Archdiocese of Boston
Bishop William Murphy's
ABOVE ALL, HUMAN LIFE
The four areas of public issues that the bishops propose for our
reflection in this election year are human life, family life, social justice and
The bishops want to avoid a kind of laundry list of topics from A to Z as if
we had only to put checks next to each topic and then vote for whichever
candidate gets more checkmarks. Instead they invite us to evaluate each
candidate on the consistency with which she or he applies these fundamental
truths to public issues.
Of these four areas the most fundamental and the most important is human
life. Defense of human life is the only foundation on which all else must be
built, or else, all else is eventually going to collapse.
The bishops put it this way: "Human life is a gift from God, sacred and
inviolable. This is the teaching that calls us to protect and respect every
human life from conception until natural death. Because every human person is
created in the image and likeness of God, we have a duty to defend human life in
all its stages and in every condition."
Preeminent among the threats to human life remains the terrible scourge
of abortion. Abortion is not only the direct taking of human life, it is the
direct taking of innocent human life.
John Paul II has solemnly reiterated the constant teaching of the Church on
this subject when he said, "I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing
of a innocent human being is always gravely immoral." "The deliberate decision
to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always a moral evil and can
never be licit as an end in itself or as a means to a good end." The U.S.
bishops echoed his words in their document: "Abortion, the deliberate killing of
a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable."
In light of this constant and solemn teaching, Catholics have an equally
solemn responsibility to examine the candidates on the basis of their support
for human life within the womb. As I read it, I fail to understand how any
Catholic can support a candidate who is outspokenly and unambiguously
"pro-choice", who supports the idea that the child in the womb is the property
of the mother to be disposed of at will, and will make appointments to the
Supreme Court that will reinforce the tremendous error of Roe v. Wade.
Unfortunately for us all, abortion is not the only threat to human life
that haunts our society today. More and more there are forces in our society who
are conspiring to terminate human life at the other end of the human cycle
through assisted suicide and euthanasia.
In Boston over Labor Day weekend, we will witness the world convention of
the "right to die" movement, advocating legislation in favor of assisted suicide
and euthanasia. These, too, have been condemned by the Pope.
Of these the bishops say "The purposeful taking of human life by assisted
suicide and euthanasia is never an act of mercy, but is an unjustifiable assault
on human life." The bishops of Massachusetts have undertaken a statewide
campaign of education and advocacy in support of human life against all those
who would deprive the elderly, the sick, the disabled and all the "others" that
do not "fit into" the narrow anti-human vision of certain elite.
The Church has consistently proposed moral truths and has always sought
to have them consistently applied to all the challenges against human life, even
those which are not exactly of the same moral urgency as is abortion. So, the
bishops remind us that defense of human life calls us "to promote laws and
social policies that protect human life and promote human dignity to the maximum
degree possible." Thus we urge assistance for pregnant women, adoption policies
that are an alternative to abortion, and aid to the sick and dying through
hospice care and palliative medicine.
Defense of human life extends to the way we look at armed conflict,
urging the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations, defense of the
non-combatant and protection of civilians in case of armed conflict which can
only be legitimate within certain criteria of classical moral reasoning.
Defense of human life extends as well to our commitment abroad to
programs which promote peace and the integral development of all peoples,
especially the economically poorer countries. It includes a deep concern for the
global trade in arms because the spread of weapons means greater and wider
threats to human life. At home it means a principled opposition to the death
Convinced that our society can provide safety and protection to its citizens
without the death penalty, the bishops call us to abandon a logic of reprisal,
to punish the guilty adequately but to seek to rehabilitate the guilty without
the ultimate act of destroying another human life.
"Respect for human life and dignity is the necessary first step in
building a civilization of life and love."