Forty-four years ago the Supreme Court enabled and furthered a culture of death in our country with the Roe v Wade decision which legally permitted abortion, the destruction of human life in a mother’s womb. Despite the darkness this legislation has spread over our nation there are some signs that our country is trying to become a society that truly embraces the sanctity of life. These are particularly evident among our young people for whom the term “Respect Life” is not merely a slogan, but something they truly believe and choose to live.
Their use of terms like Pro-Life, Respect Life, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter, are a reminder that we must value and protect all human life irrespective of gender, race, creed, age or any other demographic.
The Catholic Church’s teaching on the right to life, at its core, is based on a rather simple and direct God-given commandment: Do not kill. For any reason. At any stage of life. We are all God’s creatures and deserve not only the right to live, but to flourish. Human life has a God-given inherent dignity and in all its stages of growth and in all its varieties of expressions must be treated with respect.
This is hardly a new premise, even in the secular world. Respect Life runs through one of the founding documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” While the reference to only “men” might be considered an antiquated sentiment, the message is as clear today as when Thomas Jefferson wrote it more than 240 years ago.
For a long time, we have worried that our country had turned its back on these principles and endorsed a throwaway culture, treating people as if they were some outdated model of cell phone or computer. But year after year, it is encouraging to hear a growing chorus calling out to protect the vulnerable — whether unborn children, the marginalized, immigrants, the aged, those suffering from mental illness and depression or the dying. These prophetic voices remind us that the lives of people in need are valuable and are to be protected and respected.
While there are signs that our society appears to be on the right path, however, the job is certainly not finished. Culture shifts are slow and must be tended to regularly. And while overall “Respect Life” is a widely embraced concept, “Pro-Life” still receives a great deal of pushback. A contradiction that continues to baffle Catholics. It is as if there is some strange line of demarcation that must be debated when it comes to the life of the unborn.
In this endeavor, we must all continue to be outspoken Pro-Life supporters. Whether through our prayer, protest, or vote, we must continue to reinforce initiatives that protect the most vulnerable and defenseless. When it comes to Pro-Life activities, remember Saint Paul’s words of encouragement to all Christians: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love… So, do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord… but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” (2 Timothy 1:6-8)
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden