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How to renew our society

By Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

Published in the B.C. Catholic, Vancouver Archdiocesan newspaper

Dark shadows are cast over our country by threats to life. These attacks, both more serious and more numerous than in past generations, entail, to use the words of Pope John Paul II, "a war of the powerful against the weak ... a `conspiracy against life.'"

Can we not say, again using his words, that "we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the `culture of death' and the `culture of life'?" At times, it even appears as if the forces of death have the upper hand.

Tragically, the biblical story of Cain's murder of Abel which we read in the book of Genesis, is "a page rewritten daily, with inexorable and degrading frequency, in the book of human history" (Pope John Paul).

In addition to direct attacks on the dignity of human life, these pages also recount the unjust distribution of resources among peoples and social classes, the misery of untold millions, fratricidal wars, trading in arms, drug trafficking, reckless tampering with the world's ecological balance, and human trafficking.

What people of good will have to offer is solid conviction concerning the goodness of human life which comes from God as His gift and is destined for fulfilment in communion with Him.

The incomparable value of every person's life is forcefully evident in the very fact of the Incarnation. In becoming man, the Son gave human life an unsurpassable value, for He made each of us His brother or sister. He is united with each human person.

Those who are disciples of Christ know for sure that their lives are, as Pope John Paul said, "a gift carefully guarded in the hands of the Father." The Bible clearly affirms that the life of every individual, from its very beginning in the act of conception, is part of God's loving plan: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you" (Jeremiah).

"The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Dignitas Personae).

Since 1988, because of the Supreme Court's infamous Morgentaler decision, abortion in Canada has not been restricted by law. While some non-legal obstacles do exist, Canada is one of only a handful of nations in the world with no legal restrictions on taking the life of an unborn child in his or her mother's womb.

This legal void does not embody Canada's traditional sense of justice and fair play. Rather, it is a disturbing symptom of a grave moral decline.

I am convinced that Canadian criminal law should acknowledge, defend, and promote the authentic moral values which can be known from reason; that is, it should mirror the natural moral law hardwired into our very humanity. Indeed, Parliament should enact legislation that would ensure respect the right to life of every innocent human being.

We cannot forget that government is the guardian of our inalienable human rights. It has no power to modify or abolish them, and when it arrogates to itself the right to countenance the disposal of the life of the weakest and most defenceless members, it fails in its fundamental obligations.

The pro-life movement, therefore, if it is to be effective, cannot abandon its efforts to foster legislation which will curtail and eventually eliminate attacks on innocent human life.

As you know, the Lord has entrusted all of us with the responsibility of making unconditional respect for human life the foundation of a renewed Canadian society.

On receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who is the spiritual inspiration of pro-life movements around the world, had the courage to say to the leaders of political communities: "If we let a mother kill the fruit of her womb, what is left to us? It is the principle of abortion that endangers peace in the world."

Our goal is, simply stated: we seek a Canada in which every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. Legal reform - which we must work to foster through the political processes we are fortunate to enjoy in a democracy - and a spiritual/cultural renewal must both take place if Canada is to experience a new birth of freedom ordered to goodness.

This will be a long and arduous path, but despite the hardships, we cannot give up the fight.

This column was taken from a talk given to North Shore Pro-Life. Next week: some ways to bring about a culture of life.

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