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Openness to life is at the centre of true development: A Reflection during the 40 Days for Life

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

April 12, 2011
Today we are living in the midst of a culture that denies solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”.  This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency.  It is a war of the powerful against the weak.  There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection.
Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society's promoters and defenders. It is important to recall Benedict XVI's words and all encompassing vision for life at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, on July 17, 2008:
And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?
The Roman Catholic Church holds a consistent ethic of life.  The Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person.  However, opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice.  Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Truth in Charity), the Holy Father addresses clearly the dignity and respect for human life "which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples."  Benedict writes, "In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress."
"Openness to life is at the centre of true development," writes the Pope. "When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away."
Pope Benedict sums up the current global economic crisis in a remarkable way with these words:  "Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs."
The Roman Catholic Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be “pro-life.”  Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice.  We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.
Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope.  Being Pro-Life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum.  It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre!  If we are Pro-Life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it.  We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us.  Being pro-life is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.
Many of the people who claim to be on the “left” work hard on matters of human and civil rights, respecting and upholding the dignity and freedom of others.  Their tireless work has included the protection of individual rights, and the efforts of government to care for the weak, sick and disadvantaged.  Why then are the extension to the unborn of the human right to life, and opposition to the culture of death, not central issues on the “left?”  They must be, for they are clearly matters of justice and human rights.
In September 2009, Cardinal Séan O’Malley wrote to the people of Boston these words:
If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us... Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski