ROME, May 16, 2013 ( – The duty to defend innocent human beings from the mortal threat of abortion and other attacks is a central part of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, a prominent Italian bishop told an audience of pro-life activists last weekend. 

Giampaolo Crepaldi, Archbishop of Trieste, added that in order to fulfil this vital role, the Church must be free to act in the public sphere. 

The influence of the Church, Crepaldi said, “is not only about the interiority of individuals, but expresses the kingship of Christ in the temporal order and anticipates the recapitulation of all things in Him, Alpha and Omega.” 


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Catholic Church proposed as the foundation of its social doctrine the concept of the Social Reign of Christ the King, saying that Jesus Christ is not only the ruler of individual souls but of the temporal, social, political and economic institutions they create. It is this concept that Crepaldi said underlies the Church’s understanding of its role in the public sphere. 

Without the public dimension, he said, the faith is reduced to a “gnosis” or private knowledge of individuals, “a sect” which provides nothing more than “psychological reassurance.” “The kingship of Christ has a spiritual meaning, certainly,” he said, “but it also has cosmic and social meaning.” 

But “faith is not a substitute for reason” he added, reiterating a theme of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. “If there is no natural order there is no public reason; if there is no public reason, there is no public dialogue between reason and faith. If there is no public dialogue between reason and faith, there is no public dimension of the Catholic faith.” 

“That’s why the theme of the defense of human life from conception is crucial to maintain and to develop the dialogue between reason and faith. And, as you know, in this consists the Social Doctrine of the Church.”

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Archbishop Crepaldi, speaking at the Marcia per la Vita Nationale conference a day prior to the Rome March, had previously served as Secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the office concerned with defining and pursuing “social justice” initiatives around the world. In his 20 minute keynote address, he said that the defence of human life is simply part of human nature, preceding religious considerations. 

The modern world in its laws and institutions refuses to consider anything but the strictly material aspect of man, but without the supernatural dimension, Crepaldi said, the door is opened to “the manipulation of life”. 

“The purpose of the defence of life is to defend life, but it is also creating a cultural alternative to the current culture: to start talking of a [universal natural] order and not only to self-determination.” 

He traced the current disintegration of the social realm to the disintegration of philosophy since the 18th century “Enlightenment,” the philosophical revolution that denied the authorship of a personal Creator. It has led finally to the “cultural understanding of reality that no longer expresses a design but only a sequence of material causes,” he said. 

Our culture, Crepaldi said, has “lost the idea of ends,” the concept, called “teleology” by philosophers, that things like sex and gender have their ultimate purposes built into their nature: “It started to lose it when [Rene] Descartes interpreted the world as a machine and God as the one who gave a kick to the world. The principle of causality, which in classical philosophy was related to the concept of purpose, is disconnected.” 

Our culture, he said, has “eliminated the ontological,” in denying that there is such a thing as an inherent nature that has built-in purpose. But without this concept, he said, “there is no room for moral good”. 

“Moral order is rooted in the ontological order that also belongs to human society. That’s why the theme of the defense of life is central to the construction of a human society worthy of the natural and supernatural dignity of the person.” 

“Nature reveals the Creator,” he continued. “When you try to unplug nature from the Creator you end up losing even nature. When you want to disconnect from the natural right, divine right, you end up losing even the natural law.” 

“Only if there is such a thing as a nature, and only if this nature is in itself the foundation of discourse, is the use of reason possible… Only if the social order is based on a similar nature is it possible to use public reason.

“It is understandable then why it is of fundamental importance to the defense of life to reconstruct the very possibility of the public use of reason. And in fact – we see it – the denial of public duty to protect unborn life is born from a desertion of reason; of public reason reduced to private reason.”

Today we live in a “post-natural” culture, Crepaldi added, as is amply demonstrated by “the perverse ideology of gender” that proposes that human beings can decide what “gender” they are and change it according to their own will. 

The central role of the Church, he continued, is to ensure that the concept of teleological ends is not lost. “Reviving a culture of defense of life means then also recovering the culture of nature and culture of [teleological] ends.”