By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Over the past month the darkness of the abortion industry has been brought into the light of day in chilling and often gruesome detail. Videos portrayed the reality of abortion, the direct assault upon human life in the earliest stages, as well as the flippant and casual attitude of Planned Parenthood executives pricing the remains.
There are many who do not want to view this repulsive reality because it is hard to fathom the descent into barbarity that has occurred in sectors of our society, a fact that Saint Pope John Paul II called the Culture of Death more than 20 years ago in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor. Others, in their fanatical support for Planned Parenthood refuse to see the truth, recalling the words of Jesus in the third chapter of Saint John. “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his or her deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (Jn. 3, 20-21)
In Catholic social justice teaching, the first of seven principles, given priority of place, is The Life and Dignity of the Human Person. This has been a long-standing commitment of the Catholic Church, and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops teaches as follows: “Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia.”
People of reason and good faith should be able to come to a greater consensus that the destruction and selling of the unborn is a very brittle pillar for any claim for a moral vision of society. The “throwaway culture” so often deplored by Pope Francis, has once again raised its ugly head.
For many years as a theology teacher at the junior high level in several Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Scranton, I taught human development to our young adolescents. An essential component of the curriculum was to learn about fetal development and the development of unborn life, along with the inseparable link between sexuality, sexual behavior, and the conception of a new life. In the late 80’s through the mid 90’s I used the video, “The Miracle of Life” that revealed the beauty and complexity of human life from the moment of conception to natural birth. The words of Psalm 139 could have been the narration throughout this hour long production. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139,13) In the state of such awareness, the Psalmist responds with great joy. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (14)
This is the reverence for life that Elizabeth rejoiced over when the baby leapt for joy in her womb in the presence of the author of all creation residing in the womb of Mary. This is the reverence for life that the Planned Parenthood executives and physicians are mocking in the recent expose. We all pay a price when human life becomes a means to an end, in this case, profit and experimentation. In this light, is human trafficking so surprising, or is it merely the next phase of exploitation and profit? To complete the circle, at the end of the life cycle, euthanasia disposes of the weak and infirm. Should we be aghast, or acquiescent to the logic of the culture of death that is crippling our reverence for human life, the crown of God’s creation? It’s the web of life, and in the words of the poet, John Dunne, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
As mentioned earlier, the Life and Dignity of the Human Person is the first principle of the Catholic Church’s social justice tradition. There are six other dimensions about which the Church is also passionate. We only have to look to the social justice work within our own diocese, past and present, to recognize these pro-life labors that give hope and new life to many who find life burdensome. But the intentional destruction of unborn human life can never be placed on the scales as inevitable collateral damage. The Church will continue to be a prophetic voice in our world, fighting the good fight and keeping the faith.
The unrelenting commitment of many in our Church and in our society on behalf of the pro-life cause for the unborn has not been in vain. Currently in the United States there are more than 3,000 pregnancy help centers that outnumber abortion clinics by six to one. This is a culture of life. I believe that one compelling reason for this trend is that modern technology has revealed the humanity of fetal life. From the moment of conception, human life is a complex wonder. In addition, medical advancements have rolled back viability outside the womb to under six months in some cases.
This is a crisis of conscience for many in our society, and pressure will be brought to bear to roll back the abortion industry that exploits women and their unborn life. The Catholic Church will be a strong voice towards this end. A critical part of this campaign for all of us is faithful prayer that is the fertile ground for conversion, and the inspiration for greater courage and creativity on behalf of those who have no voice. In the words of Saint Paul, “the Kingdom of Heaven is not about eating and drinking, but about justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14,17)
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz