MERIDEN — Nearly 250 faithful advocates for life turned out Oct. 14 for the 18th annual Respect Life Conference hosted by the pro-life outreach ministry at Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish.
The keynote speaker was Father Tadeusz (Tad) Pacholczyk, director of education and ethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, who discussed complex and controversial bioethics issues in two talks.
In his morning presentation, he tackled end-of-life decision-making, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, pain management and hospice. Father Tad discussed subjects families face in making morally sound health care decisions for their loved ones in chronic or end-of-life situations, including suffering and palliative care, in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church.
In the afternoon, he spoke about the ethics of the transgender question, examining “gender dysphoria” and the expanding medical practice of hormonal treatments and sexual reassignment surgery.
Father Tad said he is receiving a growing number of requests from groups such as educators and the military to talk about transgender issues and “gender fluidity. He said that we live in a “gender- bending world” that undermines norms, puts relationships in flux, leads to deformed consciences, and causes confusion.
He noted that the polarizing 'loaded' language used by those who fuel transgender arguments is “something we have to get past ... in order to have meaningful dialogue.”
Noting that children today are choosing their own gender, he quoted Pope Francis, who stated that gender ideology is the “annihilation of man as image of God.”
Three guest speakers moderated morning workshops. Prro-life speaker C.J. Williams noted that young people are increasingly pro-life but hesitant to speak about it publicly. Bioethics professor Elizabeth B. Rex presented the Church's view of in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and embryo adoption. Michael C. Culhane, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, described the Connecticut Catholic Conference as the public policy office of the Catholic Church in Connecticut. He said the conference is the vehicle for speaking out and acting to promote the good of the Church and its members, as well as the common good of all the citizens of the state.
Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist Suzanne Gross, program coordinator for the Archdiocese of Hartford's Pro-Life Ministry, said she was elated to report to the audience that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)had just declared in its strategic plan for 2018-2022 that “life begins at conception.”
She said the 65-page document mentions the concept of “life at conception” five times. She said HHS stated in the document that its mission is to serve and protect Americans “at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”
Participants were buoyed by that news and the information provided by speakers at the conference.
“It was inspiring, reenergizing,” said Connie DeLoreto of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury.
Maria Mirabello, a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Angels, agreed. “Bioethics is a very complex subject, but Father Tad broke it down so you can understand it,” she said.
Added Anna DeCarlo of Coventry, “I came to stay on top of pro-life issues and learn more about what I can do,” she said. “This made me want to reach out more.”