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Local bishop speaks at Saint Mary’s about being authentically Catholic

| Thursday, September 19, 2019

Kevin Rhoades, bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, addressed students, members of Belles for Life, faculty and members of the South Bend community Wednesday at Saint Mary’s in a lecture entitled “To Be Authentically Catholic is to be Pro-Life.”

The talk was part of a series presented by Belles for Life, a student organization that “promotes the culture of life on campus, especially the life of the unborn,” senior Bonita Murphy, the group’s treasurer, said. In the past, individuals such as Lisa Marino, who led a discussion about authentic womanhood, have come to speak and give different perspectives on different topics.

Margaret Cicchiello | The Observer

Belles for Life Treasurer Bonita Murphy, right, poses with bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend Kevin Rhoades. Rhoades lectured Wednesday at Saint Mary’s about the pro-life movement.

“Everyone is welcome to come and listen,” Murphy said.

Senior Morgan Chicester, president of Belles for Life, said the event presented a chance for the community to explore how to best protect life.

“We have the opportunity to learn about how faith and justice can empower us to fight for the value and dignity of all human life,” Chichester said.

In his remarks, Rhoades said contemporary political divisions have manifested themselves in debates within the Church.

“There’s a terrible split that has taken place among some in the Church, a division between so-called ‘pro-life’ and ‘social justice’ Catholics,” Rhoades said. “This is a false dichotomy. The cultural and political polarization in our society has creeped into the Church. I can’t think of a saint of the Church who was not passionately committed to the love of the poor and needy and also to the love and protection of the unborn. We can’t be ‘either-or’ Catholics. One of the great strengths of Catholicism is that we are ‘both-and.’”

Rhoades defined “pro-life” as a commitment to protecting human life in a variety of ways.

“We believe in the sacred value and dignity of every human life, at every stage of life,” he said.

He went on to emphasize the importance of combating social and pro-life issues such as euthanasia, abortion, deportation, subhuman living conditions and human trafficking. He quoted “Gaudium et spes”, saying these “infamies … poison human society … and are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.”

During the question and answer portion of his presentation, Bishop Rhoades described the large refugee service in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese. He recounted how, in the past, they resettled about 300 refugees a year and how that number has decreased by approximately half since Donald Trump became president. He described how a couple thousand Burmese refugees have been resettled in this diocese and how he has learned from them and from his work on the board of Catholic Relief Services. He said he thinks being “pro-life” includes standing up for these refugees.

“What they went through; that persecution in their own country, and then waiting for some nation to welcome them, I’m so happy when we can do that in the United States. It really deeply saddens me that we have these families and these children …who are displaced,” he said. “There are people whose lives are in danger [and] I feel that we as a nation have a moral obligation to be open to refugees. I think it is a pro-life issue; it is a matter of life or death for some of them. And I think we need to be a lot more generous.”

A key part of the human experience is showing love in a selfless way, Rhoades said.

“We’re only truly fulfilled as human beings through self-giving love,” he said.

Murphy, who organized the event, was happy that so many were able to attend.

By inviting Bishop Rhoades to speak at Saint Mary’s, Belles for Life has incorporated all of Saint Mary’s core values: learning, community, faith and spirituality and justice,” Murphy said. ”The talk supports learning by expanding one’s knowledge through strengthening one’s viewpoint or gaining a better understanding of a differing one. The talk strengthens community by bringing members of Saint Mary’s to a respectful, welcoming conversation. Bishop Kevin Rhoades has had longstanding commitment to the pro-life movement on a national level and is well versed in speaking in a way that honors the college’s Catholic foundation. Belles for Life, dedicated to pursuing justice and protecting the right to life of the unborn, is honored to host him in our fall 2019 speaker series.”

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