TO ITALIAN PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT, MAY 22, 1998
No State can justify killing the Innocent
"Concrete help and widespread
educational activity, which involve the entire ecclesial community, must be
accompanied by political efforts for the full recognition of the dignity and
rights of the unborn child and for the revision of laws that legalize its
suppression. No human authority, not even the State, can morally justify the
killing of the Innocent", the Holy Father said on Friday, 22 May 1998, to
8,000 members of the Italian Pro-Life Movement. The Pope pointed out that
"in the last 20 years no less than three and a half million babies were killed
with the approval of the law" in Italy alone, as he encouraged his listeners
to make every effort to defend the right to life of all. Here is a translation
of his address, which was given in Italian.
1. Welcome, dear Brothers and Sisters, members of the Pro-Life Movement.
You have come to Rome from various Italian cities once again to renew your "yes"
to the fundamental value of life and to give a voice to the many innocents whose
right to be born is jeopardized. I affectionately greet Bishop Elio Sgreccia,
Vice-President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the movement's President,
Mr. Carlo Casini, whom I thank for his strong, beautiful words to me on behalf
of you all. I also greet all who in these years have actively worked to defend
and promote human life.
As I recalled in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae: "Humanity today
offers us a truly alarming spectacle, if we consider not only how extensively
attacks on life are spreading but also their unheard-of numerical proportion,
and the fact that they receive widespread and powerful support from a broad
consensus on the part of society, from widespread legal approval and the
involvement of certain sectors of health-care personnel" (n. 17).
With profound sorrow we must observe that these serious phenomena also occur
in Italy, where in the last 20 years no less than three and a half million
babies were killed with the approval of the law, in addition to those destroyed
illegally. However, in view of these disturbing figures, your presence, in large
numbers and with great conviction, is an encouraging sign which nourishes the
hope that truth will triumph over the false justifications given for abortion.
The truth is that every human being has a right to life from his conception
until his natural end. For the faithful the hope that this truth will prevail
finds its basis in Christ, who died and rose again, and who sends his Spirit
into the world to instill courage and to raise up tireless defenders and
witnesses of truth and life.
Your commitment has had a positive influence
2. Encouraging signs also come today from those who observe the failure of
permissive abortion laws at the political level. Not only have they failed to
eliminate illegal abortion, but, on the contrary, they have contributed to the
growing decline in the birth rate and, not infrequently, to the degeneration of
public morality. These data highlight the urgent need for a commitment to the
promotion and defence of the family institution, the first resource of human
society, especially with regard to the gift of children and the affirmation of
women's dignity. In fact, there are many who, in consideration of the dignity of
woman as a person, wife and mother, see permissive abortion laws as a defeat and
humiliation for woman and her dignity.
Another encouraging sign is your work, dear members of the Pro-Life Movement:
as a result of the widespread and timely commitment of the Aid Centres
you sponsor, it has been possible to save over 40,000 babies and to assist an
equal number of women. This promising result demonstrates that where concrete
support is offered, despite problems and influences which are sometimes
critical, women are able to make the sense of love, life and motherhood triumph
Your praiseworthy commitment has had a positive influence on the consciences
of individuals, where often "the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with
all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place" (Evangelium
vitae, 24) and on the "moral conscience of society", which "is responsible,
not only because it tolerates or fosters behaviour contrary to life, but also
because it encourages the culture of death, creating and consolidating actual
structures of sin which go against life" (ibid.).
The network of concern for unborn life, which your Movement has been able to
construct, attracting the attention of political institutions and broad levels
of society, lets us think that if the action of so many volunteers, supported
with more explicit solidarity, were allowed in public health structures, it
would achieve even greater results for many innocent lives.
I hope that parishes and Dioceses will treasure your experience in order to
set up organized structures for aiding the life not only of unborn children, but
also of adolescents, the elderly and people who are alone and abandoned.
3. Concrete help and widespread educational activity, which involve the
entire ecclesial community, must be accompanied by political efforts for the
full recognition of the dignity and rights of the unborn child and for the
revision of laws that legalize its suppression. No human authority, not even the
State, can morally justify the killing of the innocent. This tragic
transformation of a crime into a right (cf. Evangelium vitae,
n. 11) is a sign of the disturbing decadence of a society.
Actually, in addition to striking at the law impressed by the Creator on the
heart of every man, permissive abortion laws express an incorrect form of
democracy, present a reductive concept of society and reveal a lack of
commitment by the State to the promotion of values.
Effective action in this area must, therefore, aim at reconstructing a
horizon of values, which translates into a clear affirmation of the "right
to life" in international charters and national laws.
Respect for life is the essential social issue today
4. On the other hand, economic and social progress cannot have a sure
foundation and concrete hope if there is a basic refusal to acknowledge the
right to life. There is no future for a society that is incapable of duly
appreciating the wealth represented by a newborn child and of valuing a woman's
vocation to motherhood.
As I recalled in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, in the modern world
there is "a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable
rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly
affirmed, the same right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at
the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of
death" (n. 18).
In view of such ambiguous positions, I wish to stress that respect for life
from its conception until natural death is the essential issue in the modern
social question. The lack of such respect in developed societies has serious
consequences in developing countries, where pernicious anti-birth campaigns are
still promoted, and it is especially apparent in the area of artificial human
procreation and the euthanasia debate.
5. Dear brothers and sisters of the Pro-Life Movement, persevere in your
courageous efforts! Every sacrifice and every hardship will be compensated by
the smile of the many children who, thanks to you, can enjoy the priceless gift
of life. I warmly encourage you to make every effort so that everyone's right to
life will be recognized and an authentic democracy, inspired by the values of
the civilization of love, will be built.
I entrust each of you and all your good projects to Mary, "Mother of the
living", and, as I assure you of a daily prayer, I gladly impart to you and your
endeavours my Apostolic Blessing.
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion