On Sept. 20, the Diocese of Gary issued a statement in response to the finding of 2,246 preserved remains in the Illinois home of Ulrich Klopfer, who performed thousands of abortions in Northwest Indiana over the years. The Diocese of Gary is honored to offer a final resting place for those remains.
Michael Welsh, chief operations officer of Gary Diocesan Cemeteries, has offered the use of our Catholic cemeteries in Northwest Indiana for the burial of the remains because burying the dead is one of the corporal works of mercy. In the Catholic faith tradition, there are seven corporal works of mercy, and they align with Church teaching to respect the dignity of human life. Along with burying the dead, Catholics are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and visit the imprisoned.
The Catholic community of Northwest Indiana inspires and supports works of mercy through Catholic Charities, faith-based organizations and local parishes. We give away food and clothing. We provide supplies, care and education for women experiencing crisis pregnancy. We go behind the barbed wire to sit with prisoners and remind them that God loves them. Such programs proclaim the Gospel of Life at every stage.
Sometimes, people think the Catholic Church is a one-issue institution and that our response of “respect life” only relates to abortion. The Church’s stance against abortion is a piece of the broader teaching: that all life is sacred, from conception to natural death. Or, as many believers put it, “From womb to tomb.”
The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia, doctor-assisted suicide and capital punishment because these actions disregard that life is sacred and precious.
There are countries that have legislated euthanasia programs. If a person is considered to be a burden on society, perhaps because of a developmental disability or a terminal condition, that person can be put to death. In our country, eight states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws allowing for physician-assisted suicide. We believe that God is the one who brings us into the world and it is only God who can call us from the world.
The Church opposes putting someone to death for a number of reasons. Our country has a system that protects people from being a danger or threat to society — when the crime merits it — by incarcerating them for life. Additionally, many people have been exonerated of their crime because of the advances of technologies such as DNA analysis. And we believe all life is sacred.
There are other crimes against life, including poverty, war, famine, genocide and infanticide. Instead of focusing on the taking of life, society needs to focus on what can be done to enhance the dignity of life for all people, regardless of gender, creed or race. Let us offer hope, love and practical resources to help people recognize their own value and the value of others.
The Catholic community in the United States celebrates life throughout the month of October. We invite you to join us as we celebrate life in every shape, size and stage, from womb to tomb.