Bishop Joseph F. Martino of the Diocese of Scranton has directed a pastoral letter on pro-life matters to be read at all weekend Masses of the upcoming Respect Life Weekend, saying Catholic efforts on such issues have “more significance than ever.” Discussing the societal breakdown in the wake of the sexual revolution, Bishop Martino explains Catholic teaching, and pledges “vigilance” in correcting Catholic pro-abortion rights public figures.

The pastoral letter, which is also to be circulated with all parish bulletins this weekend, could have political ramifications for the Catholic vote in Pennsylvania, a key swing state in the 2008 presidential election.

In his letter Bishop Martino explained the origin of Respect Life Sunday in 1972, saying Catholics continue to observe the date with devotions and pro-life activities “in order to advance the culture of life.”

“Never have we seen such abusive criticism directed toward those who believe that life begins at conception and ends at natural death,” he remarked.

Noting Pope Paul VI’s 1968 predictions that widespread use of contraceptives would lead to increased marital infidelity, lessened regard for women, and a general lowering of moral standards especially among the young, he said the Pope’s teaching has proved accurate.

“As if following some bizarre script, the sexual revolution has produced widespread marital breakdown, weakened family ties, legalized abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, same-sex unions, euthanasia, destruction of human embryos for research purposes and a host of other ills,” Bishop Martino wrote.

Turning to abortion, he said laws that protect abortion “constitute injustice of the worst kind.” Saying science confirms that human life begins at conception, he denounced “several false claims” that the beginning of life is uncertain.

Because of abortion, the bishop wrote, “the weakest and most vulnerable are denied, because of their age, the most basic protection that we demand for ourselves. This is discrimination at its worst, and no person of conscience should support it.”

Noting that there are other important areas of political consideration, such as health care, education, economic security, immigration, and taxes, he stated “the solutions to problems in these areas do not usually involve a rejection of the sanctity of human life in the way that abortion does.” Being correct on other issues “fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life.”

“The finest health and education systems, the fairest immigration laws, and the soundest economy do nothing for the child who never sees the light of day,” Bishop Martino commented. “It is a tragic irony that ‘pro-choice’ candidates have come to support homicide – the gravest injustice a society can tolerate – in the name of ‘social justice’.”

“National Right to Life reports that 48.5 million abortions have been performed since 1973,” he continued. “One would be too many. No war, no natural disaster, no illness or disability has claimed so great a price.”