Standing Up for Life
On this 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Catholics in the United States have been asked by our bishops to pray for an end to abortion. More specifically, the U.S. edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that this date "shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. As we pray today for an end to abortion, we who describe ourselves as "pro-life" would do well to reflect on the responsibilities that come with this label. Many people on both sides of the abortion issue tend to frame the goals of the pro-life movement in legal and political terms. However, truly being "pro-life" means much more than seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade. To be pro-life is to desire - and to work for - a society that truly values human life at all stages. To be pro-life is not merely to challenge legal abortion and euthanasia, but to work for a society that truly cares for the most vulnerable persons among us. To be pro-life is to seek something far more radical than changes in law; to be pro-life is to seek to transform contemporary culture. As Pope John Paul II very eloquently expressed, one of the key tasks facing Christians today is replacing a culture of death with a culture of life. The culture of death is reflected not merely in a direct assault on human life, but also in a much more subtle attack on human dignity. In a culture that prioritizes autonomy and the fulfillment of individual desires, the values of interdependence and self-sacrifice remain unacknowledged. In a society that applauds the youthful and the strong, the old and the weak find themselves increasingly unwelcome. With the objectification of the human body and the commodification of sexuality, the value of relationships and the meaning of family become less apparent. The culture of death has many aspects, and any movement toward a culture of life must confront all of them.We who seek a culture of life must be defined not merely but what we're against but by what we're for. On a very basic level, what we're for is a culture in which the full dignity of all persons is respected and in which all are valued. This goal will not be achieved through changes in law, but through the transformation of hearts. As a first step, I suggest that we each look within our own hearts and consider the ways in which we ourselves must be transformed. How does each one of us - self-described "pro-lifers" included - help to perpetuate a culture of death? How can each of us work toward a culture of life? My prayer for today is that all who read these lines (including myself as I write them) will have the courage to confront these questions. AMDG.
Now I am off to watch a bit of the March for Life coverage on EWTN (thanks to the repeat viewing).