Note: The following comments were adapted from a speech given on May 12, 2012 as part of Italy’s March for Life weekend celebration.
In the defense of life, it is absolutely essential that we are committed to the abolition of all laws and judicial decisions that would permit even a single abortion. But we have to look further ahead to protect in an integral way the whole of human life from its biological beginnings until natural death. The same logic of dominion over life that leads to abortion serves as justification for euthanasia, assisted suicide, as well as contraception and artificial means of fertilization. If a person is capable of deciding on the life or death of the baby in the womb, that person could also make these same decisions over the life of a dying or disabled person under his or her legal care.
Nobody owns his life; no one has the right to euthanasia or assisted suicide. No one has the right to judge if the life of a human person is “not worthy of being lived” and should thus be eliminated.
Behind an apparently compassionate approach to the sufferings of a person that is dying, there is often a strong economic motivation to save society of the expenses of keeping alive a person whose condition has been deemed terminal. Life is the property of the Creator, so only He may decide the time of its beginning and the time of its conclusion; thus neither abortion or euthanasia, suicide, assisted suicide nor any form of artificial conception where human persons decide the time of the beginning or the end of life are permissible.
We have to protect the family which is the cradle of life and encourage generosity with life at a time of demographic winter. We should do everything possible to guarantee children their natural right of being born in a stable family, constituted by a man and woman, and their right to be conceived in natural fashion and not artificially.
The struggle to protect life is closely related to the acceptance or the rejection of the fullness of the Way, the Truth and Life that was brought to the world through the incarnation of the Eternal Word. John Paul II in Centesimus annus, demonstrates that a society cannot live without God in the emptiness of atheism. He finishes this analysis indicating how the Kingdom of God has to have a concrete effect in the life of society, enlightening it and penetrating it with the energies of grace. In light of these principles we can understand the gravity of Italian Law 194 of May 22, 1978 that legalized abortion and of the Law 40 of February 19, 2004 that legalized artificial fertilization. We cannot be in agreement with those that are of the view that Law 194 has to be applied in a correct way as a means of limiting the number of abortions. The first article of this law is totally ambiguous. It states that, “The Republic…. Protects human life from its beginning.” But right away we can ask: who between the partisans of this law is ready to define the beginning of life as its biological beginning? We can try to limit the damages caused by this law applying article 73 of Evangelium vitae, but we can never accept the ideological foundations of the Italian abortion law.
The Italian law that legalizes artificial fertilization is the consequence of view of life in which men think everything he wants to do is licit. Some see this as a consequence of the Enlightenment, but really behind it we have the old demonic temptation that led our first parents to think they could be like God and become the Lords of everything created, instead of accepting that man is only a temporary administrator of a spiritual and material reality that has been entrusted to him during his life on this earth.
Behind this law there is a view in which children are not seen as a gift from God but as a right. This frame of mind of dominion over life is a grave evil in itself, but we also have to be keenly aware of its immediate consequences, which are the death of thousands of newly conceived babies, because many are rejected at implantation in the womb of the mother due to the unnatural means of implantation. There are sources that indicate that in this way more than eighty percent of the embryos produced artificially die before being born.
There is a connection that can never be taken away between the unitive and procreative meanings of the sexual act; this connection should not be broken by man. Artificial fertilization separates procreation from sexuality, and in certain way there is a relation between a contraceptive frame of mind and artificial fertility because we can say it is the reverse.
The defense of life is a fundamental part of building up the common good of society, as John Paul II taught us:
To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.” Then John Paul II adds with sober realism, “There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every person’s dignity and without respect for his rights.
A central element of the common good is the active protection of life as part of a commitment to establish a just and well-organized society under the Social Kingship of Christ, where Faith would be lived with a deep love of the truth, and as a consequence all the social and economic resources should be properly managed to assure a social and economic growth in real terms. A fundamental element in this struggle to establish the common good is generosity with life, because selfishness with life is the consequence of the lack of hope, which is in turn due to a lack faith. This lack of faith and hope leads directly or indirectly to abortion, euthanasia and all sorts of aggressions against the family. This happens also because without a hopeful and strong view of the future grounded in the faith it is difficult to make the permanent commitment which is the essence of marriage. A lived faith would encourage the generosity of families with life and a healthy socioeconomic policy would give them the necessary material security to carry forward their mission.
In the missionary presentation of the faith we should make a courageous and integral effort to communicate the teachings of the Church on life and family, demonstrating how all of them are bound together, and the abandonment of one of them leads to an attack on the others. These teachings are strongly opposed by a world dominated by relativism and hedonism, but without these it impossible to lead a happy and well integrated life. These obstacles should not discourage us, because nothing is impossible with God who always wishes our salvation.
Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro is the executive director of Human Life International’s Rome office. This article reprinted with permission from hliworldwatch.org