catholic – attempts to view the issue of abortion in an intellectually honest fashion,” John Gerardi, the coordinator of Respect Life Week and member of Notre Dame’s Right to Life club, said.

With the Presidential election only a month away, Notre Dame’s Right to Life Club sponsored the week to not only inform students about abortion, but also to address the responsibility of Catholic voters.

“This year in particular we are attempting to inform our students of the guidelines presented to us by the Church for how Catholics ought to influence the culture through politics, and to understand the importance of voting to protect life in the ballet box,” Gerardi said.

The week kicked off on Monday evening with a round table discussion in the Colman-Morse Center about the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on voting issues. Political Science Professor Mary Keys facilitated the discussion, which lasted for approximately an hour.

She prefaced the discussion by posing the question, “Why should we, as Catholics, participate in public life?”

The attendees’ answers varied, but all reflected the need for people to elect leaders who are honest and who emphasize morality.

These responses segued into the topic of discussion, two documents written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI. Each dealt with Catholic participation in political life, with the latter focusing specifically on the topics of abortion and euthanasia.

The next event coordinated for the week was the nailing of 600 crosses and flags into South Quad. The crosses, which represent the number of abortions that take place during a three and a half hour football game, were up from early Tuesday morning until Wednesday afternoon.

Members of the Knights of Columbus guarded the flags in order to protect them from being vandalized. The Right to Life Club also held two rosaries at the makeshift cemetery.

Students, community members, and faculty packed the McKenna Hall Auditorium on Wednesday evening to watch a debate sponsored by The Center for Ethics and Culture.

Notre Dame Law Professor Gerard Bradley of the Catholics for Sen. John McCain National Steering Committee and Vincent Rougeau, Notre Dame Associate Professor of Law and member of the steering committee for Sen. Barack Obama’s Catholic National Advisory Council took opposing viewpoints on the issue of political responsibility of Catholic voters.

Moderator John McGreevy, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters began the evening by saying, “It is striking that we’re here in 2008, thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade, and this issue is still with us.

The two professors then proceeded to offer testimony supporting their viewpoints for about a half and hour, which was then followed by a question and answer session by members of the audience.

Keys spoke again Thursday evening in the Gold Room of LaFortune, this time focusing specifically on issues pertaining to this presidential election.

There will be a talk today by Professor Adrian Reimers on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae in the Notre Dame Room of LaFortune from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. The final event of the week will take place on Sunday when members of the Right to Life Club will be handing out pro-life prayer cards at all of the Basilica Masses.

The planning for Notre Dame’s Respect Life Week began in back in June, with the group’s effort to coordinate speakers, gain approval from the Student Activities Office and send out hundreds of e-mails to gather volunteers. Respect Life Week is nationally recognized by the Catholic Church to promote the defense of innocent human life.

Overall, Gerardi said that the week was a success, but hopes that voters remember the week’s mission as they enter the voter’s booth.

“Right to Life is not asking you to become a fanatical, single-issue voter this November. We’re not saying that other political issues – the war, the economy, the environment -are not important ones. What we are saying is that there is a hierarchy of issues. If abortion is wrong, if it is the ending of an innocent human life, then one cannot logically give moral equivalence between it and other issues.”