Although American society is still firmly in the grip of "the culture of death," there are signs that it is loosening, said the associate national director of Priests For Life here on Oct. 10.
Father Richard M. Hogan, author and diocesan priest from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was in Olpe at the invitation of Father Timothy Haberkorn, pastor of St. Joseph Parish here and St. Mary Parish, Hartford, and the Respect Life committees of the two parishes.
Father Hogan noted a number of indicators showing pro-life progress. One is a poll of college woman showing lessening support for abortion. Another is a slight national decline in the number of abortions. A third is that there are fewer practicing abortionists and their median age is on the rise. Still another is strong opposition to partial-birth abortion in Congress. Finally, he noted that there is a simmering outrage over the misuse of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (organized crime statute) against pro-life activists.
For his presentation, "The Culture of Life vs. the Culture of Death." Father Hogan drew on Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical "Evangelim Vitae." He said the papal letter identified four major errors that contribute to the "culture of death". Those errors are a false notion of freedom, a false notion of compassion, a lost sense of unity of the body and the person, and a lost sense of the divine.
Each of these errors is a distortion of a truth, he said. A profound example is how "choice" has become defined in society and the law as "whatever I want is good because I want it." When "choices" conflict, the issue in a truthless, valueless society is decided by pure, raw power.
"That's the freedom and truth problem," said Father Hogan. "Pope John Paul II (in "Evangelium Vitae") constantly goes back to this. Don't be deceived by this. Choice is a God-given, privilege, but it doesn't mean we can establish reality and truth. Some choices are right and some are wrong, and the law has the right to establish what is right for the protection of human life.
In a question-and-answer session following his talk, Father Hogan touched on pro-life progress in the areas of law and society. Progress in the U.S. Supreme Court is problematic because the justices have traditionally been reluctant to go against precedent, he said. Progress in the U.S. Congress is problematic because its pro-life laws are vetoed by President Clinton. Overall, however, there is slow and steady progress in both areas of the court and Congress.
Prospects are much better in society, he said. Eventually, changes in society result in changes in the law. All Catholics are obligated to take some part in the overthrow of the "culture of death," said Father Hogan, and the very least Catholics can do is to pray for a change of heart on the part of all who support or promote legalized abortion.
We have to change hearts," he said. "That's the work we must engage in. It's not an option."
Father Hogan gave his pro-life message at St. Joseph School, Olpe, and during Masses at St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes. Approximately 50 people attended his Sunday afternoon talk at the Olpe Knights of Columbus Hall, including some Methodist youths and Rev. Don Barb, pastor of Olpe United Methodist Church.
"I really appreciate the moral stand and moral leadership that the Catholic Church is providing," he said. "I really appreciate what (Father Hogan] said about working to change laws - that, wouldn't happen unless we change hearts.''