The Value of Human Life
It’s a question on everybody’s mind: What’s wrong? How is all this happening? Where has this virus infecting our beloved country come from?
It’s a question on the minds of your pastors, us bishops, as we meet this week for our annual assembly.
What everybody seems to be talking about is the surge of violence, hate, bigotry, and bloodshed in our land. We mourn over the horror in Las Vegas, the slaughter at a church in Texas, the murderous ride of a fanatic running over bikers here in our own city of New York.
What’s gone wrong? I’ve listened to dozens of people ask that and propose a reply. Like you, I’ve read opinion pieces and heard reporters on TV and radio. The nation seems to be undergoing an examination of conscience.
A lot of explanations surface: racism; the easy availability of guns; Islamic extremism…
Perhaps the most eloquent attempt at an answer to that nagging question, “What’s gone wrong with our country,” came from a young woman during a recent meeting I had with hundreds of our college students active in our Catholic campus ministry.
Her rather simple, but quite profound explanation, was this: “We think human life to be cheap, a commodity to be used and thrown away. We think we have final say over the life of another person. Only God has that.”
Sounds like what Pope Francis terms a “throw-away culture.” Sounds contrary to what our founding fathers called the self-evident, God-given right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Think about what we have grown used to:
–when an extremist views innocent bike riders and pedestriansas enemies, to be run over and crushed to death just to make his vile point of hatred;
–when a demonic shooter can machine-gun simple worshippers at a country church because he was angry at his mother-in-law;
–when the baby in the womb can be aborted at will up to the moment of birth itself, with some leaders insisting that this be funded by taxes, and healthcare professionals forced to do it, even in violation of their own conscience;
–when the immigrant is savaged, caricatured, and blamed for all our problems, to be hounded, arrested, and sent home, leaving a family helpless behind;
–when innocents blown-to-bits by bombs, or poisoned by gas, are referred to as “collateral damage”;
–when blacks, Jews, the poor, the refugee, “the other” are taunted and harassed;
–when women are looked upon as objects to satisfy a man’s raw passions;
–when a husband or wife can break his/her promises and dismiss his wife or her husband for rather frivolous and “no fault” reasons, with kids left to wonder;
–when we can damage our own lives through abuse of alcohol, drugs, and opioids…
…then we soberly admit that, while we might be shocked, we cannot be surprised by chilling, recurring acts of violence.
The Holy Father often reminds us of the two rocks upon which the foundation of Catholic morals is structured: the innate dignity of the human person, who then deserves dignity and reverence; and the inviolable sacredness of human life.
No human person can be looked-upon as a means to an end; no human life can be viewed as an object at our disposal; no creature has the right to “play the creator” and decide who lives or dies.
From this moral vision comes what he calls solidarity, another rock in our moral foundation: we’re all in this together; we all are committed to the common good; we always ask how our decisions could have an impact on another; we have a special solicitude for the poor and weak.
The Church has something to say to the nation; people of faith can be a light in this dark period.