During our weekend Masses this month we are reminded that October is “Respect Life Month”. I presume that as Church-going Catholics we align ourselves fully with the Magisterium of the Church with regard to all life issues. God is the Giver of all life and as such, He alone is the ultimate arbiter of life and death decisions. We affirm with the universal Church that we respect life from natural conception to natural death.
During my doctoral studies, I surveyed Church-going Catholic students with regard to their attitude to abortion. As part of my course on public opinion I administered a questionnaire to 1,000 students at the University of Illinois at all Sunday Masses. To my total shock, I discovered that almost one-third of those students did not embrace totally the Church’s position. They subscribed to the opinion of mainstream American culture that maintains abortion to be a matter of choice rather than a matter of life. I guess that many young Catholics today align themselves more with popular opinion than with Church teaching.
Even though I am preaching to the choir, I would like to offer my thoughts on a couple of these issues. First of all, I am intrigued by the deep divisions that exist in our society with regard to these topics. Sometimes I am frustrated that the real substance is often confounded by rhetoric and semantics. Second, I believe that even well-meaning individuals sometimes fritter away their limited resources on futile enterprises instead of fighting battles that they can win. So much time and money are invested in trying to overturn Roe v Wade while the real battle should be conducted in the hearts of people.
First of all, all of us need to work towards a consistent moral perspective on life issues. There are people in this country who hug trees and protest product testing on animals but have no qualms of conscience over getting rid of a helpless human being. They refuse to wear fur and yet in their eyes the egg of a bald eagle is far more precious than a human fetus. These individuals will not allow their daughters to get a tattoo without their permission, but they object to laws that require parental notification in case of abortion. On the other side, there are certain individuals who fight abortion with all their might – and rightly so – and yet, they have no problem with the use of violence or war. They are also in favor of the death penalty.
In order to have a consistent moral perspective we must renounce the temptation to play God and decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die. God alone should make that decision. We must protect unborn babies and at the same time find ways to take care of babies after birth. We should care for the elderly, the disabled and the physically and mentally challenged. We must work to establish what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of life.”
Second, in recent years many sincere Christians have spent huge amounts of money, time and energy to overturn Roe v Wade and they have not succeeded. I do believe that we must make every effort to change the law. However, I am also sadly aware that outlawing abortion is not going to stop it. I am convinced that the battle over abortion will not be won in the halls of Congress or in the chambers of justice. It will be won in the hearts of people.
We need to educate our young people that sexuality is a fragile gift that should be used within the context of married love. The gift comes with great responsibility. We need to tell our young people that adoption is a worthy choice. We need to convince parents and families that they should accept their children when “mistakes” happen and support them in difficult times. We need a comprehensive Christian education in chastity. I am of the opinion that many of our problems in marriage and relationships are closely tied to the carefree use of sexuality prior to marriage. In addition, we need also to help Catholics develop a personal spirituality. For without a strong spirituality and prayer life it is not possible for someone to accept and live the Christian ideals of chaste love proposed by the Church.
Let us pray for an end to abortion. Let us pray that the culture of life will flourish in our nation and in our world. Let us pray that every human being will be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are. Let us pray that every human person will be protected and cherished from natural conception to natural death. Let us do all in our power to promote the culture of life.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...