It was 20yrs ago, March 25, 1995 that Pope St. John Paul II issued one of his greatest encyclical letters: Evangelium Vitae and introduced into our lexicon the phrase: the "culture of death" and called upon all the disciples of Jesus to overturn it. Not too long before, at World Youth Day in Denver he challenged young people to embrace what he termed "a culture of life". The force of that teaching pushed the moral teaching of the Church on human life to the front of our consciousness and empowered us to tell the truth that abortion is the human rights injustice of our times. And it is making an impact.
If you participated in or saw any coverage (in the Catholic Media as the MSM just ignore it, hoping it will just go away) of the Annual March for Life in Washington D.C. over the last few years you would have noticed how populated it was with young people. Teens and young adults more and more reject abortion as a solution, which demonstrates that the teaching of St. John Paul has indeed taken root. Subverting the culture of death is a long-term strategy and the change can at times be imperceptible. That's why it is important that we notice that the seeds planted 20yrs are germinating and growing. Now we have to keep tending to them.
The roots of the idea of a culture of life have made some unexpected inroads. The founders of the Fashion House Dolce & Gabbana, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who were previously partners for 20yrs (not in the business sense), in a magazine interview said: "The family is not a fad," Gabbana told the interviewer. "In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging." Procreation "must be an act of love." Children born through artificial insemination or egg donors are "children of chemistry, synthetic children. Uteruses for rent, semen chosen from a catalog," Dolce said. And since changes in fashions effects changes in culture this could have a big impact. This might be sincere or a clever marketing ploy but still it shows that those who promote a culture of life are being noticed even if for consumer marketing. This is exactly what St. John Paul challenged us to do: change the culture.
Still there is lots of evidence that there is yet more work to be done. Currently in the US Senate sits a bill to aid the victims of sex trafficking. The bill has lots of bipartisan support except that it is being filibustered because it has explicit language subjecting it to the Hyde Amendment (the long time requirement that no federal funds be used for abortion.) So in essence the opponents of the bill are saying that abortion is more important than rescuing women caught up in sex slavery. Funny how Pro Lifers are always the ones called "extremists".
In Texas a pro-abortion supporter threw a Molotov cocktail at a group of Pro-life Prayer Protesters who were praying in front of an Austin Planned Parenthood Clinic. But what I noticed is that the media simply reported that someone threw an explosive device at a Planned Parenthood Clinic. They didn't say it but more or less wanted readers to assume that it was a crazy right wing Pro-Lifer trying to blow up an abortion clinic. For some reason, maybe bias, they just couldn't bring themselves to state that it was a crazy pro-abortion extremist trying to harm people at a Pro-Life Prayer Vigil. The narrative of the media will always be that people who pray outside abortion clinics are radicals and extremists who want to deny women their rights while those who promote abortion are saintly people who ooze compassion for women and would never be labeled as extremists. If you want to build the culture of life you have to get used to having labels like extremist, radical, intolerant, dangerous, homegrown terrorist, misogynist being hurled at you. Good thing St. JP2 showed us how to have broad shoulders and thick skin.
Easter is all about life overcoming death and certainly cultivating a culture of life is most basic to Christianity. We celebrate human life with all the possibilities it brings and with Easter we celebrate the fact that life now includes the gift of eternal life: life beyond our wildest imagination. We get the chance to remind people of that great hope by honoring and caring for life to its fullest from conception until natural death and then beyond.
Many thanks to all who participated in this year's 40 Days For Life Campaign. You have made a big difference in the lives of many women and the difference of life or death for the children they carry in their wombs. I know the work can be difficult and discouraging from day to day. But remember how far we have come, because of you, in the last 20yrs in dismantling the culture of death and building a culture of life. May St. JP2 bless you!
"We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life's course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person - of every human person." (the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).
Love, Fr. John B.