TO RIGHT TO LIFE GROUP
December 18, 1987
Europe's true dignity lies in respect for the right to life
On Friday, 18 December, the Holy Father received in audience the participants in
a study conference on "The Right to Life and Europe'. He addressed them as
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. 1 am delighted to meet you on the occasion of the study conference being
held on "The Right to Life and Europe". I greet you all most warmly.
The theme which is at the heart of your reflections is of great importance
for the future of Europe, indeed, of every people and nation. Unconditional
respect for the right to life of the conceived but unborn human person is one of
the pillars sustaining every civil society. When a State places its institutions
at the disposal of those who may act to suppress the life of the unborn child,
it renounces one of its primary duties and its own dignity as a state. St Thomas
Aquinas, one of the greatest teachers of the European conscience, teaches that
civil law "has the force of law to the degree that it is just" (Summa
Theologica, 1-11, q. 95, a.
2). This justice, as the Angelic Doctor immediately explains, is founded on the
natural law itself, so that a law not in conformity with it "is not a law, but
the corruption of the law" (ibid.).
It is not necessary to have recourse to the Christian faith to understand
these fundamental truths. When the Church recalls them, it is not in an effort
to introduce a Christian State; she simply wishes to promote a human
State, a State which recognizes as its primary duty the defense of the
fundamental rights of the human person, especially of those who are weakest. And
who is weaker than an unborn child?
2. You have chosen to reflect
in particular on the right to life of the unborn and the destiny of Europe. It
is easy to note the flagrant contradiction existing between the legalization of
abortion, unfortunately in effect throughout almost all of Europe, and what
constitutes the greatness of European culture. This culture, whose principal
sources are found in its Greek and Latin heritage, has received from
Christianity the enlightening contribution which has allowed it to reach
superior heights. With Christianity, Europe has discovered the dignity of every
human person as such, a discovery which has made European culture an
eminently humanistic one. With its Latin roots, it has been a school of
law, understood as the rational organization of society upon the foundation of
justice. Heir to Greek culture, European culture has seen in the right use of
reason -- conceived as the capacity to grasp reality without allowing oneself to
be dominated by self-interest -- one of the clearest signs of man's greatness.
Into this incomparable cultural heritage the legalization of abortion as been
inserted as a foreign body, bearing within itself the seeds of corruption. How
is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when
the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what
justice is the most unjust of discriminations among persons practiced: the
declaration of some as worthy of defense and others as lacking that dignity?
What sort of reason is at work here, if even for utilitarian or hedonistic
motives the elimination of an innocent human being is allowed? In truth, on this
issue Europe is risking her future destiny, because she is showing signs of
moral decay, and even of demographic impoverishment. She could thus see the
breakdown of a cultural patrimony passed on to her by illustrious thinkers,
great jurists and remarkable saints.
3. Your presence and your keen participation in these days of study, however,
show the seriousness and depth of your will to change the course of Europe. Do
not let your awareness of being a minority hinder you. The history of Europe
illustrates that often the great qualitative leaps of her culture have been
realized through the witness of individuals, often paid for with personal
sacrifice. Power lies in truth itself and not in numbers. Tomorrow's
Europe is in your bands. Be worthy of this undertaking. You are working to
restore to Europe her true dignity, that of being a place where the person,
every person, is affirmed in his incomparable dignity.
In invoking upon you the consolation of divine assistance, I bless you from
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion