John Adams, Second President of the United States, declared, "You have rights antecedent to all earthy governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."
What is the first responsibility of those in government? It is to recognize their place. They are guardians of rights which pre-exist them and the government itself. Some say the government should not be involved in the abortion decision. They do not realize how right they are. The government got "too involved" in the issue when it decided in Roe vs. Wade that it could deprive the unborn of their right to life. Now, government must step back and realize that it does not have the authority to either bestow or take away the unalienable right to life. The goal here is not simply to have all abide by the norm. It is, rather, to recognize that the norm is beyond the power of any government or political party to change.
Government leaders, furthermore, must lead. While forging a consensus is a key part of political activity, there are some fundamental issues of justice that cannot wait for a consensus. When a segment of the human family is being put to death legally, the leaders cannot wait for enough people to agree that the victims should be protected.
The Holy Father and our bishops have commented on the responsibility and destiny of America in this regard:
"Every human person - no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society - is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival - yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn" (Pope John Paul II at the Detroit Airport on 19 September, 1987).
"As we tinker with the beginning, the end and even the intimate cell structure of life, we tinker with our own identity as a free nation dedicated to the dignity of the human person. When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting. We are arguably moving closer to that day" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 4).
"In a striking way, we see today a heightening of the tension between our nation's founding principles and political reality. We see this in diminishing respect for the inalienable right to life and in the elimination of legal protections for those who are most vulnerable. There can be no genuine justice in our society until the truths on which our nation was founded are more perfectly realized in our culture and law" (ibid., n. 14).
Priests for Life will send complimentary copies of Living the Gospel of Life and Faithful Citizenship, along with camera-ready bulletin inserts based on these documents, to anyone who requests them. Contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448, 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; email: firstname.lastname@example.org