For many of us, the word “Pope” has only referred to one man. I certainly don’t remember the brief pontificate of John Paul I, which ended when I was less than two months old.
My entire life has been in the era of John Paul II, now celebrating the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. Also, many of us have also never known any time besides the era of Roe v. Wade. In my life, at least, states and legislatures have always been shackled when it comes to trying to save the unborn.
John Paul II sees abortion and similar attacks on the value of human life as not only a violation of Catholic and biblical teaching, but also nakedly immoral and objectively destructive to peace, freedom and human society as a whole.
In his 1995 letter, Evangelium Vitae, or the Gospel of Life, the Pope appeals to all good people–religious or not–to reverse the course of our society and its erosion of human life.
To celebrate the Pope, all thoughtful people who believe in freedom, individual rights or the value of life, ought to consider John Paul II’s arguments. He writes:
The Gospel of life is not for believers alone: it is for everyone. … The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.
Abortion in the U.S. has casualties beyond even the one million children who are killed each year before seeing the light of day. Evangelium Vitae makes it clear that widespread abortion is “both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline.”
How can a society that condones killing so many of its innocent and defenseless begin to articulate any sort of moral truth? John Paul II writes that as a result of our aborting culture, “conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.”
In other words, to justify the institution of abortion, as a society we turn to our screaming conscience and shout, “shut up!” We do this again and again until we have cowed it. Or we begin to recast the conscience–the internal voice of natural law–as some inhibition to be shrugged off.
The effect of browbeating and vilifying our conscience is vast, as is the fallout of denying the value of individual life.
Like a bully who targets the weakling because he neither can defend himself nor has allies who will be outraged by offenses against him, the worst parts of our society are attacking life at its vulnerable beginning and its frail end.
It is tricky for many libertarians or libertarian-sympathizers (such as myself) to make a coherent argument as to why assisted suicide should be outlawed. John Paul II at least makes it clear that it should be denounced and discouraged.
Once we enter to the calculus of which lives are worth living and which are not, we are reaching beyond our human capabilities and engaging in moral cannibalism.
We are working our way, the Pope argues, towards “a veritable ‘culture of death’.” We are a society, he says, “excessively concerned with efficiency,” which manifests itself as “a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden.”
This brutal utilitarianism–weeding out those who will take more than they will give–combined with a dash of racism is why we find abortion clinics so often in poor, black, inner-city neighborhoods. In America, black children are three times as likely to be killed before birth as are white kids.
Racism, obsession with efficiency and a boomer-era refusal to let others inconvenience us have led us to our current culture of death. Despite the current landscape, though, there are reasons to hope. In fact, compared to the fights to limit government growth, cripple terrorism, and restore federalism, the struggle to drastically curb abortion may be the most winnable cause for the right.
The anti-abortion struggle, though, would be aided by being more legitimately pro-life. In other words, enemies of abortion should embrace John Paul II’s message and the whole culture of life.
This means opposing war and the death penalty–two topics on which the right’s voices have not been the most pro-life. While leftists are wrong who charge with hypocrisy anti-abortion pro-death penalty conservatives, their objections do reflect some truth.
If capital punishment is not necessary as an act of self-defense–and these days, with very reliable prisons, it seems it is not–killing the imprisoned unnecessarily coarsens us to death. When we root for criminals to die, it plants in our heart a seed of the culture of death.
Embracing abortion, euthanasia, war or execution makes it harder for us to see life’s true value. Defending any one of these makes it more difficult to articulate why any sort of violence is wrong.
The last quarter-century has been one of death–but with the brave bold voice of John Paul II as the dissent. Let us make life, and John Paul II’s message, flourish in the next 25 years.
Tim Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire