God Thunders, "This is a Child!"
Cardinal Justin Rigali on the forthcoming US Presidential Election.
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Our own common sense tells us that not every issue is of the same importance. At various times in history, a people or nation is confronted with an issue that transcends others in importance and that demands a courageous response.The transcending issue of our day is the intentional destruction of innocent human life, as in abortion. We wish with all our hearts that no candidate and no party were advocating this heinous act against the human person. However, since it is a transcending issue, and even supported in its most extreme and horrific forms, we must proclaim time and time again that no intrinsic evil can ever be supported in any way, most especially when it concerns the gravest of all intrinsic evils: the taking of an innocent life.
We bishops of Pennsylvania quoted from the late Pope John Paul II’s Post Synodal Exhortation on the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful and I quote him again here: “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles Laici, 38).
At this moment in our country’s history, defense of innocent human life is a moral responsibility for all of us. The same God who thundered from Mount Sinai: “Thou shalt not kill,” thunders still. When life in the womb is destroyed, God thunders: “This is a child!” When by the most barbaric means, unworthy of any civilized people, the brain of a child is sucked out of his or her head by a vacuum, God thunders: “This is a child!” When a baby is left to die of exposure on a shelf because of a failed abortion, and this is considered a “right” by any leader, God, the Source of all law and authority, thunders: “This is a child!” When we are faced with every modern means of education and communication, in addition to the law placed in our hearts at creation, no one, and most especially, no Catholic, can ever say: “I did not know.”
The human dignity that we proclaim works two ways: it affords us a great privilege but it also demands a responsibility. The feeble defense “I did not know” cannot be used by any responsible person in our time when confronted with the reality of abortion. We do know. We know because we can reason and think and see. Along with this position, which is confirmed by modern science, comes a command: “Thou shalt not kill.” It is not a question of politics but a question of the gravest of intrinsic evils; and just as the reality of what it is cannot be explained away, neither can our responsibility.
Throughout our history, Catholics have earned their right to call themselves patriotic Americans. Faithful citizenship not only includes dying for one’s country or working towards its prosperity, it also includes being faithful to a law which is higher than the expediency of the moment with the same generosity of body and heart, and the same courage that is given on the battlefield and in the workplace. We remind ourselves of this as we continue to be called to faithful citizenship and respect for life in the “earthly city” without forgetting that we are ultimately called to live as citizens of heaven forever.