On Building a Culture of Life
A week from tomorrow we commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on demand. We have reached over 56 million abortions since that fateful decision in 1973 (O’Bannon 12 January 2014). 56 million . . . To help understand this huge number, if you add up the population of the 25 cities in the U.S. with the greatest populations you total only around 36 million (Grant 23 July 2010). Let that sink in. Image they were all wiped out tomorrow. We are not only missing millions of our brothers and sisters, but it has left a path of destruction in its wake. It has caused untold suffering to women, men and families. It has caused us to construct a society where the most vulnerable among us are not protected, what Blessed John Paul II called the culture of death. Sadly, the most dangerous place now for a person on earth is his mother’s womb which should truly be the safest.
Let me mention from the outset that I am not here to talk politics, but rather to speak about this issue from a moral perspective. Also seeing the huge statistics, may be one of you brothers in this room encouraged a wife, girlfriend to have an abortion or did not discourage a family member from having an abortion. I not here to condemn, but to let you know that the Church is here to forgive and help you in the process of healing. I would invite you to have the courage to mention this the next time you go to confession as well as look into Rachel’s Vineyard which is specifically a healing retreat for men and women who are post-abortive.
So now in the face of such gross evil on a scale of which the world has never encountered, especially such calculated evil, how do we respond? First of all, we should not hate those who support abortion (9 March 2010 CNA/EWTN News). We need to remember that they are held captive by the enemy of our salvation Satan and that as St. Paul reminds us that our war is not against “. . .flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 RSV-CE). This means that we need to fight with spiritual weapons – prayer and fasting. When dialoging about life use tact to avoid personal attacks, using terms that could attack people outright such as abortion mills or pro-abortion, if someone makes a claim he needs to back it up himself and pray for the person asking that the Holy Spirit would open their heart (Benderas 9 October 2010). Keep in mind that the Lord will remember and make fruitful even the simple acts that we do to build up a true culture of life whether that be praying in front of an abortion clinic, authentically loving your friend in a time of great struggle, talking to a person who is homeless or standing up to defend life among your peers (9 March 2010 CNA/EWTN News). While we recognize the seriousness of this spiritual battle, we also need to have a sense of joy in the hope that the Lord is with us and has won the definitive victory over sin including abortion (9 March 2010 CNA/EWTN News & 1 Corinthians 15:25-27).
How we live our lives should exude a pro-life spirituality. Do we see or attempt to see each person as created in the image of God and having an inestimable dignity? Do we try to see Jesus in His distressing disguise of the poor as Blessed Mother Teresa encouraged us whether that is in the unborn, the homeless, the immigrant or the elderly? Or do we judge people depending on their abilities or lack of abilities? Pope Francis, in a meeting on Monday with member of his diplomatic core of ambassadors condemned “‘the throwaway culture.’” He stated:
Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary”. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity (Francis 13 January 2014).
The philosophy behind abortion says that one is a burden that needs to be eliminated while the philosophy of life upholds that it is not about what one can or can not do, but who one is that matters.
At the root of the culture of death is a lack of understanding of the human person, sex and chastity and the widespread use of contraception especially the birth control pill which can be an abortifacient, but that is a topic for a whole other talk. I want to go over some current challenges to life:
· Euthanasia: the direct killing of an innocent person who is suffering or feels that their life is worthless.
-We are not masters over our life (Chacon &Burnham 2008 p. 19).
-Contrary to the Hippocratic oath
-People worry about being a burden to others (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 18)
-They should be able to receive proper pain management even if it hastens death or the person loses consciousness (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 19-20)
-Suffering has a redemptive value through the cross of Christ
-Ordinary (well established and beneficial, could depend on age) is required v. extraordinary (expensive, experimental) means of treatment is not required (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 20).
-When death is close at hand, one can avoid treatment which will prolong the seemingly inevitable. The person should receive adequate warmth, food, water and hygiene (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 20).
-This attitude about a person having a poor quality of life or being a burden is similar to the logic of Hitler and Stalin. Anything seemingly could become poor quality of life. We should use technology to help the dying rather than hasten death. All life should be seen as sacred. The dignity of the human person is key to the teaching of the Church in its teaching on social issues (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 21).
· Therapeutic v. selective gene manipulation
-Therapeutic is to help prevent cancer and other diseases while selective gene manipulation is trying to give human beings certain physical characteristics. It is morally permissible to fix genetic problems, but “. . .may not genetically design people with pre-selected qualities” (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 33). Human beings are ends in themselves and should not be prized because of their characteristics. Parents should not design their children to meet their needs (Chacon &Burnham 2008, p. 33).
Conversion of hearts and not just getting power in the government is the end of the pro-life movement. This conversion of hearts will lead to the renewal of culture which eventually by God’s grace allows us to have a culture which embraces rather than rejects life (Gilbert 11 February 2009). I want to posit that to build a culture of life requires a collective conversion of heart and not just for those who support abortion. Consider these sobering words from Msgr. Charles Pope, a priest from the Archdiocese of Washington and a popular blogger:
It is this nation, collectively that is guilty. It is those who have sought abortion, those who perform them, those who pressure women to have them, those who vote to uphold this evil as a “right.” It is those who remain silent and those who vote for those who uphold this grave evil, or downplay its horrific reality. It is those who fail to provide reasonable alternatives and resources for women in crisis. It is those who live unchastely and fail to reproach those in their family members who live that way. Yes, to a large extent few of us can fail to escape the fact that we have contributed to, even indulged in an unchaste, unjust and unholy culture that leads to the death of millions every year. Abortion results largely from unchastity and the refusal of Americans, collectively to accept the consequences of our sin. (20 January 2013)
So it is not only those who actively promote the culture of death who require conversion, but also our lack of living chastity and having the humility to own up to our sin. The building of a culture of life starts with me and as well as you.
Benderas, A. (9 October 2010). “5 tips for Pro-Life conversation.” Live Action Blog.
Retrieved from http://liveaction.org/blog/5-tips-for-pro-life-conversation/
Chacon, F. & Burnham, J. (2008). Beginning Apologetics 5: How to Answer Tough Moral
Questions: Abortion, Contraception, Euthanasia, Test-Tube Babies, Cloning & Sexual Ethics. Farmington, NM: San Juan Catholic Seminars:.
CNA/EWTN News. (9 March 2010). “Archbishop Chaput suggests ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for pro-
life advocates.” Retrieved from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
Francis. (13 January 2014). “Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Members of the
Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See.” Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/speeches/2014/january/documents/papa-francesco_20140113_corpo-diplomatico_en.html
Gilbert, K. (10 February 2009). “Archbishop Chaput Warns Ireland against Compromising
with ‘Pluralism’ and ‘Abortion Reduction Strategies.’” Retrieved from
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O’Bannon, R. (12 January 2014). “56,662,169 Abortions in America Since Roe vs. Wade in
1973.” Retrieved from http://www.lifenews.com/2014/01/12/56662169-abortions-in-america-since-roe-vs-wade-in-1973/
Pope, C. (20 January 2013). “Light and Darkness: Some thoughts on this Presidential
Inauguration Rooted in another Inauguration in 1865.” Archdiocese of Washington Blog.
Retrieved from http://blog.adw.org/2013/01/light-and-darkenss-some-thoughts-on-this-