Steubenville’s Respect Life Conference enlightens and encourages Franciscan students


A team of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Students for Life members was encouraged, informed and strengthened at the Respect Life Conference held in Steubenville on Saturday, Sept. 22.

The conference, hosted at Holy Family Catholic Church, addressed relevant healthcare controversies and the lay Church’s role in fighting for a culture of life.

Beginning with prayer for life to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a presentation by the Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk set the stage for the day-long conference. The speakers brought to light unsettling realities about the culture of death, contrasting it to the charity, truth and hope the Catholic faith provides as ammunition in the battle.

Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, spoke about navigating medical technology from a Catholic perspective, grounded in the fact that life is a gift from God and thereby not something that creatures can dictate or reject.

Armed with bachelor degrees in philosophy, biochemistry, molecular cell biology and chemistry, as well as a doctorate of philosophy in neuroscience from Yale University, Pacholczyk’s service in dogmatic theology and bioethics has only been strengthened through his priestly ordination in the Catholic Church.

Pacholczyk specifically addressed the nature of bioethics in both major and minor healthcare decisions. What is commonly referred to as “ordinary” and “extraordinary” means, he said, should be termed “proportionate” and “disproportionate” means.

When considering what measures should be taken in a patient’s time of suffering, one must be sure to consider the entire context of the situation, he said. The key to determining appropriate treatment rests on whether its benefits are proportionate to its burdens, be they physical, financial or emotional.

Pacholczyk encouraged any person facing a questionable healthcare decision to contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center for a free consultation. Contact information and free resources can be found at

After the first round of morning sessions, the Most Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton, Bishop of Steubenville, celebrated Mass. Monforton gave a small presentation in his homily about the dire need for strong Church laity.

“Act on faith,” he said, “or else some will lose the little (faith) they have been given.”

Monforton reminded the congregation that Jesus not only invites us to be evangelists but also equips us with truth – and as disciples we are obligated to respond.

“We must have the hearts of catechists but the minds of apologists,” he said. “Evangelism is knowing the truth and getting to their hearts.”

After the Eucharistic celebration, conference attendees shared testimonies over lunch about bringing a Catholic presence to the sciences.

Later in the afternoon, Rita Marker, juris doctor degree, gave a presentation on the present crisis of doctor-prescribed suicide. As executive director of the Patients Rights Council located in Steubenville, the author and attorney shared information about present efforts to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide.

Oregon, which passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1994, has since guided six other states to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide, including Vermont, Montana, Hawaii and California.

As the “compassionate care” movement spreads, it has crept into Ohio legislation.

While the bill is not likely to be passed within the next year, said Marker, it does not give Ohio residents any reason to ignore the looming danger. Liberals, she said, are already pushing to make Ohio voters “neutral” about the so-called “right to die” on one’s own terms.

If a person can understand why this is so dangerous, one can talk to his or her doctor, friends and neighbors about the issue to create doubt in their minds and get the gears turning – gears that will drive a person’s mind toward understanding the supernatural sacredness of life.

The Patients Rights Council is working to push back harder than ever before by informing voters. Marker referred her audiences to to learn more.

Kyle Taggart, sophomore biology and philosophy double major, appreciated the Patients Rights Council’s resources for making smart end-of-life health care decisions, especially when under pressure from health care professionals.

“I feel like I have more knowledge to act on,” said Taggart. As a co-director for Franciscan’s Core Values Outreach, Taggart and his team works to lead the charge on campus against abortion through the Students for Life initiative.

With presentations throughout the day, students, professors and lay parishioners were given many tools and testimonies of Catholic living in practical healthcare decisions.

Other talks were titled “Healing from Abortion” by Lynette Hawrot, MA, LPCC and Ginna Dombrowski, BA, RN; “How to be Pro-Life in the Medical Field” by Gerard McKeegan, retired Catholic pharmacist; “Is it Possible to be a Catholic and a Scientist?” by Sister Mary Brigid Callan, doctorate of philosophy; “Human Trafficking: an Investigator’s Perspective” by Jean-Philippe Rigaud, special agent; and “Church Teaching on Capital Punishment” by Patrick Lee, doctorate of philosophy.

The Respect Life Conference was put on by the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life.