Cardinal Arinze lecture at Holy Apostles Seminary, October 12, 2010

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It was an important event in the Catholic community of Connecticut. Bishop Michael Cote, the Seminary Rector, Monsignor, Tom Wehner, editor of the National Catholic Register, EWTN host Rhonda Chervin, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center Dr David Haas, dozens of seminary students, faculty members, religious sisters in habit, and faithful Catholics came to hear Cardinal Arinze speak on the long history of the defense of the dignity of human life in the Church.

Dr John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, introduced the Cardinal by reminding us of the urgency of keeping up with bioethics by pointing out that Nobel Prizes are being given to scientists who made human embryos subjects for destruction. The Church has always embraced science; said Dr Hass, and established the first Catholic Bioethics Center in 1972, a year before Roe v Wade, before AIDS, or stem cells. The Church has always been at the forefront of defending the dignity of human life from the threat of abortion, euthanasia or suicide, and opposes society’s efforts to decorate these crimes with the title of “rights”.

Cardinal Arinze’s address

(This is not a transcription, but a reconstruction of my notes. Any inaccuracies or inelegant language are, therefore, mine. )

Humanity is the crown of creation; men were the last to be created in Genesis and placed in the Garden of Eden. Pope John Paul II said that man is the summit of creation, and all is subject to him. Man was created in the image of God with an immortal soul and free will. Man alone can participate in the Divine Life of eternal happiness; it is breathtaking proof that human life is precious.  As the Baltimore Catechism reminds us; why did God make us? “God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and be happy forever with Him in heaven.”

St John the Evangelist said that human beings are gifted with intelligence, will and an immortal soul. Only the angels were created superior to mankind. By grace we recognize the sacred value of life beginning at conception through death. This is not romantic; it is reality that human life is sacred. There can be no civilization without recognition of the dignity of human life.
The Passion of Jesus is proof that humans are precious to God. “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In Genesis, God said, “let Us make man in Our Own Image, giving him dominion over all creation. Men have intellence and will; God filled our hearts full of understanding. Vatican II stated that we alone know and love the Creator. Only when Cain slew Abel did the conflict of man vs. man begin.

Evangelium Vitae said those who kill the unborn, the sick and the elderly violate “thou shalt not kill”. The law from Mt Sinai forbids the slaying of the innocent. Jesus, on the Sermon on the Mount, said that the value of human life is not absolute, “he who finds his life will lose it, he who loses his life for My sake, will find it” in praise of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the Faith., like St Stephen. Church Tradition respects human life at all stages, Church Father Tertullian calls abortion ‘an abominable crime’ and forbids killing a child before or after birth which was common at that time. The encyclicals Casti Connubi, Humane Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, and Caritas en Veritate of Pope Benedict all reaffirm the sacredness of human life. Pope Benedict sated in Caritas en Veritate that “openness to life is at the center of true development”. Evangelium Vitae states the inviolability of human life, Gaudium et Spes condemns murder, abortion, euthanasia, slavery, prostitution, human trafficking, and unjust working conditions. Vatican II says that life must be protected from the moment of conception, and thus abortion and euthanasia are unspeakable crimes which incur automatic excommunication.

Threats to human life include not only those inherent in nature; natural disasters, but attacks on human life include scientific and technology, contraception, abortions, and the conditioning of society to present these crimes as rights. The slippery slope is conspiring against the ethical dimension of the medical profession as defined in the Hippocratic Oath, taken 2,500 years ago by doctors, in which physicians promised to do no harm, refrain from administering deadly drugs, or abortifacients to women, refrain from sexual involvement with patients, or revealing their confidential information.  This reflects the gift of God to see the truth; the Natural Laws, which proves that the 10 commandments are within the grasp of reason. In1964 Luis Lasagna revoked parts of the Hippocratic Oath, dealing with abortion and physician assisted suicide. Most doctors don’t take it now. Vatican II says that abortion is an unspeakable crime, an epidemic of worldwide proportions, In Europe, in 2008, there were 2.8 million abortions, or one every 11 seconds.

What are the excuses used to justify abortion?

Pluralism, laws should not favor one religion over another. This fallacious, as abortion is against reason, it’s not Church law, like not eating meat on Fridays, its part of the Natural Law. It is not imposing religious views on others, others are imposing secular views on us. We are under what Pope Benedict called the Dictatorship of Relativism. If the right to life doesn’t exist, neither do any rights.

Freedom is often used to justify abortion; however, the use of my freedom cannot lead to the death of others. If I want the freedom to drive my car all over the road, and I kill you as a pedestrian, my freedom must be curtailed to protect your life.  Preservation of human life takes precedence over my freedom.

“It’s my body.” The baby is NOT part of the mother’s body. She has no right to turn her womb into a tomb.

