Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne
Culture of death
Modern society, with its separation of God and the person, makes "me" rather than "God and others" the centre of creation. What decides my choices is what pleases me. The world is seen as there for my convenience alone. When the culture of death - killing, war, genocide, poverty, malnutrition, ecological selfishness, the spread of drugs - becomes 'the norm', we can become immune to this horror.
Such a view of human existence is false because it limits what we are. We are made by God and for God, capable of rising above selfishness and capable of loving life. Even after death we are destined to share in the Resurrected Jesus and to be with God in perfect happiness.
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God. We remain forever in a special relationship with our Creator. God alone is the Lord of life, from its beginning until its end. No one can claim the right to destroy an innocent human being. "You shall not kill" (Exodus 20:13).
Human beings with God-given life are mysteriously different from all other creatures. We understand human dignity when we realise that God takes a personal interest in us and that he so loves the world that in Jesus he shares our human nature. We are invited to be active apostles of life, God's greatest gift. The young especially have the energy and zest for life to respond to this invitation in fresh and groundbreaking ways.
Life rejects violence. The root of violence lies in our under-valuing human life, holding a wrong notion of freedom, and losing our sense of God. Lovers of life respect all persons, exercise freedom only for the good, and take time to get to know God.
Many people are driven by the false promise of total freedom, freedom without responsibilities. The importance of the individual is exaggerated: everything in life is seen in relation to "me"?rather than the more complete vision of "God, me, others, and all that God has created in limitless love." We are offered a choice today life, happiness, and hope; or death and selfishness. Death is a harsh word. But if life is governed by "using", "taking" and "having", we are inviting a culture of death.
Modern life is rich in technologies, dollars and consumer goods. Our challenge is to make it rich too in life-giving love and our shared joy in God's presence.
John Paul II is all too aware of the pressures that can drive people to violent solutions: personal difficulties, isolation, fears and loneliness, the struggle to make ends meet, the violence of which too many in society are victims (Evangelium Vitae
, 11, 18). But we CAN make a choice. We can continue to choose a culture that drives people to violence and alienation, or we can choose a better world. If we choose life, we make a decision to let our actions speak out against the cycle of violence.
Threats to life
Threats to life are many: drugs, poverty, and youth suicide capture the headlines in Australia. There are also proposals to kill human embryos for stem cell research, to clone humans, there is an upsurge in euthanasia, and the increasing spiral of violence to the unborn through abortion.
Life today is threatened in the womb from the very moment of conception. Some scientists and politicians who ought to be the true friends of the defenceless proclaim 'open season' on the innocent. But even if it helps find cures?and there is no evidence it will?we cannot kill our youngest brothers and sisters to cure others.
The culture of life
We are challenged to recognise and to propose to others the unique value of every life:
- Life begins at the moment of conception
- Life is loved and respected in the womb, hence abortion takes away an existing life which is the life of "someone", one of us, a little sister or brother.
- The frailty of early years and final years of life makes us totally dependent on others. We have special responsibility towards those whose lives are God-given and whose needs are greatest.
The value of each human life at every stage and in every circumstance is not a 'Christian imposition' on society. All people, religious or not, who reflect on the science and ethics of human life can see the truth. Being pro-life is for everyone who has known and given love.
What can we do?
Because we value life as God's unique gift, we can contribute by our lives, words and actions. Pope John Paul II has explained how each of us has our own role to play: teachers, families, young people, media, priests, bishops. When we work together we can achieve great things. What then can young people do?
- Value and encourage people to share in family life.
- Break the power of violence?in the playground or the battlefield?by the power of forgiveness.
- Give support and time to those who are "down", sick or less popular.
- Show compassion to those who do not love life; forgive and try to help them understand.
- Good medicine and science deserve respect. But research that calls for killing will support a culture of death.
- Think about and discuss the facts behind media reports. Is the reporting of the event accurate and fair?
- Accept responsibility to support challenged members of our own community?the sick; dying; infants (especially the disabled); the housebound and elderly; women with an unwanted pregnancy.
- In appearance and conduct encourage the view that life and each individual life is sacred and possesses dignity.
- Welcome those from other lands who are homeless.
- Learn more about the sufferings and joys of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- Encourage groups that are marginalised in society to feel welcomed and needed.
- Be part of a group which emphasises the dignity of persons and wishes to help e.g. The Vinnies, Red Cross, the Soup Van.
- Make a contribution based on giving that does not seek personal rewards.
- Share ideas with friends, work together for a culture of life.
We do not have to face building the culture of life on our own. We begin together. To build this culture of love, joy and life people need your help, your energy and vitality, enthusiasm and imagination, love and compassion.
Under God, society is what the people in it are prepared to make it. What can you contribute?
+Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne
Pentecost Sunday, 19th May 2002
Working together for a culture of life
'Human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable' (Pope John Paul II Evangelium Vitae
, 81). With this great rallying cry Pope John Paul II directs the Gospel-efforts of all people, and especially young people, towards life and generosity. We admire young people because they show us the fullness of life. The young are ever active, full of enthusiasm, and have a thirst for learning and giving.
Jesus said: "I come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). We are greatly saddened by the young who are maimed or killed on our roads, debilitated by drugs or alcohol, hurt by broken relationships. The suffering of the young brings darkness into life and creates a sense of helplessness. Sometimes individuals and groups seem powerless to make a difference.
Contact with Jesus immediately changes our vision. He is the Son of God who shares our human nature, ennobles it, and shows us the fullness of life even in the hour of darkness.
Value of the person
Every life from conception to natural death is God-given, and precious. We are not commodities or objects: we are living, loving, intelligent creatures. Each of us is unique and each of us can make a difference. Wonderful achievements do ennoble people when they work together, especially in time of crisis. The courage and self-sacrifice shown in the emergencies of September 11 or the Austrian or Snowy Mountains disasters or the recent bush-fires in NSW shows the real goodness of people.
"I come that they
may have life,
and have it
to the full"
How can we build a culture of life?
Pentecost Letter 2002
Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne