By Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk
L’VIV – BRIUKHOVYCHI, Ukraine, April 19, 2012 (www.saskprolife.com) - Dear faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Roman Catholic Church, faithful beloved in Christ of other Christian Churches and Christian communities; to all people of good will who are not indifferent to the dignity of the human person and the future of Ukraine and her people. We address you concerning a very serious matter relating to threats to the life of the pre-born human being.
Each human being is the fruit of God’s love and the bearer of God’s image and likeness. (Genesis 1:27) Human life is holy and inviolable because we come from God and belong exclusively to Him. The high regard of the Creator for humankind is expressed in the categorical command of protection, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” (Deut 5:17) We already belong to God from the beginning of our pre-natal development within our mother’s womb; it is He who created all things in wisdom, and knows the lifespan a person will live, as written in the book of life. (see Psalm 139 (138), verses 13-16) The prohibition of abortion throughout the entire pregnancy is inherent in the meaning of this sacred transmission of life. It has been the constant teaching of the Church from her inception that the destruction of human life by means of abortion entails the sin of deliberate homicide. The person who intentionally commits abortion and who campaigns to make it an essential service, accessible for any reason, is a hypocrite before oneself and before God.
Theological arguments are just one of the reasons why the destruction of human life, conceived and beginning to develop, though pre-born, is impermissible. Such a defense of life is supported by the development of natural sciences and humanities. For example, from the perspective of philosophical anthropology, a human being is a person, that is a living creature endowed with intelligence, emotions, and free will, a being capable of conscious self-actualization, to be one’s own master, determining a freely chosen relationship with oneself and the world. Philosophically, a person possesses an incomparable dignity, and possesses fundamental, innate rights. As a person, a human being is radically exceptional among the created world: it is impossible for an evolution into personhood to occur in a being that was not already endowed with such a characteristic from the beginning. Therefore, from the moment of conception, inherent to that new and unique human being are the characteristics and dignity of personhood and irrefutable human rights, universally applicable to all people. Consequently, a person inherently possesses an inalienable right to life from the very beginning of one’s existence, namely conception, which remains an integral attribute until one’s natural, biological death.
Academic research conclusively indicates that human life begins at the moment of conception, defined as the fertilization of sexual elements provided by both parents. From this point forward and during every stage of prenatal development, this unique human individual already possesses, even as an embryo, all of the properties of a human being. Therefore, there is no fundamental difference between causing the intentional homicide of a pre-born human being compared with a person already born.
As a matter of jurisprudence, legal abortion means the legalized infringement of one’s right to life, the first and most fundamental among all inalienable rights; abortion is a corruption of guarantees written in the Constitution of Ukraine, namely, “the right to life of every person” (see statute 27, Constitution of Ukraine.) As a result, abortion is comparable to the crime of manslaughter, and revisions need to be made to the Criminal Code regarding punishment based on these similarities.
No human law can contradict a divine law of God. The government, constructing a “right” through abortion to deny life to an innocent human being, violates God’s commandment, “Do not kill.” As a result, the life of God’s grace within oneself is destroyed. It is a point of political theory that the role of government is to care for the general welfare of the country’s citizens, defending them against harm, regardless of the source of the criminal activity. If the government agrees with the evil and legalizes the activity, justifying their actions by stating that it is so widespread that resistance is futile, what has in fact happened is an identification with that evil, not neutrality but advocacy, an action which de-legitimizes the mandate of the government. The civilization in which the abortion of pre-born children is legal and unpunishable has become a “culture of death.” It has begun the “slippery slope” progression targeting new social groups including the weak and vulnerable: the sick, the elderly, and people of other races and nationalities…
It is the findings of medical science, especially from ultrasound tests and prenatal screening, that a baby killed in its mother’s womb experiences the same suffering as a born person tortured to death. Additionally, abortion causes harmful mental and physical side effects for all those involved in abortion: post-abortion syndrome in mothers as well as other members of her family and for doctors who execute the abortions; infertility problems; a variety of infections; mortality of women during and after abortion; survivor guilt in siblings born prior to or after the death of their brothers and sisters in their mother’s womb… From the point of view of medical ethics, an abortion is a distortion and defilement of the noble calling of the doctor whose task is to treat and save human life and not to destroy it through direct intervention.
Tragically, the crime of prenatal homicide is widespread in Ukraine. Ukrainian society is painfully aware of the harmful effects of abortions. According to a variety of research, there exist in Ukraine one million infertile couples, of which 868,000 is attributable to female infertility. Abortion is the cause of over 80% of this female infertility. According to the Bureau of Statistics, mortality rates in Ukraine exceed birth rates by nearly three times in several provinces. As a consequence, in the past few years the population of Ukraine has decreased by five million people, from 52 million down to 47 million. Since the legalization of abortion in 1955 by Nikita Khrushchev until the present time, there have been an average of 400,000 to 900,000 abortions annually, meaning that in the past 57 years the nation of Ukraine has lost nearly forty million of its own citizens; the equivalent of three times the number of victims of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933, the Holodomor. If this trend continues, then in the next few decades the Ukrainian nation will be on the brink of self-destruction. One of the main reasons for such a dramatic loss of population is the legalization of and government support for the destruction of innocent human being, namely abortion.
Macroeconomic theory and national security both require consistent and stable growth as healthy economic indicators, which can only come from sustained demographic growth. There is a cause and effect between economic growth and the well-being of society on the one hand and the birth of children on the other. They are the labourers of the future, replacing others as they enter retirement, who will contribute into the general pension funds and social security. Ukraine can become a major world power, but only if it reverses this trend towards the legalized homicide of children developing pre-natally within their mothers’ wombs.
We, the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, are convinced that it is time for profound reforms in response to the crisis in Ukraine that is the result of widespread abortion. It is our responsibility to awaken within the consciences of Christians the serious moral warning that those who consider abortion to be an acceptable solution to a difficult situation are wrong; we resolve to be unfaltering in our teaching about the Christian response to such sinful and disgraceful actions, and in a humble spirit of compassion extend a merciful hand of assistance. We are careful to explain that the culpability for the malfeasance of abortion extends beyond the individual mother: involved as well are the child’s father, the doctors, pharmacists, anyone who advocates the continued legalization of abortion and those who make abortifacients accessible to the public. We call upon the Government of Ukraine to make legal reforms that both guarantee the right to life of the pre-born human being and make abortion illegal. Inasmuch as women feel coerced into abortion due to difficult material and social predicaments, we exhort Ukrainian society to construct effective mechanisms for the protection of mothers. This protection would take the form of assistance to families, including single mothers, provision for financial subsidies at birth and aid throughout the years of raising children. Improvements are likewise needed to the system of adoption when mothers are unable to care for their children themselves. As we know, a high percentage of the nearly one million infertile married couples in Ukraine are eager to provide homes for these children.
We pray that our ever-merciful Lord extend to all of us a hand of assistance, and greatly bless our efforts, focused on eliminating the terrible phenomenon that is the homicide of children in their pre-natal stage of development.
Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk
Head and Father of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
The Year of Our Lord 2012
Editor’s note: “Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Ukraine: the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Conference of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine” was translated by Fr. Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk and is used with permission.