“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776).
Life from Beginning to End
We have heard and read these famous words many times. Yet it should be interesting for us to note that of the three fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the founding fathers of our nation recognize life as the first of these three unalienable rights.
Why is the right to life the first of these God-given rights?
Life is a gift from God. The first pages of the Holy Bible direct our gaze to the awesome gift of life. “And now, from the clay of the ground, the Lord God formed man, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and made man a living person” (Gn 2:7). Life is entrusted to man as a gift. Thus, man has a responsibility to this gift.
In his encyclical letter, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul the Great reminds us that this responsibility is carried out in three ways: Love life, respect life, and promote life.
Regarding the love for life, Mrs. Lucille Dippolito provides an amazing example of someone who is committed to life. She is a nurse and the mother of twenty children. The youngest is twenty-two, the eldest forty-three. She says, “The more children, the more love.” When the incredulous ask how she and her husband can afford to have a large family, she responds, “For every little mouth that God sends, He sends the little bit that is needed. I had faith in God that as He had sent me each child, He was going to feed that child. We have lived better than some families with two or three kids. Our kids started doing things! It’s not how many kids you have; it’s your faith in God.”
Lucille goes on to say, “Everybody is going to have a dark side; we’re not here to have heaven on earth. What are people afraid of today? People that don’t have kids have worse crosses than those who do! People need to start reading books on the joys of children. They are going to miss out on a lifetime of happiness. A baby is joy! Having children makes you healthy. After each child I got stronger; couldn’t wait for the next one to get here! God gives you these things. You never have a dull moment…always something that you can look forward to. If you are always around young children, you will always be young at heart.”
Aside from a love for life, we are to respect life as well. My grandmother spent her last years in a nursing home because she was unable to care for herself. Alzheimer’s completely sapped her joyful vitality and totally changed her personality.
Every time I went home to visit my parents, we spent time with my grandmother. The visits were always very sad. After my mother briefly reminded her who we were, my grandmother would be delighted by our visits. Our sadness was caused by our loss: what the illness had done to the once lovely, vibrant woman, my grandmother.
The nurses at the nursing home were extraordinary women. In their own simple way, they attended to every detail of patient care. There were many other patients there in worse shape than my grandmother. I often wondered how the nurses could be so cheerful and so loving in such a difficult environment.
One day during one of our family visits, the nurse who always took care of my grandmother told me that she could not wait to retire so that she could come back every day to the nursing home and spend her entire day with the patients at no charge to the home. She was excited by the possibility of generously giving of herself without any restrictions.
Millions of Unsung Heroes
Many people and many organizations are committed to the promotion of life. The country is filled with millions of unsung heroes who each day work to promote life. Near me, in the city of Corpus Christi, there are many who continue to do sidewalk counseling at the only remaining abortion clinic; and there are the hardworking individuals who are committed to the important work of Hope House, Birth Right, the Gabriel Project, the Society of the Body of Christ, and Rachel’s Vineyard. Each year, “Celebration for Life” draws supporters to an evening of fine dining and entertainment and raises much-needed funding to support pro-life activities here in South Texas. The same thing is going on in small communities and big cities all over this country.
One example of how the clergy can promote life is by offering public support. I saw an example of this during my recent visit to Spain. My trip coincided with a massive demonstration in Madrid against the legalization of homosexual “marriages.” The demonstration was publicly supported by the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Most of the Spanish bishops attended the event, and Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela led the march of one million and half people to the famous Puerto del Sol in downtown Madrid.
The Founding Fathers got it right. They understood that there is a relationship between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom and happiness are impossible without the fundamental right to life. Why is this so?
Let us remember that no matter how small a little baby may be in the mother's womb, a new human being begins at the moment of conception. This new human being is entitled to the right to life as asserted in the Declaration of Independence. If anyone has the right to terminate the life of an innocent human being, not only are those who are being terminated no longer equal under the law, but proponents of abortion are laying the groundwork for choices to be made about the extermination of other groups of people.
