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Re-Christianize America to Build the Culture of Life

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

It was the present Vicar of Christ who gave us two terms that describe the modern world. There is a culture of life and a culture of death. The culture of death had become the dominate philosophy of the affluent countries, including our own beloved United States. I never thought I would live to describe the president of our nation as a professional murderer. But he is. As anyone with normal intelligence understands, partial birth abortion is infanticide. It is the murder of a helpless infant.

Given the gravity of our subject, I thought this conference should be an exception to our normal procedure. It will be in the nature of a mini-catechism. The questions and answers will be drawn from Pope John Paul’s encyclical On the Gospel of Life. In the limited time at our disposal, we will have to choose and pick from the Holy Father’s encyclical.

We will cover the following areas: present day threats to human life, the Christian message concerning life, God’s holy law and how to re-Christianize America for a new culture of human life.

Present Day Threats to Human Life

  • What are the two principal reasons for violence against life?
    The two main reasons are envy and anger. Envy is the sadness we are tempted to feel that someone possesses what we lack, or succeeds where we have failed. Anger is the urge to revenge oneself over another person’s real or apparent offense.

  • What is at the root of every act of violence?
    At the root of every act of violence is giving in to the thinking of the devil. The devil was a murderer from the beginning. He is still a murderer today. Therefore every act of violence is mysteriously by the devil.

  • Is this attitude of Cain prevalent in the world today?
    Yes, people today refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Like Cain they defend their insensitivity to the weakest members of human society, the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, children, even before they are born.

  • Does God punish the crimes of homicide?
    He does. At the dawn of the human race, Cain was cursed by God. He was banished to live in the wilderness and desert. The divine justice has not changed. Murder and violence profoundly affect the whole of human society.

  • What are some forms of violence to human life?
    The most obvious forms of violence are murder, war, slaughter and genocide. But this violence is also being done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between people and between social classes. This violence is also practiced by the scandalous arms trade which spawns the deadly armed conflicts which make our century the most bloody in human history. This violence is seen in the criminal spread of drugs, in the promotion of sexual activity which results in grave risks to life.

The Christian Message Concerning Life

  • What is the Gospel of Life?
    The Gospel of Life consists in the proclamation of the very person of Jesus Christ. He made himself known to the apostles and through Thomas to each of us, that “I am the way, and the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). This is also how He identified Himself to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

  • How are these words of Christ the Gospel of Life?
    They are the Gospel of Life because they reveal the good news that our lives here on earth are only the beginning and preparation for the everlasting life that God became man to provide for the human race.

  • What does the Gospel of Life include?
    The Gospel of Life includes “everything that human experience and reason tell us about the value of human life, accepting it, purifying it and exalting it and bringing it to fulfillment.” Thus our faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to human life beyond anything that the human mind, without divine revelation, could ever conceive.

  • What is the key word for understanding the dignity of human life?
    The key word is eternity. Human life is ultimately sacred because it is eternal.

  • Where in Revelation is the meaning of human life most fully unveiled?
    It is most fully revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

  • How is the dignity of human life especially revealed by Christ?
    Christ reveals the real dignity of human life by His selective concern and love for the poor. The poor in material possessions, the sick, the outcasts, those oppressed by the devil and, in general, the suffering, were the special object of Christ’s merciful love. All of this was meant to show that the true meaning of human life does not come from the pleasures and possessions of the world. It finally derives from the riches and joys of eternity.

  • What is the basic irony in the life of Christ?
    The basic irony in His life was the mysterious contrast between His exalted dignity and His rejection by His own people. It was the contradiction between His infinite riches as God and His extreme poverty, even His not having a place to lay His head.

  • What should this irony of Christ’s life teach us?
    It should teach us that the real value of human life does not consist in the enjoyment of creatures or in the things of this world. It teaches us to believe in what is perhaps the deepest mystery of our faith: that by His death, “Jesus reveals all the splendor and value of life, in as much as His self-oblation on the cross becomes a source of new life for all people.