“I am ‘personally opposed’ to abortion, but I don’t want to impose my views on others.” How about this’ “I am personally opposed to shooting you, but this man here wants to shoot you and I don’t want to impose my views on him, so I’m going to let him shoot you.” Objective norms of right and wrong DO exist!

Population Control Committees decide abortion is necessary. How about the members of the committee offer to die instead of the unborn? After all, they are usually 60-70 years old, and the baby is young, and has not had a chance to live yet.

Food shortage; the world could fee many more people than it does now. It is not true that the lower the population, the higher the level of civilization, look at the USA, it is densely populated and highly civilized. The population explosion is a myth, countries are unwilling to share with the poor. Pope Paul VI said, ‘If there is not enough bread, don’t kill the guests, make more bread!”

Evangelium Vitae says that we are obligated to disobey unjust laws, the bishops under St Peter’s authority, have always said that direct abortion always constitutes a grave moral disorder. Common sense is not very common.

These are situations which provide temptation to abortion; unmarried mothers, poverty, wish to continue one’s studies, feeling like you have too large a family, however they can’t change the illicit nature of abortion.

In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II states that the following are responsible for abortion; the mother, the father, friends, doctors, nurses, politicians, those who encourage sexual permissiveness, lack of respect for mothers, and national and international organizations which promote abortions. Contraception promotes abortion; they are fruits of the same tree. Pharmaceuticals to abort without doctors and use of embryonic stem cells are also unacceptable.

Euthanasia is unacceptable, here are the reasons used to justify it; prolonged suffering,  a fragile person who wants to die, false compassion of relatives, a desire to have control over life and death, to transplant organs, a desire to decrease costs of caring for the sick, and a desire to kill handicapped children. Euthanasia is the result of a culture which takes no notice of Good Friday, an absence of religious inspiration.

Other types of death are suicide, which is wrong, but the person may fall prey to mitigating factors. Murder which is always sinful, and terrorism which cries to heaven for justice. The Church has no traditional objection to the death penalty, since the person is not innocent, however modern times it is no longer necessary to protect society.

It is a sinister tendency to claim euthanasia and abortion as rights Pope John Paul II said. Therefore, government funding to subsidize abortion, forcing families to promote abortion is wrong. Human beings are seen as objects, to be used, the sick, weak, or unborn cannot defend themselves, and it is an abuse of their freedom to extinguish their destiny. The life of people should never depend on majority vote, human freedom should never grant one person absolute power over another. That is the death of true freedom.

Vatican II states that when God is forgotten, human creature is unintelligible, a fascination with technology and an overemphasis on preventing cruelty to animals are examples. For example, you cannot kill a dog, but you can kill an unborn child.. This type of practical materialism is an example of the Culture of Death.

As we say at Mass, Dying you destroyed our death, raising you restored our life. The Church has received the mission to preach the Gospel of Life, via priests, teachers, catechists, and journalists. The Church extols the vocation of matrimony and sexuality. Jesus told us to expect opposition to this mission. In Rerum Novarum the Church defended the rights of workers, in Evangelium Vitae, the Church defends the unborn, and whose lives are snuffed out by abortion. In 1991, Pope John Paul II asked the bishops what they wanted, in 1995, he wrote Evangelium Vitae. Catholics have serious duties to insist on the sanctity of life, yet this shouldn’t bar them from prestigious positions. We shouldn’t say, “I am a Catholic, but. . . .” we should say, “I am a Catholic therefore. “          The right to life is from God not the state, and there will be accountability for this.

The state is not the only part of a civil society; it consists of families, churches, organizations, who all have duties toward the state. Pope Pius XI taught the right to private property and the principle of subsidiarty.

Openness to life is at the center of true development. Some praiseworthy initiatives are; Natural Family Planning, hospitals, convalescent homes, religious and laypeople who serve sick, films like “The Silent Scream” and married couples who are open to life, especially that of the handicapped. The government should offer them assistance if they need it. Don’t just condemn abortion; offer women alternative homes to give birth.

Social and political action are needed, efforts to form consciences, mass media to promote the Culture of Life and send the Culture of Death packing.

The Cardinal’s remarks were met with a standing ovation and prolonged, thunderous applause. It seems his clear call to building a Culture of Life has struck a chord in the Catholic community of Connecticut.

Copyright 2011 Leticia Velasquez

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About Author

Leticia Velasquez is a wife and mother to three girls. Christina, her youngest, has Down syndrome. She is the co-founder of KIDS Keep Infants with Down Syndrome. Leticia blogs about daily life with Christina at Cause of Our Joy, and Causa Nostrae Laetitae. is her Culture of Life blog. She reviews books and films at Catholic Media Review. Her articles have been published in Canticle, Faith and Family, and Celebrate Life  magazines, and the National Catholic Register . You can find her work online at Catholic.net, Catholic Exchange, and Catholic Online. The Velasquez family lives in rural Connecticut.

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