Was this not the case in Nazi Germany? Not only were Jews, Gypsies and Catholics considered less equal than others, but a favored few took upon themselves the right to determine which individuals had the right to live.
Was not this the case with slavery? Not only were blacks considered to be less equal, but also once again the strong exerted their power over the weak, giving themselves the right to choose who would be enslaved and who would go free.
If a woman has the right to kill her baby, what is to keep a sniper from executing his next victim? If a doctor has the right to murder an innocent child, what is to keep a child from killing his own classmates? If a hospital has a right to sponsor homicide, what is to keep a state from supporting terrorists?
The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. All other rights depend upon the right to life. And yet abortion is a legal right which allows one group to take more than 4,000 American lives every day.
Man is not autonomous. He is created by God and therefore must live in union with his creator. When humanity rebels against God the results are obvious for all to see in the news every day.
James Madison, the fourth president of our nation and one of our founding fathers, once said, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
As you walk up the steps of the US Supreme Court, you can see Moses holding the Ten Commandments. As you enter into the Supreme Court's courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on the lower portions of the two doors. The Ten Commandments are displayed right above where the Supreme Court judges sit.
The Fifth Commandment states, “Thou shall not kill.” On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion in America. Since then, over 45,264,724 known abortions have taken place in this country alone.
We Fight for a New Birth of Freedom
A number of years ago, during a parish Bible study that I was directing, a young parishioner asked me if I thought that we would soon see another civil war in this country. I answered him by saying that a civil war is already taking place.
The first Civil War took place from 1861–1865. The horror of slavery was not the only cause of the war, but it was certainly the main issue at hand. During his famous Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln wondered if the nation could endure. Through his presidency, which cost his very life, his dream did materialize: “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The new civil war has no army and has no set territories. It is a cultural war that knows no boundaries. The battle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death affects every city, every family, every business, every school, and every church community. This new civil war is even more intense than the first one.
It is just as stated in the encyclical letter, The Gospel of Life: there is a “conspiracy against life.” John Paul wrote:
As I emphatically stated at Denver, on the occasion of the Eighth World Youth Day, “with time the threats against life have not grown weaker. They are taking on vast proportions. They are not only threats coming from the outside, from the forces of nature or the ‘Cains’ who kill the ‘Abels’; no, they are scientifically and systematically programmed threats. The twentieth century will have been an era of massive attacks on life, an endless series of wars and a continual taking of innocent human life. False prophets and false teachers have had the greatest success.” (Evangelium Vitae, 17.2)
The culture war of today is dramatic and very challenging. What will bring about a new birth of freedom? What will allow our government to be a government of the people, for the people, and by the people? What will keep America as we know it from perishing from the face of the earth?
Pope John Paul the Great provides us with the answer in his encyclical letter.
What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve today’s unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians; new, because it will be capable of bringing about a serious and courageous cultural dialogue among all parties. While the urgent need for such a cultural transformation is linked to the present historical situation, it is also rooted in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The purpose of the Gospel, in fact, is to transform humanity from within and to make it new. (Evangelium Vitae 95.2)
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11: 28). These words from yesterday’s Gospel passage will give consolation to all those who are the tired soldiers of the Culture of Life. The overwhelming demands of family life, the constant struggle to be faithful within a nation dominated by the Culture of Death, the weariness that may be caused by years of commitment to the pro-life apostolate can cause occasional discouragement. But Jesus tells us today to persevere. We will find our strength in Him.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” These words from the Gospel will give consolation and peace to all those who have had abortions or who have helped someone obtain an abortion. Remember, Jesus does love you, and His open arms wait for your repentance. Only in Him will you find healing and the opportunity to begin again.
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Father James Farfaglia is Pastor of St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Originally from Ridgefield, CT, Father has founded and developed apostolates for the Catholic Church in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada and throughout the United States. He may be reached by e-mail at Icthus@GoCCN.org.