  • What is there in human life that makes it so sacred?
    Human life is so sacred because the principle of this life is the human soul. Already in Genesis we read that, “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:17). This principle of life is immediately created by God at the conception of every human child. God Himself must create the soul out of nothing. It thus becomes a spiritual being which, when the body dies, is destined to live independent of the body until the last day. It will be reunited with the body at the resurrection and enjoy the beatific vision of the Holy Trinity for the endless ages of eternity.

    Moment of existence in the mother's womb until a person enters eternity. He is the destiny of human life, because it is in him that we shall find that perfect happiness for which we were made.

God's Holy Law

  • How is God’s gift of life also a commandment of God?
    The gift of life we possess on earth is meant to be eternal, again twice over: in seeing God in heaven through all eternity and in the reunion of our souls with our bodies after the resurrection. But both levels of life are conditioned. The condition is that we obey the commandments of God by doing His divine will here on earth.

  • How is man to exercise his dominion over human life?
    Man is to exercise his dominion over human life in accordance with the precepts of the Lord as a gift of grace entrusted to him for his own good, for preservation of his personal dignity and the pursuit of his happiness.

  • How is the commandment, “You shall not kill,” at the heart of the covenant between God and His chosen people?
    It is at the heart of the covenant because it expresses the core of God’s authority over the human race. Human life is a direct gift of the Creator, since at every conception He must immediately create the immortal soul. Once the fifth commandment is disobeyed, no other moral commandment of God has any validity. That is why abortion undermines the whole moral foundation of human civilization.

  • How is murder, including abortion, the work of the devil?
    It is the work of the devil because his successful temptation of our first parents brought death into the world. The devil is “a murderer from the beginning.” He is also “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). By deception he leads people “to projects of sin and death, making them appear as goals and fruits of life.”

  • What in the early Church were considered the three most grave sins?
    They were murder, apostasy and adultery. They carried with them the penalty of lengthy public penance before the repentant sinners would be readmitted to union with the Church.

  • Can we say that the Church’s teaching on abortion as murder is an infallible, and therefore irreversible, doctrine of the Catholic faith?
    Yes. As we know, the Church teaches infallibly in two ways. She teaches infallibly when the bishop of Rome, either alone or through a general council of the Church, solemnly defines a doctrine of faith and morals to be binding on the consciences of all the faithful. But the Church also teaches infallibly, when all the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome, agree on some doctrine of belief or morality. The grave sinfulness of abortion is infallibly true on the second grounds as just explained.

  • Do abortionists change the vocabulary to promote their crimes?
    Yes, they indulge in widespread ambiguity. They speak of “interrupting pregnancy.” Their abortuaries are called “Women’s Health Services,” “Birth control and family planning”, “woman care”, “women’s clinic”, “physician’s abortion services”, “problem pregnancy center”, or “pregnancy counseling centers.” Their ads are on the first yellow pages of all the telephone directories of the United States. The services they promise are confidential counseling, walk-in pregnancy tests, immediate appointments, twenty-four hour answering service, follow-up care, teenage counseling and care, reduced student rates, same day free pain medication, warm atmosphere, and no waiting. All of this and more has become part of the homicidal culture of once civilized nations after another.

For a New Culture of Human Life

  • How is this new culture of human life to be promoted?
    It is to be promoted especially by proclaiming the gospel through evangelization of the modern world. An essential part of this evangelization is the proclamation of the Gospel of Life.

  • How are we the People of Life?
    We are the People of Life because God has entrusted to us the Gospel of Life, which we are to proclaim to others. We believe that Christ, the author of life, at the price of His blood rescued us from death twice over: our souls have been redeemed from the eternal death of separation from God, and our bodies have the promise of rising glorious from the dead on the last day.

  • What does it mean to proclaim Jesus Christ?
    To proclaim Jesus Christ is itself to proclaim life. The New Testament, especially St. John, is filled with reminders of how Jesus and life are inseparably related. For Jesus is “the word of life,” in Him “life was made manifest,” He Himself is “the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:1, 2).

  • What is a compendium of the Gospel of Life?
    It can be summarized in one sentence: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. Consequently procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable.

