Saturday, November 08, 2008

Evangelium Vitae: a source of inspiration

Pope John Paul II visits Baltimore in 1995

One cannot help notice in certain blogs and in the comments on these blogs the anger and despair which has followed the election of Mr Barack Obama as President of the United States of America.

In many cases, it is quite palpable. Most of it seems to be centred on the attitude of the new President-elect towards abortion.

Some have turned on fellow Catholics who voted for Mr Obama. The phrases "cafeteria Catholics" and other derogatory and angry expressions have been used.

In March 1995, Pope John Paul II issued his great Encyclical Evangelium Vitae

At the time it was issued, the situation regarding abortion and threats to the right to life looked dire.

It is one of the great Encyclicals of the Church. It is above all readable, persuasive and prophetic.

Most Catholics probably have not read it. This is a pity. After reading it, most Catholics would not fail to be transformed and think differently about "The Culture of Death"..

It is not a series of negative propositions: Don`t do this, don`t do that...

It is framed in positive terms: it is a call to Love and a call to embrace the Culture of Life.

It is an ambitious document. It is a call to do nothing less than change a culture of death which is buttressed and supported by extremely strong and powerful forces. The Pope, the Cardinals and the Bishops behind this document knew very well the magnitude of what they were proposing. They knew that what they were proposing was not going to happen overnight or even in a few years. Their timescale: steady progress over generations.

They knew that there would be setbacks, major setbacks. But the call to action was there and like a good general, Pope John Paul II urged an adherence to its message even although the times may be against the proclamation of the message which he preached.

Even after all this time, the words of the Encyclical still shine forth and still appear as relevant today as they did eighteen years ago.

Amongst its many passages which should dispel anger and despair and should restore confidence and hope is perhaps the following:

"82. To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity. Teachers, catechists and theologians have the task of emphasizing the anthropological reasons upon which respect for every human life is based. In this way, by making the newness of the Gospel of life shine forth, we can also help everyone discover in the light of reason and of personal experience how the Christian message fully reveals what man is and the meaning of his being and existence. We shall find important points of contact and dialogue also with non- believers, in our common commitment to the establishment of a new culture of life.

Faced with so many opposing points of view, and a widespread rejection of sound doctrine concerning human life, we can feel that Paul's entreaty to Timothy is also addressed to us: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2)."