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Cultivating openness to life: As we prepare to March for Life in Ottawa and across Canada

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

May 9, 2011
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 in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.  In his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Truth in Charity), Pope Benedict XVI addresses clearly the dignity and respect for human life.  In paragraph #28 of the brilliant encyclical, we read:
Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards 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 towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help. By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.
Abortion resolves nothing.  It 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.
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.
The market push towards euthanasia
If we look carefully at the great dramas of the last century, we see that as free markets toppled Communism, exaggerated consumerism and materialism infiltrated our societies and cultures. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As Blessed John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.”
Euthanasia is to intentionally cause death by action or omission of an action, for allegedly merciful reasons. When people today speak about a "good death," they usually refer to an attempt to control the end of one's life, even through physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.  The mainstream media has caused great confusion about the topic of euthanasia and has been extremely deceptive in its portrayal of human suffering and compassion.
Most people who think that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legal are not thinking the whole issue through. They are thinking about personal autonomy and choice. They think about what it would be like to suddenly become incapacitated and consider such a life as undignified or worthless. Perhaps they consider severely disabled people as having no quality of life.  Our dignity and quality of life don’t come from what we can or cannot do. Dignity and quality of life are not matters of efficiency, proficiency and productivity.  They come from a deeper place– from who we are and how we relate to each other.  True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.
What is wrong with abortion, euthanasia, embryo selection, and embryonic research is not the motives of those who carry them out. So often, those motives are, on the surface, compassionate: to protect a child from being unwanted, to end pain and suffering, to help a child with a life-threatening disease. But in all these cases, the terrible truth is that it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak; human beings therefore become instruments in the hands of other human beings.
Blessed John Paul II showed us true dignity in the face of death. He was an icon of the Gospel of Life.  Rather than hide his infirmities, as most public figures do, he let the whole world see what he went through in the final phase of his life.  He became a living "argument" for the appeal to respect the most frail and vulnerable, whom he upheld during his pontificate.  In our youth-obsessed culture, the Holy Father reminded us that aging and suffering are a natural part of being human. Where the old and infirm are so easily put in homes and forgotten, the Pope was a powerful reminder that the sick, the handicapped and the dying have great value.  He taught us how to live, to suffer and to die.  He taught us how to love and cherish life from conception to natural death.  May Blessed John Paul II continue to bless us and watch over us from the window of the Father’s house, as we strive to transform the culture of death into a true culture of life.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World