  • What does the Gospel of Life imply for the future of Catholic education?
    The Gospel of Life places on Christian believers the obligation to proclaim the sanctity of human life constantly and courageously. Evangelization and catechesis, theology and preaching must teach the Christian message of life.

  • To whom does this Pauline directive apply?
    It applies to bishops, to those on theological faculties, seminaries; it applies to pastors, catechists and all those responsible for the formation of consciences.

  • What does the Holy Father warn us against?
    He warns us against being afraid of hostility or unpopularity. He tells us to refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform to the world’s way of thinking. We must draw our strength from Christ who by His death and resurrection has overcome the world.

  • What must we foster as apostles of life?
    We must foster a contemplative outlook. We must see human life in its true meaning, in its utter gratuity as a gift from God, in its beauty and invitation to freedom and responsibility. In a word, we must see human life here on earth as a preparation for eternal life in heavenly beatitude.

  • Should we expect opposition as apostles of life?
    Yes. There is no choice. This is the prophesy of St. John the evangelist in the closing book of the Bible. What does St. John tell us will be the center of the struggle between good and evil? In the book of Revelation, he predicts that the center of this struggle will be nothing less than life. Rejection of human life, in whatever form, is really a rejection of Christ. As the Savior tells us, “Whoever received one such child in my name, receives me,” and again, “whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 18:5, 25:40). The culture of death is, therefor, the culture of deicide. In effect, those who destroy innocent human life are crucifying Jesus Christ, who identifies Himself with the victims of today’s cosmic homicide.

  • Will this conversion of the enemies of life be easy?
    It will be humanly impossible, without the miraculous grace of God. Christ wants to perform this miracle but He wants us to pray. The most powerful prayer is the prayer we say before the Blessed Sacrament, addressing our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, we say—

    “Lord Jesus, we beg you to convert the stony hearts of millions in our nation. Change them into hearts of flesh that recognize human life as sacred because it comes from you and is destined to possess You in a blessed eternity.”Amen.

The procreation of children in marriage belongs to the essence of the Gospel of Life. Already at the dawn of human history, Eve is called “the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Realizing that God has deeply entered her life, she exclaims “I have begotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4:1).

  1. How was God's plan for human life marred by the appearance of sin?
    “Through sin man rebels against his creator and ends up by worshipping creatures.” As a further result, man not only deforms the image of God in himself but he is led to do the same to others. Sin means a departure from God. “When God is not acknowledged as God, the profound meaning of man is betrayed and communion between people is compromises.”

  2. How does human life find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ?
    Human life finds it’s fulfillment in Christ because by his death on the cross, the Savior restored life to the human race.

  3. How did Christ's death restore human life?
    The death of Christ restored human life twice over. By sacrificing His human life on Calvary, He restored the title to our supernatural life of grace on earth and of eternal glory in heaven. By dying on the cross, He restored the title to our bodily life which we are destined to receive on the last day.

  4. How did sin introduce death into the world?
    Sin introduced death into the world by depriving the human soul of its supernatural life of grace, and depriving the human body of its preternatural gift of bodily immortality. As we have just said, the death of Jesus Christ restored the title to both levels of life for the human race.

  5. What is the first meaning of eternal life?
    The first meaning of eternal life is the share that we now have in the very life of God through the merits of Jesus Christ. It is a participation in the life of the Holy Trinity which we receive in Baptism.

  6. What is the condition for our share in this life of God?
    The condition for our sharing in the eternal life of God is our faith. As the evangelist tells us, “to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

  7. How important is this share in the life of God?
    It is absolutely necessary as a condition for obtaining the end for which God has created us. As Christ tells us, “Unless one is born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This is the main reason that God became man. This is the mission of Jesus. He is the one who “comes down form heaven, and gives light to the world” (John 6:33). But once again we must believe in Him or, as He says, “He who follows Me . . . will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

  8. Which Evangelist is the most extensive in telling us about eternal life?
    St. John the Evangelist is both the most extensive and most intensive inspired writer who reveals the full meaning of human life which is a share in the life of God. St. John gives us the classic definition of eternal life when he quotes from the prayer of our Lord to his heavenly Father at the Last Supper: “This is eternal life, that we may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Once again we see that the true meaning of life is both a gift from God and the reward for our faith in God as our Creator and in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our salvation.

