January 19, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Human life should be respected, protected in all circumstances

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for [God’s] honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2280).

Next Monday, Jan. 22, is a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. It is a serious day of remembrance for the millions of victims of our nation’s immoral and unjust abortion laws and practices.

Our Church vigorously opposes abortion because we believe that from the first moment of conception each human being must be recognized as having the inviolable right to life. No human law or social policy can override this most fundamental, God-given civil right.

Our Church’s absolute commitment to the dignity of human life extends to other social issues as well. All forms of homicide, including infanticide (the killing of children) and genocide (the elimination of entire communities based on their religious or ethnic identities) must be strenuously opposed.

The same is true of capital punishment, which Pope Francis has declared to be “inadmissible no matter how serious the crime committed because it attacks the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

This same principle applies to all forms of euthanasia (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2276). Catholic social teaching emphasizes that “those whose lives are diminished or weakened” due to illness, disability or extreme old age “deserve special respect.” They should be helped to lead lives that are as full and dignified as possible in their diminished circumstances. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia (“mercy killing”) consists in putting an end to a human life. Our Church teaches that this is “always unacceptable.”

The same is true of suicide, which, tragically, is increasing in our society. According to the catechism, “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human person to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations” (#2281).

Especially in the United States today, when many states have adopted laws that permit—even encourage—suicide assisted by physicians and loved ones, the Church is required to speak out and to declare that “suicide is contrary to love for the living God.”

In all these cases, the Church and all of us individual Christians have a moral responsibility to show compassion, understanding and loving support for our sisters and brothers who are under so much emotional pain and stress that they seriously consider taking a human life—their own, that of an unborn child or a loved one who is in terrible pain.

We cannot imagine how much intense pressure is placed on those who contemplate abortion, euthanasia or suicide. What’s needed above all is the unconditional love and mercy that our Lord Jesus Christ offers to all who are burdened in any way. His love is needed, often desperately, to break through the barriers of guilt and shame that surround our brothers and sisters who have given up hope, and are seeking a way out of overwhelming crises in their lives.

Our Church’s absolute commitment to the dignity of life is not meant to “lord it over” women and men who are suffering. Instead, it serves as a call to the rest of us—spouses, family members and friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners, and all people of good will—to reach out to those who are suffering, and offer both words of encouragement and a helping hand wherever possible.

In order to be signs of the unconditional love and mercy of God, we uphold the conviction that “human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator who is its sole end.”

Because we know how much God loves each and every one of us, we affirm that “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2258).

We are stewards, not owners, of God’s gift of life. Let’s do everything in our power to nurture, protect and defend this gift—from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death! †

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