Before the Cross | Life is sacred; human life, inviolable

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

The most fundamental value of human life is the dignity of every human person. Nothing is more important than our awareness that life is sacred, and that human life is inviolable, because all are made in the image and likeness of God. No one has the right to take a human life arbitrarily.

A civilization experiences a severe moral crisis when it permits, or even encourages, the arbitrary taking of human life. Culture exists to build up human society, to protect individual freedom and to help every human person develop and grow to his or her full potential. A culture that condones practices that are anti-life (abortion, euthanasia, slavery, racism, sexism, domestic violence and other forms of abusive behavior) is a culture of death, an anti-culture. No society can remain healthy if it permits (or promotes) self-destructive, anti-life practices.

Without question, the most serious crime against the dignity of human life is abortion. As Blessed John Paul II taught in his encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae," the unborn child is totally innocent and relies absolutely on the protection and care the child receives from his or her mother.

Did you know that in 2009 (the most recent year for which statistics ar available) nearly 5,000 unborn children lost their lives as a result of legal abortions in our archdiocese? I pray for these innocent victims of our society's severe moral crisis. I also pray that those who are responsible will see the light and put an end to this abhorrent practice now!

We don't have comparable statistics for other anti-life practices, but we know that they are increasing. The elderly and those who are chronically ill are increasingly threatened by attitudes that are anti-life and by practices that reduce human life to pragmatic standards of "utility" and "quality" that have no place in the estimation of human value.

As women and men of faith, we are challenged to speak out. We must let it be known that we will not tolerate the blatant (and subtle) offenses against human dignity that are increasingly considered "normal" in our society.

What can we do to defend life?

• Pray. I believe that if every Catholic in the Archdiocese of St. Louis would pray for life -- for an end to practices that destroy life -- at least once every day, the results would be overwhelmingly positive. Prayer is a powerful weapon against evil. We must use this weapon to its full potential -- now!

• Speak. We cannot afford to be silent about the threats we face today. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors. Write to legislators and other government officials. Protest against the violence and inhumanity happening in our communities every day.

• Act. Give witness in your daily life to the fundamental value of human life. Be kind and gentle. Promote peace rather than discord. Vote in accordance with your informed conscience.

All human life is sacred -- from the moment of conception to the experience of natural death. Every one of us is a child of God, made in His image and likeness. We are endowed by our Creator with fundamental rights -- beginning with the right to life. We are also responsible for our own lives and for the lives of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Pray, speak and act. Proclaim with your lives and your words that no human person is expendable. All are important. All are wanted and loved by God and by the members of His family, the Church.

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