  9. How important is faith in the supernatural life for the pro-life movement?
    Faith in the supernatural life is indispensable for the pro-life movement.

  10. Why is faith in the supernatural life indispensable for the pro-life movement?
    Faith in the supernatural is indispensable for the pro-life movement because without this faith the full meaning of human life is not known. Human life is precious not only because the human soul is directly created by God. Human life is precious and sacred because its destiny is to share, for all eternity, in the very life of the living God.

  11. Can we say therefore that the root of the death culture in the modern world is the lack or loss of faith in God?
    Yes, the root cause of the death culture in our century is the widespread loss of faith in God, twice over:

    • So many people have lost their faith in God as the Creator and origin of human life. They ignore the fact that, except for His loving omnipotence, human life would not exist.

    • So many people have lost their faith in God as the destiny which human life is to attain. Those who believe in Christ believe that the final purpose of our existence is not in this world but in the everlasting world of heaven, beyond the reaches of space and time. Only those who believe in both our created origins and our celestial destiny can really appreciate the meaning and priceless value of human life.

  12. Why is human life sacred?
    Human life is sacred because it belongs to God. He is the origin of human life, not only as the creator of the universe but as the one who creates each human soul out of nothing at the moment a child; the babies make it effective from within to the advantage of their mothers who, by a double miracle, prophesy under the inspiration of their children, the infant leaped, the mother was filled with the spirit. The mother was not filled before the son, but after the son was filled with the Holy Spirit, he filled his mother too.

    We are being told two things, that both Jesus and John the Baptist were already truly human before birth; and that the unborn Jesus was already sanctifying the unborn John in his mother too.

  13. How did Jesus elevate the Old Testament commandment "You Shall Not Kill"?
    Christ elevated this commandment several times over:

    • He forbade His followers not only to kill, but even to be angry with another person.

    • He commanded His followers to positively love others, who are not only our kindred but even total strangers; and not only our friends but even our enemies.

  14. What is the deepest element of God's commandment to protect human life?
    The deepest element of God’s commandment to protect human life is the duty to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person. In the words of St. Paul, “love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is…

  15. How does ecology affect our respect for human life?

  16. How are parents co-workers with God?
    Parents are co-workers with God by cooperating with Him who transmits His image to the new creature whom they bring into existence.

  17. How is the love commanded by Christ shown especially in the procreation of children?
    Christ tells us that we are to prove our love for Him by our selfless love for others. This selfless love is especially shown towards children from conception to birth. They are helpless except for the loving care that the parents and others give to the weakest brothers and sisters of Christ. As He tells us, “as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40).

  18. How is sterility regarded in the Old Testament?
    In the Old Testament sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing. At the root of this belief was the realization that children are a gift from God. This principle has not changed. In fact, Christians understand more than ever the goodness and mercy of God in raising children here on earth to propagate the inhabitants of heaven.

  19. How does Mary's Conception of Jesus reveal the value of human life?
    The moment our Lady greeted Elizabeth at the visitation, Elizabeth identified Mary as “the mother of my Lord.” Given the importance of this event, it is worth quoting at length from the words of St. Ambrose.

    The arrival of Mary and the blessings of the Lord’s presence are also speedily declared . . . Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice; but John was the first to experience the grace. She heard according to the order of nature; he leaped because of the mystery. She recognized the arrival of Mary; he the arrival of the Lord. The woman recognized the woman’s arrival; the child, that of the child. The women speak of grace.

  20. Is it wrong to hasten the death of those in old age?
    Yes already in the Old Testament true believers never sought to be delivered from old age and its burden. On the contrary, they prayed, “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth…so even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim your might to all the generations to come” (Psalm 71:5,18).

