By John-Henry Westen

SYDNEY, July 17, 2008 ( – In his address to the hundreds of thousands of youth who welcomed him at Barangaroo, Sydney Harbour today, Pope Benedict XVI issued one of the strongest challenges he has yet made to work for the right to life of unborn children.  “How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?” he said.

During his address to the young people, the Holy Father remarked on the natural beauty of Australia, leading into a short discourse on the need to be good stewards of the environment – an issue the younger generations have vigorously been schooled in.  The Pope then turned his greater attention to the “social environment,” urging the youth to care for this environment, which is created by man and which the Pope noted is “the apex of God’s creation.”

“Perhaps reluctantly we come to acknowledge,” he said, “that there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption.”  He then continued: “And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment – the habitat we fashion for ourselves – has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss.”

He noted problems, such as “alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment.”

The Holy Father returned to the theme of the “social environment” in the powerful conclusion to his remarks.  He said: “But what of our social environment? Are we equally alert to the signs of turning our back on the moral structure with which God has endowed humanity? Do we recognize that the innate dignity of every individual rests on his or her deepest identity – as image of the Creator – and therefore that human rights are universal, based on the natural law, and not something dependent upon negotiation or patronage, let alone compromise?”

In the end, Pope Benedict offered a summary statement, which cuts to the heart of the liberal vs. faithful Catholic debate. While left-leaning Catholics do concern themselves with important ‘social justice’ issues, they eschew or minimize fighting for the right to life of the unborn, equating abortion with unemployment, poverty or environmentally damaging mining practices.  Faithful Catholics, however, while recognizing the importance of caring for the poor, the environment and peace, understand that the right to life is preeminent.

“The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable,” he said.

See the full speech by the Pope here:


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