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Archdiocese of Boston

Bishop William Murphy's Pilot Column

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 solidarity.

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 penalty. 

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."

 

 

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