  21. How should we face the inevitable decline of life?
    We should face the decline of life with complete trust in God. We should recognize that we are not masters of our life, nor are we masters of our death. We must surrender ourselves completely to the “good pleasure of the most high.” We must believe in God’s loving plan until we are called into eternity.

  22. How should we face the sickness and disability in our lives?
    We should face these experiences with complete trust in the Lord and renew our faith in God’s loving wisdom. When our hope of good health seems to fade, especially then we are to be sustained by an unshakeable faith in God’s life giving power. Illness must never drive a person to despair or to try to end his life. We believe there is a life beyond our mortal stay here on earth. We look forward to an everlasting life in heaven.

  23. How does the life of the body compare with the life of the soul?
    Both lives are important. But the life of the soul is incomparably greater than the life of the body. So true is this that Jesus tell us, “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”(Matthew 8:35). What is Christ telling us? He is saying that, as precious as our bodily life is, we should be ready even to die a bodily death rather than lose the life of the soul. Why? Because we must be supernaturally alive in our souls, when our body dies. Otherwise, we shall be deprived of that eternal life in the possession of God for which we were made.

  24. How do we know that the life of the soul is more precious than the life of the body?
    We know this from the two thousand years of Christian history. St. Stephen, the first martyr, sacrificed his earthly life because of his faith in Jesus Christ. The thousands of martyrs since Stephen all testify to the same truth: that the greatest proof we can give for our love of Jesus Christ is to surrender the life of our body in appreciation for Christ’s surrendering His bodily life out of love for us.

  25. How important is it to be open to the fullness of God's revealed truth?
    It is of paramount importance. People will be only as ready to accept all of God’s commandments and obey them in the measure that their minds are open to the truth which God has revealed.

  26. Why is openness to the truth necessary to accept God's commandments?
    We are open to the truth with our minds. We are to accept God’s commandments with our wills. But the will is a blind faculty. It cannot choose what it does not recognize as truly good. God has revealed to our minds what is truly good, that is, what will truly lead to our heavenly destiny. We shall be only as ready to obey the commandments, which are the will of God; as our minds are duly enlightened by the truths which He has revealed for us to believe.

  27. Is it easy to obey the commandments of God?
    Emphatically, no! The entire Old Testament is a story of the chosen people being told what God wanted them to do and their habitual infidelity to His will. One prophet after another had to keep reminding them of God’s will, and threatening them with dire consequences if, and because, they disobeyed.

  28. What did Jesus Christ bring into the world?
    Christ brought into the world a new and extraordinary prospect for understanding and obeying the will of God. It was nothing less than the gospel of life which He preached. The heart of this gospel of life is Christ’s message of sacrifice, which means giving oneself, including one’s life, for others out of love for God.

  29. How is Christ's death on the cross the highest expression of His gospel of life?
    Christ’s death on the cross symbolizes the cosmic conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil, between the culture of life and the culture of death in the modern world.

  30. How does Christ's death on the cross teach the meaning of life and death in every human being?
    Christ’s death on the cross teaches us that, like Him, we too must die to the things of this world if we are to reach eternal life in the world to come. By His death on Calvary, Jesus merited the graces of our salvation. By our faith in Him, as our merciful God, we can not only obtain forgiveness for our sins but reach sanctity. In the words of the Holy Father, “by looking upon the one who was pierced, every person whose life is threatened encounters the sheer hope of finding freedom and redemption.”

  31. What is the life which Jesus won for us by His death on the cross?
    By dying on the cross, Christ won for us the heavenly life of an eternal share in the very life of the Holy Trinity. In other words, “from the cross, the source of life, the ‘people of life’ is born and increases.”

  32. How are we the people of life?
    We are the “people of life” because we have inherited, through Christ’s death on the cross, the supernatural life for our souls with a corresponding right to eternal life in celestial beatitude.

  33. What is our responsibility as the "People of Life"?
    Our first responsibility as “people of life” is to praise and thank God. Christ’s death on the cross restored the life of our souls to the human family. His death on the cross is the promise of the resurrection of our lives on the last day.

