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Address of His Eminence Alfonso Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

at Building a Culture of Life conference

Washington DC


March 3, 1999


Your Eminences, Excellencies, and participants in this Conference:

I take part in this gathering with great interest, and thank the Lord for your enthusiastic response. A few months ago, this meeting was a plan, a dream, a desire. Now, it is an encouraging reality, a vigorous reaffirmation of involvement, commitment, and hope.

I am deeply grateful to Cardinal Bernard Law, who from the beginning agreed with fervor and decisiveness to this project, as then-president of the pro-life committee, whose zealous staff have transformed the plans into a stimulating reality.

I am grateful also to His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, for having brought this Conference to its fulfillment.

I see gathered here all the strength of the culture of life, like a mighty river, and an act of homage to the Lord of Life. It is a hymn of freedom and a light of hope amidst the darkness of unjust and cruel crimes which are spreading and threaten to dull the consciences of peoples who, under multiple pressures, can lose the sense of value, of wonder, of awe at the gift of human life and the sacred and supreme dignity of the human person, and of every person, even if weak, small, and defenseless.

If man can marvel at so many natural phenomena, how much more must he look with a sense of wonder at life itself as a precious gift of God, in which is found the synthesis of all creation, and the miracle of a permanent creation. The human being without the spirit of God, far from the Father who creates all things by love and recreates them in an unending chain of newness, loses the sense of wonder. The gift of life creates a tremor of joy in mothers who discover in their womb the wonder of the love of God. From the heart of the Father, "Infundens bonitatem in rebus" (who infuses goodness into all things) as St. Thomas says, the whole world is invited to share in this joy.

The culture of death is a disturbing and spreading phenomenon. How can a human being devalue, trample, and eliminate an innocent human person? This injustice and cruelty is even greater when the victim is most innocent, weak, poor, and fragile.. This is why an extreme form of discrimination is manifested in the "legal" execution of the unborn child, the baby in the womb. One's surprise and confusion is greater still when those who kill the child have all the more of a duty to respect, welcome, protect, and love those who instead become their victims! From whom should we be able to hope for a more decisive tenderness than from those who procreate new life…and above all, the mothers? That the maternal womb, a fountain of life, should become a tomb; that mothers, called to bear and protect the blessed fruit of the conceived child, should become their destroyers and gravediggers is something disturbing and disorienting..

And this comes about by an "association of death": Doctors themselves, though called to protect and heal, collaborate in a terrible conspiracy. Legislators, whose work should be to procure justice in society, trample upon rights, and the fundamental right to life. All this reveals the depths of this disease of the heart. The historic denunciation in Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Evangelium Vitae should resonate like lightning and thunder: Lawmakers are unjust when their activity imposes a "political truth" whereby a majority is able to convert a crime into a right! This is a symptom of the gravest moral confusion. The ultimate injustice of the elimination of the most innocent of all makes abortion the single most shameful crime of human history!

It is true that women who abort are also often victims of a lack of help and solidarity, as the Pope points out. Other factors of the culture of death manipulate them, such as powerful forces that use deceitful language, and all the pressures of a false modernity. They are therefore persons called to repentance and for whom conversion is always possible. Today, as St. Paul says, truth is imprisoned and suffocated, and we have to free it with courage, with fidelity, and without ever hesitating or tiring of doing good! It is a good that tends also to liberate people and society from this shameful history…A shame even greater than slavery itself, or Apartheid, or more recent forms of discrimination, against which, thirsting for human dignity, Martin Luther King made the famous declaration, "I have a dream!"

Recently, during a large celebration while the Holy Father was in Mexico, he declared that no woman should ever eliminate life that has begun to exist in her womb. At that point, the great crowd rose to its feet, as if all humanity were rising from its shame, and took this desire of the Pope as a commitment.

The great challenges.

The spreading phenomenon of the culture of death has in its favor an immense political and economic power. It is a powerful world against the most weak and poor. The forces in this battle are unequal: the giant Goliath against David! There are rivers of economic resources pouring into a planned and explosive evil. Money flows not for education in the dignity of responsible love in the family, but in the service of an extreme egoism, a false anthropology that is egoistic and hedonistic, like that new style of life which the Cairo conference sought to impose on others. The governments of some nations export unjust laws to others. By globalization, the culture of death wants to impose its universality, in the form of tyrannical campaigns which humiliate the poor while pretending they are the object of compassion and solidarity.

