Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 23, 2002
Stand up for lives of the unborn
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
What was once seen as an a act of desperation - the killing of one's own child - is now freely defended as a good decision and promoted as a right. Even worse, a deadly blindness has come over our land, preventing many people of goodwill from recognizing the rights of innocent human lives to respect, acceptance and help.
Claims of privacy and an ethic of unlimited individualism have been used to undermine the Church and government's responsibility to protect life. Legalized violence has spread through our society like a cancer. The powerless of all ages are threatened.
In our culture, we see an ongoing conflict between good and evil, a conflict between life and death. As we strive to assure peace and justice, too often it is forgotten that the common good can only be served when the right to life, the right on which all other inalienable rights of the individual rest and from which they develop, is acknowledged and defended.
I look upon this panorama with shame, with immense sympathy for all its victims, and a desire to make the service of charity consistent and more abundant.
The question, "Where does one begin?" is easy to answer: "We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem" (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 21).
Some behaviours are always wrong, always incompatible with our love of God and the dignity of the human person. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Abortion willed either as an end or a means is gravely contrary to the moral law.
Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offence. The Catholic Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.
The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent child who is put to death, as well as to the parents and all of society.
Confessors have the faculties to lift such an excommunication and the bottom line is always - "Go away, and from this moment sin no more" (John 8:11).
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. This means that a human embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing. It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion. Depending upon the results: a medical diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.
It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.
Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity and the unrepeatable identity of human beings.
To focus on the evil of deliberate killing in abortion is not to ignore the many other urgent conditions that demand human dignity and threaten human rights. Opposing abortion does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life and dignity must seriously address issues of the violence of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care.
Our teaching is clear and consistent. The following story suggests another step once we have committed never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life.
A contractor dies in a car accident on his 40th birthday and finds himself at the pearly gates. A brass band is playing, the angels are singing a beautiful hymn, there is a huge crowd cheering and shouting his name and absolutely everyone wants to shake his hand.
Just when he thinks things can't possibly get any better, St. Peter himself runs over, apologizes for not greeting him personally at the pearly gates, shakes his hand and says, "Congratulations son, we've been waiting a long time for you!"
Totally confused and a little embarrassed, the contractor sheepishly looks at St. Peter and says, "St. Peter, I tried to lead a God fearing life, I loved my family, I tried to obey the 10 Commandments, but congratulations for what? I honestly don't remember doing anything really special when I was alive."
"Congratulations for what?" says St. Peter, totally amazed at the man's modesty. "We're celebrating the fact that you lived to be 160 years old! God himself wants to see you!"
The contractor is awestruck and can only look at St. Peter with his mouth agape. When he regains his power of speech, he looks up at St. Peter and says "St. Peter, I lived my life in the eternal hope that when I died I would be judged by God and be found to be worthy, but I only lived to be 40."
"That's simply impossible son," says St. Peter. "We've added up your time sheets."
I think we all have to work on our time sheets and do more for life. Reach out to women who are pregnant and in need of help, to families struggling with financial or emotional difficulties.
Stand by those who wish to choose life with the witness of solidarity, hope and service. Teach your children to respect human life from conception to natural death. Pray as a family for an end to this evil that destroys the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor.
Legalized violence has spread through our society like a cancer.
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