    In loving gratitude to Christ, we are to open our hearts to every word that comes from the mouth of God. We are to obey not only God’s commandment not to kill human life, but to respect human life, to love and foster this life on earth as a prelude to the fullness of human life in a glorious eternity.

  34. What is the center of human life?
    The center, the meaning, and the fulfillment of human life consist in giving up this life to God out of love for others.

  35. How do we know that the fulfillment of human life is to sacrifice this life for others?
    We know this from the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. He is the living God who became man precisely that he might be able to sacrifice His human life so that we may have life twice over: a share in the life of God in the eternal vision of the Holy Trinity, and the glorified bodies after the last day.

  36. Does God want man to be king of the earth?
    Yes, in the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “God made man capable of carrying out His rule as King of the earth”. Man was created in the image of the one who governs the universe. Everything demonstrates that from the beginning man’s nature was marked by royalty. Man is a king created to exercise dominion over the World; he was given a likeness to the king of the universe: he is the living image who participates by his dignity in the perfection of the divine archetype.”

  37. How is man to be king of the earth?
    Man has been called to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over other lesser creatures. He is to be lord and ruler not only over things but especially over himself.

  38. Is man's lordship over human life absolute?
    No, it is ministerial. It is subject to the boundless wisdom and love of God.

  39. Has the Church changed her teaching on the grave sinfulness of murder?
    No, it has remained constant since the first century. As shown in the Didache the Christian faithful are told “there are two ways: a way of life and a way of death; there is a difference between them in accordance with the precept of the teaching, ‘you shall not kill’.”

    This same document repeats the two ways, of life and death, and continues “in accordance with the precept of the teaching, ’you shall not kill“, the faithful are told “you shall not put a child to death by abortion, nor kill it once it is born”. That is the way of death.

  40. What in the early Church were considered the three most grave sins?
    They were murder, apostasy and adultery. They carried with them the penalty of lengthy public penance before the repentant sinners would be readmitted to union with the Church.

  41. Can anyone renounce the right to self-defense?
    No, everyone has a right to love his own life which, in fact, is the norm for loving one’s neighbor.

  42. Is there such a thing as legitimate self-defense?
    Yes, legitimate self-defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone who is responsible for the life of another person, for the common good of the family and for the good of the state.

  43. What is the primary purpose of the death penalty?
    The primary purpose of the death penalty, which society inflicts, is to expiate a grave crime. It may be a crime against personal or social rights.

  44. Has there been a development in social thinking about capital punishment?
    Yes, while defending the rights of society, a growing number of States are reorganizing the penal system. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “if bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggression and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”

  45. Does Pope John Paull II affirm the grave sinfulness of abortion?
    Yes, he makes the affirmation in very explicit terms, which may be considered a formal definition. He says, “By the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and His successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds his own heart (CF. Rom 2:15-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the tradition of the church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

  46. What does the Second Vatican Council call procured abortion?
    The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime”.

  47. What is a popular view of abortion today?
    In many peoples’ consciences, the gravity of abortion has been obscured. Abortion is being accepted in the popular mind. This reflects a dangerous crisis of the moral sense. People are increasingly unable to distinguish between good and evil, even on such a fundamental right as human life.

  48. In the light of this moral blindness, what is our duty as believing Christians?
    Our duty is clear. We must now, more than ever, have the courage to look the truth in the eye. We must call things by their proper name. We may not yield to convenient compromise or the temptation to self-deception.

  49. Who are the responsible agents for the crimes of abortion?
    They are first of all the mother who may be led to have an abortion to protect certain values such as her own health or a decent standard of living. Sometimes she fears that the child would be born in such conditions that it would be better if the birth had not taken place. Nevertheless, no matter how serious or tragic the reasons, they can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

  50. Who are some other agents responsible for abortion?
    After the mother, it is first of all the father of the child who may either pressure the woman to have an abortion or at least encourages such a decision. Members of the family of either the mother or the father or so-called friends can apply strong pressure to make the woman feel psychologically forced to have an abortion. The doctors and nurses are gravely guilty when they place at the service of death the services which they have acquired for promoting life.

