Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Fight for Life

The green ballons mean that today is the Italian church's big pro-life feast, which formed the backbone of B16's midday Angelus before the customarily -packed Piazza crowd.

On a bright day reminiscent of springtime – which the pope drew attention to – Benedict XVI turned to “all men and women of goodwill” and asked that they should “welcome the great and mysterious gift of life. Life, which is the work of God, should not be denied to anyone, not even to the smallest defenceless newborn, especially if the baby has serious disabilities. At the same time, echoing the Pastors of the Church in Italy, I urge all not fall prey to the deception of thinking that they can dispose of life to the extent of ‘legitimizing its disruption with euthanasia, perhaps masking it with a veil of human pity’.”

Benedict XVI then referred to the “Week of life and the family” that starts today in the diocese of Rome. He made a forceful call for the safeguarding of the family, “which is the ‘cradle’ of life and of all vocations. We are well aware how a family founded on matrimony constitutes the natural environment for the birth and education of children and thus assures the future of all humanity. However we also know how it is marked by deep crisis and must today face multiple challenges. It must therefore be defended, helped, safeguarded and valued in its irreplaceable uniqueness. While this commitment is first and foremost up to spouses, the Church and all public institutions also have as a priority the duty to support the family through pastoral and political initiatives that take into account the real needs of spouses, the elderly and new generations. A serene family climate, enlightened by faith and a holy fear of God, also encourages the blossoming and flourishing of vocations in the service of the Gospel. I refer in particular, apart from those who are called to follow Christ in the path of the priesthood, to all religious, men and women, consecrated people, who we remembered last Friday during the ‘World Day of Consecrated Life’.”

The Pope invited all to pray so that “through a constant effort in favour of life and the institution of the family, our communities may be places of communion and hope where the big ‘yes’ to authentic love and to the reality of mankind and the family according to the original plan of God may be renewed, even if amid many difficulties. Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Most Holy Mary, that respect for the sacredness of life may grow, that there will be ever more awareness of the true needs of the family, and that the number of those contributing to realizing a culture of love in the world may grow."

The papal exhortation against euthanasia came three days after an Italian medical panel unanimously exonerated the doctor who pulled the plug on Piergiorgio Welby's life support. Afflicted with muscular dystrophy, the case of Welby -- who sought the shutdown of his respirator, advocating his position through a book and media exposure -- became a contentious flashpoint in Italy's debate on end-of-life issues.

Today's catechesis was the second time Benedict has used developments in the Welby story as his springboard; the first came admist the right-to-die activist's Christmas Eve funeral in Rome, which was denied an ecclesiastical venue and drew a crowd of thousands.

Back in the States, the ongoing ideological and political battle for the soul of the Catholic pro-life movement continues as yet another new group shows up and fires away at the church's dominant tenor on the issue:

As a lifelong member of the Catholic Church who could reasonably be considered a traditional, anti-abortion, pro-life Catholic with nine children and eighteen grandchildren, I find the "Pro-Life" Movement and march on Washington increasingly troublesome. The uneasiness is with the ever more glaring hypocrisy of its leadership and that of the Catholic hierarchy.

The resounding silence of the "Pro-Life" camp, the Catholic Bishops and clergy in the face of daily horrendous violence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine is a scandal beyond belief. Massacre of innocent civilians, women and children, use of cluster bombs to kill, dismember and mutilate, and now even torture, continue without a murmur of protest or discernable concern....

It is becoming evident that a major source of the spiritually convenient silence of Catholic leadership is the negative influence of faith based initiative and similar government as well as direct political party funding -- notably from the Republican party to the National Right to Life Committee -- that has so effectively purchased the Catholic vote along with the support of the American Hierarchy. However, the loss of credibility of the American Church is far too costly a trade for just thirty pieces of silver.

Such Catholic "Pro-Life" rhetoric as "respect for life" and "the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death" becomes tragically silly. We hear that the Movement plans to change hearts and minds. It certainly is doing that, unfortunately, not favorably.
And from the other end, a Salesian priest in Nancy Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco has called out the Democratic House Speaker on her pro-choice stance.
Nancy, you are fooling yourself and I fear fooling many good Catholics. You are simply not in sync with the Catholic Church. Until you change your non-Catholic positions, you should stop calling yourself Catholic. Your record shows that you support embryonic stem cell research, Planned Parenthood, contraception, family planning funding, allowing minors to have an abortion without parental consent, and are against making it a crime to harm a fetus, etc. etc.

The fact that you favor married priests and women priests certainly would not classify you as conservative, but your answer to the question are you a conservative Catholic was: “I think so. I was raised in a very strict upbringing in a Catholic home where we respected people, were observant, were practicing Catholics, and that the fundamental belief was that God gave us all a free will, and we were accountable for that, each of us. Each person had that accountability, so it wasn’t for us to make judgments about how people saw their responsibility and that it wasn’t for politicians to make decisions about how people led their personal lives; certainly, to a high moral standards, but when it got into decisions about privacy and all the rest, then that was something that individuals had to answer to God for, and not to politicians.”

That sounds fair and tolerant, but your record belies high moral standards.

The NARAL rates you 100% pro-abortion. Your statement: “To me it isn’t even a question. God has given us a free will. We’re all responsible for our actions. If you don’t want an abortion, you don’t believe in it, [then] don’t have one. But don’t tell somebody else what they can do in terms of honoring their responsibilities. My family is very pro-life. They’re not fanatics and they’re not activists. I think they’d like it if I were not so vocally pro-choice.”

Do we not elect politicians to make laws that help people honor their responsibilities, such as protecting life itself? Can politicians not tell someone else not to kill? If you can kill a baby in the womb, Nancy, why not outside of it? Oh wait, you are in favor of partial birth abortion, so-called because the baby sticks out of the “mother” about halfway, while the “doctor” sucks out the baby's brain. That seems comparable to the choice the Nazis made killing six million Jews.

Yes, Nancy, we (together with your pro-life family) would all like it if you were not so vocally pro-choice, i.e. pro-death. Until your choice is in line with Catholic doctrine, please, Nancy, do not receive the Eucharist when you attend Mass.
For the record, more arguing + more rhetoric ¬ (i.e. doesn't =) more progress. But it seems the battle has been joined, so there's nothing really left to say aside from the hope that, on all sides, the participants respect not only the human dignity of the object of their statements, but also their recipients. The stakes being what they are, this is an obligation and responsibility we can't evade if we really seek to perform the task as to achieve our desired effect.

That those who wish to speak in the name of the church may engage in a manner which reflects the dignity of our teachings, with fidelity both to their substance and to the standards they impel us to follow, let us pray and let us work.

Reuters/Chris Helgren