A DEMOCRACY CANNOT VIOLATE THE MOST ELEMENTARY RIGHTS
Interview with Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo
February 3, 2000
VATICAN CITY, FEB 3 (ZENIT).- Cardinal Alfonso
Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has spent 10
years traveling to proclaim to the four corners of the world the most elementary
human message: life is the greatest gift of all, and the family is the best
place for it to be received with love. Before coming to Rome in 1990, to take up
his papal appointment to the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Lopez
Trujillo had been president of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and
Archbishop of Medellin, Colombia. Having spent many exhausting years serving the
cause of life, the Cardinal is in a privileged position to evaluate the current
state of the most basic of human rights.
Today, 5 years after the publication of "Evangelium Vitae," Cardinal Lopez
Trujillo painted a panorama of the world in which these issues are reflected, in
an interview in "Alfa y Omega" magazine.
-- In "Evangelium Vitae," John Paul II speaks about a confrontation
between the "culture of life" and "the culture of death." How do you define
-- CARDINAL LOPEZ TRUJILLO: Within the next few days, in the Vatican
Synod Hall, we will celebrate 5 years since the publication of that encyclical.
The celebration will be presided by the Holy Father, and it is being prepared
jointly by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for
Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The prophetic force of this encyclical is impressive. As is commonly known, an
extraordinary consistory of Cardinals asked for this document in 1990. In a
joyful announcement, the Holy Father embraced and launched with special vigor
the good news of life and the admiration and respect it deserves. He also made
appropriate denunciations of cases of violation of fundamental rights.
This proclamation, which fosters a deep-rooted awareness of the marvelous
gift of life, is called the "culture of life." It is something that, although
... in man's being, needs to be cultivated. We must help to form our
consciences, which have been silenced by the pressures, aggressions and
manipulations of the "culture of death." A good part of the future of humanity
is being decided in this struggle. It is also the test that will measure the
degree and depth of real human quality.
The challenges are great, but much greater and much wider are the horizons of
hope. This century must respect human dignity, which is threatened and violated.
Something very strange is happening, as we have seen in several international
congresses organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family. When we reflect
on the wealth of the defense of human rights and, specifically, on the U.N. 1948
Declaration, it is quite a victory, and yet we are struck by the contrast in the
widespread negation of fundamental rights, especially the most fundamental,
which is the right to life, ratified in the third article of that Declaration.
It is a negation of the universality and integrity on which the right rests.
The millions of victims of the crime of abortion (close to 50 million annually),
the most defenseless and innocent, constitute a huge open wound in the heart of
humanity. I am very surprised that some of the defenders of human rights and of
the struggle for liberty do not include this specific priority in their
programs. The unborn are the poorest of the poor, and nations must be respected
and supported when they are subjected to pressures that try to make a crime
appear as a right.
-- With extraordinary progress, day after day science demonstrates the
marvel of human life from the moment of conception. Moreover, one is profoundly
impressed by the unique relation that is created from the first moments between
a woman and the child she carries in her womb. And yet, proposals for the
legalization or extension of funding for abortions are there. In public opinion,
abortion continues to be seen as something "normal." To what do you attribute
-- CARDINAL LOPEZ TRUJILLO: The "legalization of abortion" is an
incoherence that wounds the conscience and that will be, without a shadow of a
doubt, a reason for shame in history. Just as today humanity is ashamed -- and
with very good reason -- of slavery and discrimination in this area, in the same
way, very soon, it will have to be ashamed of so much inhumanity, including
everything else that is part of the culture of death, expressed in legislation
that is iniquitous and permissive. This is legislation that contrasts with the
very achievements and revelations of science itself.
These attitudes persist, the result of confusion and of plans that will be
seen to be weak, and in some nations there is determination to aggravate the
situation. It ends up by becoming a political game that impoverishes democracy.
There is a desire to impose "a political truth" that is upheld by passing
parliamentary majorities, which are truly contingent. A "discipline" is often
imposed that replaces adequate information, dialogue, and is exalted as a new
juridical order and new morality. In his famous U.N. address in 1995, the Pope
pointed out the urgency of a grammar that is rooted in truths anchored in the
nature of men, a grammar that will allow dialogue and convergence, in order to
give humanity a new face.
Although there are new challenges and pressures, there are also conversions,
even of politicians, and victories in different nations. There are cultural and
life forces that are growing, getting stronger, and having more influence. It
would be too long to list them all. Everyone knows the extremely happy news of
the Congress of the United States' opposition to so-called "partial-birth"
abortion, which is a terrible process of inhumanity and cruelty. However, the
absolute will of the majority in Congress had no echo in President Bill Clinton…
Many politicians, scientists, etc., who were once pro-abortion no longer are;
this is also true of Parliaments themselves. Of course, the struggle is not
concentrated exclusively on abortion, or on other attempts against life, such as
euthanasia. The problem of the culture of life refers to a natural institution
that has life as the central mission -- the family. The mission of integral
procreation, which means education, acceptance, respect and care of life,
suffers a hard blow when the institution of matrimony is eroded, as happens in
"de facto unions." This is another serious and terrible confusion, which would
take more time to address properly.
The life of a child requires the gift of a stable home and today children are
great victims in this respect. What is at stake, no more and no less, is the
harmonious and integral development of the child who has the right to a real
-- Life is not only attacked in its first moments. It is also threatened
by two chilling phenomena: the death penalty and euthanasia. The latter is not a
new phenomenon. A few years ago very few people had the audacity to propose
euthanasia, as they could be accused of being Nazis, since the practice was
advocated by Hitler. How is it possible to be taking such a gigantic step
-- CARDINAL LOPEZ TRUJILLO: The whole problem rests in whether or not one
has a sound anthropology. The truth about the human person, his eminent dignity,
is at stake. Human beings -- the unborn, the terminally ill -- if not thought of
as persons in the image of God, as an end and not as a means, will not be
treated with the respect they deserve. When this is missing, everything falls
into the realm of the arbitrary. And there will be some who will grant
themselves the right to decide whether or not a life is worth living! The same
logic applies in all these areas. If the embryo is treated as a thing, not a
person, it can be manipulated; the patient will also be treated as a thing and
be denied the dignity of a person because his condition is considered
When human life is in circumstances of greater limitation, it needs greater
solidarity, care, and compassion. We cannot deny that some forms of conduct and
legislation are so arbitrary and immoral that they appear to be the fruit of
Some think the defense of life is a "confessional" topic, reduced or limited
to the concern of Catholics. But this isn't so! The values and fundamental
truths that are implied refer to all men, to the whole of humanity. It is also a
requirement of dialogue in truth. It is a dangerous precedent to "politicize"
truth. Democracy should be the best "soil" for love, respect and recognition of
life as the fundamental right.
Zenit News Agency