Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. That's why the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.
- Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
The world's great religious and philosophical traditions are often said to share a common "commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life," a sense of the "inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" to which most nations of the modern world have pledged themselves. But what does it mean to respect human life today?
In the United States, some people focus only on selected issues or clusters of issues, often those associated with one of our highly polarized political parties. At times, this pits self-described "pro-lifers" against equally zealous advocates of "social justice." To address this polarization, even people of good will in the secular world turn to the teachings of Catholic leaders like Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who connected the traditional life issues with social concerns in a "seamless garment" of respect for human life.
“Human life is sacred,” America's Catholic bishops teach, and “the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.” Seeing every person as a gift from the Author of Life, as Pope John Paul explained, we have “the radical duty to respect every human being's right to life from conception until natural death, including the life of the lowliest and the least gifted.” This conviction leads us to respond whenever life is threatened.
“In our society,” as our bishops often remind us, ”human life is especially under direct attack from abortion” near its beginning and, increasingly, from euthanasia as it approaches its end. Catholics also oppose embryo-destructive research that ends lives barely underway. To protect the weakest among us, we must encourage respect for women and strengthen marriage and family life. But these do not exhaust our list of concerns.
Our commitment to promoting life, our bishops say, “extends to defending life whenever it is threatened or diminished.” “Catholic teaching about the dignity of life,” therefore, also “calls us to oppose torture, unjust war, and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering.” This requires us to work for justice and peace.
“The right to life,” the bishops explain, “is linked to other basic goods that every person needs to live and thrive,” from housing to health care. But if we will not protect the lives of the weakest among us, will we offer strangers what they need? Warns Pope Benedict, “While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human.” All the more reason to join forces with committed people who treat every chance to promote human dignity as an issue of respect for life!
[ Note: An older version of this site is available in a Belorussian Translation]
This site in the Consistent Life Ethic Net Ring
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