Support, in word and deed, the dignity of human life
by Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, D.D.
Bishop of Fargo
- On Nov. 4, 2008, the United States witnessed an historic event in the election of the first African-American president. With his election as president we have seen our nation take great strides forward in the civil rights movement and the rights for all peoples regardless of race. I congratulate President-elect Barack Obama and assure him of my prayers and the prayers of the faithful of the Diocese of Fargo in the immense responsibilities that he will undertake as president. One of those prayers will be for the conversion of his heart and mind to recognize the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death and the truth that no government has the right to legalize abortion. In his acceptance speech on Nov. 4, President-elect Obama stated, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” I pray that President-elect Obama will listen when it comes to the question of the unborn and not impose the intrinsic evil of abortion on the consciences of so many who know the truth that abortion is the destruction of a unique innocent human being. The President-elect in his voting record and his speeches has revealed that he is one of the strongest supporters of legalized abortion, as well as the “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA). In this he directly opposes the divine law of God concerning the dignity of each human life, and so he strongly disagrees with the position of the Catholic Church. On a purely political level, he even disagrees with the majority of Americans, who at least want some limits on abortion. The Church, and most especially bishops and priests, will need to make the teaching of the Church known to every Catholic.
- The Catholic Church teaches throughout her history the truth of the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. This truth was recognized by our country until 1973 with the decision of Roe v. Wade. Today this truth is known even more clearly through reason and science. Every one of our lives began at the same moment: when an egg and sperm came together in our mother’s womb, formed one cell, and began to divide. It is truly marvelous and beautiful when you observe the truth through the technology of modern science.
- Throughout the last several months I have been surprised and saddened at how little some Catholics know and accept the teaching of the Church on the matter of abortion. As a bishop I have received mail from Catholics with diverse complaints. Some state that I haven’t spoken forcefully enough and that it is my fault that the truth about abortion is not clearly taught in parishes. Others write and state that they are Catholic and prochoice, and see themselves as faithful to Christ and the Church. Catholics need to promote the Gospel of Life and understand, as Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors have made definitive and clear, that the question of the moral legality of abortion is nonnegotiable. It is always and everywhere wrong, and this moral truth must be enshrined in law in every civil society.
- Most know that since the Church defends each human life, she must teach against abortion. However, some believe that it is possible to be a faithful Catholic and be pro-choice. This is impossible. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, which means that in no circumstance is it permitted nor may it ever be supported, even as a means to a good end. No Catholic can be faithful to Jesus Christ and the Church and support an intrinsicevil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church names several intrinsic evils or disorders, and I urge all Catholics to study these. Certainly the most serious is the destruction of innocent human life, such as abortion (CCC 2270-72), euthanasia (CCC 2277), the intentional killing of non-combatants in war and genocide (CCC 2313). Catholics must come to understand that every intrinsic evil undermines the dignity of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God and must never be condoned or supported.
- The fundamental right to life is essential to all other rights (CCC 2273). Therefore the right to life, from the moment of conception until natural death, is the first among all rights and the first issue that must be taken into consideration, acted upon and protected. The Bishops of the United States spoke of this in their 2007 document on faith and public life, “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many” (Faithful Citizenship 28).
- Catholics, regardless of their affiliation with a political party, must always support the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and they must enact good laws which do so. Thus Catholics, be they judges, politicians, or voters, who support Roe v. Wade or “assisted suicide” by any type of legislation or candidate, place themselves outside of the law of God and the Church each time they vote in support of so-called abortion rights or rights to die. Each Catholic who is a member, works for or donates to a political party has the obligation to transform party platforms, to put forward candidates who respect life, and to avoid cooperation in advocating abortion through either platform policies or candidates who oppose life.
- Some Catholics in the separation of their faith from decisions in the political order abandon God and embrace secular atheism. Secular atheism goes hand in hand with secular humanism, namely, the idea that man alone can order society and the common life of the human race and that God has no part in this order. Secular humanism can never flourish, because the moment society abandons God’s law it also abandons humanity. Abandoning the truth is directly opposed both to our ideals as Christians and to the founding principles of our country as seen in the Declaration of Independence which acknowledges the “laws of nature’s God” and “the Creator.”
- Every faithful Catholic has a responsibility to promote the teachings of the Church in the world and to live them out.
- Being faithful to the call and mission given to us by God can never be limited to Sunday worship, but requires the surrender of our complete and entire lives. If we are faithful Catholics, everything we do will be influenced by our relationship with God, his truth, his love and his constant inspiration. If we withhold the beauty and truths about human life from our nation’s laws, we diminish our society.
- Regardless of which political party a Catholic belongs to, he or she must work tirelessly for life and the protection of the unborn child.
- My fervent prayer for this Thanksgiving is that every Catholic and every person of good will might come to know the truth of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death and support this truth both in word and deed.