  51. Are legislators also responsible for the crimes of abortion?
    Yes, they are gravely responsible for promoting and approving abortion laws. Among civil officials, those in charge of Health Care Centers and hospitals share in the same moral guilt. Finally, teachers and authors, and those in charge of institutions who allow the abortion mentality to flourish, even on an international level, share in the grave guilt of murder of the unborn.

  52. How do some people justify the crime of abortion?
    They justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot be considered a personal human life. But they are absolutely wrong. Although the quotation is lengthy, it is given in full, from the declaration for the doctrine of the faith which was originally approved by Pope Paul VI and is now repeated word for word by Pope John Paul II.

    “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear and modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has been demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the program of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins and each of its capacities requires time – a rather lengthy time – to find its place and to be in a position to act.” Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of human life: how could a human individual not become a human person?”

  53. Does Sacred Scripture explicitly condemn abortion?
    Not explicitly but implicitly, text after text in the Bible show such great respect for the human being in the mother’s womb that only one conclusion can be reached. God’s prohibition, “You shall not kill,” includes the murder of an unborn child.

  54. What is the teaching of Christian tradition on the grave sinfulness of abortion?
    Christian tradition is unanimous from the beginning to the present day in teaching that abortion is a crime. Significantly, the early Christian writings associate abortion with infanticide as equally guilty before God. No doubt one reason for this is that both abortion and infanticide were legalized in the Roman Empire into which Christianity was born.

  55. What do the earliest Christian writers call abortion?
    Among other names, they teach that abortion is “anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born.” They further declare, “It makes little difference whether one kills a person already born or puts it to death at birth. He, who will one day be a man, is a man already.”

  56. What is the Church's penalty for abortion?
    By its very nature abortion is the grave crime of murder. The church in her cannon law adds the penalty of excommunication on all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached. This includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.

  57. Are there any exceptions that would allow the performance of an abortion?
    There are no exceptions. No circumstance in life, no purpose or motive, however well-intentioned, no human law whatsoever either exists or can exist which can ever make permissible the crime of abortion.

  58. Do these principles of morality also apply to intervention on human embryos?
    Yes they do. No doubt there are people who experiment, or do research, or promote invitro fertilization with human embryos. No matter what the intentions behind this embryology may be, it is absolutely prohibited by the divine law. Even when medical or surgical means are used to assist the health of a child in the womb, this intervention may not involve disproportionate risks for the life of the unborn.

  59. What is the prevailing tendency on the value of human life?
    The tendency is to value human life to the extent that it brings pleasure and satisfaction here and now. Suffering seems like an unbearable setback from which we should be freed at all costs.

  60. What is the view of death on these premises?
    Death is considered “senseless” if it suddenly interrupts a human life still open to new and interesting experiences here on earth. But it becomes a “rightful liberation” when continued life promises only pain and even greater suffering.

  61. What is the philosophy of those who deny or neglect their relationship to God?
    Such people demand that society should guarantee them ways and means of deciding what to do with their life in full and complete autonomy.

  62. What is one of the more alarming symptoms of the culture of death?
    Especially in prosperous societies, euthanasia is considered a human right to take control of death and bring it about before it’s time, “gently” ending one’s own life or the life of others.

  63. What is euthanasia?
    Euthanasia is an action or omission which of its self and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating a person’s suffering.

  64. What is "aggressive medical treatment"?
    This is resorting to medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of a patient. They are procedures which are disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient or his family.

  65. May a person in good conscience refuse such procedures?
    Yes, the patient may refuse such forms of treatment, but on one condition: that the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.

  66. What is the Church's teaching on the use of sedatives to relieve a patient's pain?
    The Church distinguishes between what is praiseworthy and what is obligatory. It is highly praiseworthy for a person to accept his pain with resignation to will and in union with the sufferings of Christ. However, it is permissible to relieve one’s pain by narcotics, even when the result is lessened consciousness and shortening of life. In the latter case, death is not directly willed but permitted.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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