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 Pauls encyclical On the Gospel of Life. In the limited
time at our disposal, we will have to choose and pick from the Holy Fathers
We will cover the following areas: present
day threats to human life, the Christian message concerning life, Gods 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
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 persons 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
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
- 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
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 Christs 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 Christs 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
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 Gods 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 Gods 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 Churchs teaching on abortion as
murder is an infallible, and therefore irreversible, doctrine of the Catholic
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
Yes, they indulge in widespread ambiguity.
They speak of interrupting pregnancy. Their abortuaries are called Womens
Health Services, Birth control and family planning, woman care, womens
clinic, physicians 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 worlds 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
- Should we expect opposition as apostles
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 todays
- Will this conversion of the enemies of life
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).
- 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.
- How does human life find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ?
Human life finds its fulfillment in Christ
because by his death on the cross, the Savior restored life to the human race.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What is the deepest element of God's commandment to protect human life?
The deepest element of Gods 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
- How does ecology affect our respect for human life?
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
Lords 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
womans arrival; the child, that of the child. The women speak of grace.
- 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).
- 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 Gods loving plan until
we are called into eternity.
- 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 Gods loving wisdom. When our hope
of good health seems to fade, especially then we are to be sustained by an
unshakeable faith in Gods 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.
- 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.
- 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 Christs surrendering His bodily life out of love for us.
- 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 Gods commandments and obey them in the
measure that their minds are open to the truth which God has revealed.
- 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 Gods 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.
- 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 Gods will, and threatening them with dire consequences
if, and because, they disobeyed.
- 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 Christs message of sacrifice, which means giving oneself, including ones
life, for others out of love for God.
- How is Christ's death on the cross the highest expression of His gospel of life?
Christs 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.
- How does Christ's death on the cross teach the meaning of life and death in every human being?
Christs 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.
- 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.
- How are we the people of life?
We are the people of life because we have
inherited, through Christs death on the cross, the supernatural life for
our souls with a corresponding right to eternal life in celestial beatitude.
- What is our responsibility as the "People of Life"?
Our first responsibility as people of life is to praise
and thank God. Christs 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 Gods 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 mans 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.
- 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.
- Is man's lordship over human life absolute?
No, it is ministerial. It is subject
to the boundless wisdom and love of God.
- 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.
- 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 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 ones neighbor.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What does the Second Vatican Council call procured abortion?
The Second Vatican Council defines abortion,
together with infanticide, as an unspeakable crime.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 mothers
womb that only one conclusion can be reached. Gods prohibition, You shall
not kill, includes the murder of an unborn child.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
its time, gently ending ones own life or the life of others.
- What is euthanasia?
Euthanasia is an action or omission which
of its self and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating
a persons suffering.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ones 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