These political programs receive rivers of money. Noted billionaires are generous toward these conspiracies. Governments and legislatures of many nations are subject to a systematic attack. We see this everywhere in various Latin American nations and in Africa, and it includes plans to make abortion laws more liberal.

Legal injustice, which becomes more powerful and aggressive each day, tries to silence and weaken the forces which oppose their campaigns, even if those forces are peaceful, non-violent, and respectful. To oppose a crime against the innocent even comes to be considered something illegal and subversive.

It is providential that this Conference is taking place after the Synod for America, a few weeks after the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America. Against the globalization of the culture of death, there needs to arise the culture of life, with all the strength of the Gospel, against all forms of abortion, against "partial-birth abortion," against population control, and against sterilization, particularly mass-sterilization. In Brasil, far more than one third of all women of childbearing age have been sterilized. The bishops have denounced similar campaigns in Peru. Similar programs have been announced in Venezuela. Some are doing all they can to impose abortion in Mexico and in Colombia.

Allow me to quote a few texts from number 63 of Ecclesia in America, which are applications to our American continent of what was denounced already in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. "Today in America, as in other places of the world, a model of society seems to be forming in which the powerful dominate, and marginalize and perhaps eliminate the weak. I think now, the Pope adds, of the unborn babies, the defenseless victims of abortion. For this reason, the Synod Fathers have underlined with vigor an unconditional reverence and respect, and total dedication on behalf of human life from the moment of conception until natural death" (n. 63)

Yes! The pro-life movements in the United States have a great task, and not only in this great nation which has the honor of having so much responsibility in the future of the world and of all America. It is a task, as I well know, which is difficult, and most especially in your country, but capable of a new and more universal solidarity against the culture of death.

The challenge is universal. The new globalization, or as it is put in Living the Gospel of Life, the new "global mentality… building the neural network" which embraces the entire planet, is not only economic but integral, as Guidance points out well in his recent book The Third Way. (Unfortunately, the contents of this book are erroneous on some points.) A new and abusive demographic colonialism has recently been seen in Egypt. We were recently speaking about this with leaders of Islam, who can also fall into this trap. We have to oppose this type of globalization with a new universality: that of universal justice, which is possible only when the human rights of all are recognized. This includes all the rights of the person. The right which is fundamental to all the others is the right to life!

In December, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was an opportunity for a deeper understanding and involvement. The Third Article, with a serious anthropology, should illuminate everything. We arrive here at a decisive point: to recognize in the embryo, in the unborn, a human person, a subject of rights, who must be respected in his dignity. He is not a thing, an instrument, an object of manipulation (whether by experimentation, or in homologous or heterologous in-vitro fertilization). The unborn, from his conception, is a person made in the image of God. The Pope prophetically affirmed this on a visit to Poland, and gave this warning: a people that kills its own innocent children has no future! It is necessary to bring before people this truth which sets them free! Those who eliminate the innocent are committing suicide for themselves and for humanity, even when they seek to defend themselves with vague and deceitful slogans, such as we want only abortion that is safe, legal, and rare!

The real and very deep problem is in regard to anthropology. One comes to speak of a new anthropology and a new morality. A new anthropology with a language of manipulation, as you say in the document Living the Gospel of Life: "Bad law and defective moral reasoning produce the evasive language to justify evil." (10)

In conclusion, let us recall two points:

The battle for the culture of life is connected with the cause of the family. These are inseparable. The culture of life necessarily comes about through the family, which, in conjugal love, has the fundamental vocation of integral procreation. Thus we repeat: there is no life without the family, and no family without life! Hostility against the family is also a battle against life. Pastorally, it is necessary to avoid, at all costs, a separation between family and life. The stronger and better connected the movements for the family are, the more serious, stable, and vigorous will be the battle for life.

Our cause will lead to victory! Though the battle is hard, we are assured that the future is on our side. We can apply the statement of St. Paul, "where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more," and say, where the culture of death abounds, there will be, as a saving response, an ever more present and abundant culture of life. And this is our great resource: families, apostles, volunteers of our organizations…what great riches! You yourselves are the riches of our churches and of society. You are more valuable than all the rivers of wealth of the powerful. The response to the culture of death is immense and strong. The pro-life movements are growing and are stronger. In some nations we have seen significant victories recently, such as in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy to some extent, and El Savador. These, and so many other victories, are an anticipation of that definitive victory of truth over falsehood, of life over death. This victory will be in our Redeemer, Dux Vitae, the Lord of Life. Amen.

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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