Building a Culture of Life

 Attendee of the march for life 2018 in Washington, Dc.  This year's theme was "love saves lives."

Attendee of the march for life 2018 in Washington, Dc.  This year's theme was "love saves lives."

By Rev. Patrick J. Fiorillo

Recently, I arrived back in Boston after an exhausting but awesome trip to Washington DC for the March for Life.  I drove down over night on Thursday with young adults from Pure in Heart America – with 22 of us packed into two vans for this annual pilgrimage.  I’ve been attending nearly every year since I was in college and it’s always a highlight of the year for me.  The March for Life began after the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973 and has grown in size each year. 

This year there had to have been half a million people there, making it one of the largest human rights rallies in the world.  Even more significantly though, it has become the single largest gathering of Catholics and Christians in United States with the median age around 17 years old.  The majority of people there are teenagers with their youth groups.  There were at least 1,000 pilgrims from around the Archdiocese of Boston.  Anyone who goes sees firsthand that the pro-life movement is not dying, but young, energetic, and growing.  Each time I go, I’m reminded that I am not alone in my beliefs, that I’m not crazy (actually!) for being pro-life, and that the Gospel message is as relevant today as it ever was.

Each time I go, I’m reminded that I am not alone in my beliefs, that I’m not crazy (actually!) for being pro-life, and that the Gospel message is as relevant today as it ever was.

There are plenty of scientific and medical reasons why the Church maintains a strong stance against abortion.  At the moment of conception, the human zygote possesses a unique and complete set of DNA; 18 days after conception, the unborn child’s heart beats; and after 8 weeks, all its organs are functioning.  Since the legalization of abortion, about 60 million unborn human beings in the United States alone have been denied the most fundamental right to life.  In 1995, in response to this crisis, Pope Saint John Paul II issued an encyclical called Evangelium vitae, “Gospel of Life.”  In it, he articulates the deeper philosophical and cultural implications of abortion.  One of his fundamental points is that our Creator – not man and not government – bestows an inherent dignity upon each human person.  One’s dignity therefore is in no way dependent on one’s physical state or condition, intellectual capacity, or any other life circumstance.  No human person has the right to judge whether or not another’s life is worthwhile and meaningful. 

When we have an entire culture and society that does not believe this, and does not uphold the right to life, then we have what John Paul II calls a “Culture of Death.”  Because of this reality, a major part of the proclamation of the Gospel consists now in building up what John Paul II calls a “Culture of Life;” a culture that respects the rights of its weakest and most vulnerable members, namely the unborn.

This is the great social justice issue of our time, but it also goes much deeper than a fight for human rights and freedoms.  The culture of death is an insidious ideology that has gradually woven its way deep into our culture to the point where many people buy into it without even realizing it.  But one does not need to look any further than the history of Planned Parenthood, the largest provider and advocate of abortion.  Take a look at the outrageous words of its founder, Margaret Sanger.  She was a leading advocate of the 20th century eugenics movement, and openly sought the elimination of people with so-called undesirable traits or economic conditions.  In a published journal article in 1921, she wrote, “The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”  In a book she wrote in 1920, she says, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”  Sanger also spoke at Ku Klux Klan rallies, and in a letter from 1939, she wrote, “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population...”  This is the founder of Planned Parenthood.  If you don’t believe me, just look it up online – it’s all out there.[1]

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Why then, in our present time, when confederate statues are being dismantled in the name of scrubbing racism from the public square, and when the Boston Globe runs a week-long Spotlight series on all the ways they believe institutionalized racism pervades society, why then does Planned Parenthood not distance itself from a known racist and eugenicist?  Why do such public figures as Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi who claim to fight for minorities and the neglected graciously accept Planned Parenthood’s highest honor each year – the Margaret Sanger Award?  It’s because Margaret Sanger is one of the untouchable saints of the sexual revolution, whose dogmas are total sexual freedom, and abortion on demand, without restriction.[2]  It’s not my intention to be provocative here, nor do I take any pleasure in saying controversial things, but you have to know the truth about the evil forces behind our culture.

So if Margaret Sanger is the great untouchable saint of the secular religion and culture of death, then abortion is the holy sacrament.[3]  How else could you explain the fact that today a sick child needs parental permission to receive Tylenol at school for a headache, and yet the abortion zealots believe a child has a right to undergo a surgical abortion without even parents’ knowledge, let alone consent?  How is it that the so-called defenders of “choice” never hold up as an example any woman who chooses to give birth?

Everyone here needs to realize that the culture of death is nothing short of diabolical, and it has “[generated] human misery throughout Western societies.”[2]  I’ve had the opportunity to hear women share their experience of abortion with me personally, and also I’ve heard testimony of the many courageous women who have felt called to share their story publically.  The mothers themselves are undoubtedly major victims in an abortion.  They often suffer from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which includes depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.  And remember, in the church of secularism, there is no redemption.[3]

In this culture of death, which prides itself on freedom of choice, many of these women feel at the time like they don’t have any other choice but to abort, and many are pressured into doing so by family members, friends, and society at large.  It is therefore everyone’s vocation to commit oneself to building up a culture of life: to courageously stand up for the right to life in the public square, and to assist pregnant women and young mothers in need.  There are several homes and organizations very close to here that do a great job at that.  And for the women who suffer from post-abortion syndrome, there is help available for you.  There is an organization called Project Rachel, which offers free, confidential counseling and retreats.  I personally know some of the women who run it, so I know that it has been an incredible source of hope and healing for countless women.

It is therefore everyone’s vocation to commit oneself to building up a culture of life: to courageously stand up for the right to life in the public square, and to assist pregnant women and young mothers in need. 

So while the culture of death may seem to be thriving socially and politically, we must remember that it is full of wounded souls.  Each person who has bought into it – whether or not they’ve dealt directly with this issue – is a “convert waiting to happen:”[4] deep down in each of these wounded souls is someone longing to know their true dignity, someone hungering for the truth, someone seeking redemption, someone yearning to experience God’s unconditional love.  All of those are ultimately found in the Holy Catholic Church, whose mission is to build a culture of life.

[1] “21 Quotes by Margaret Sanger that Will Probably Make You Sick,” TPF Student Action blog, 20 November 2017, < https://www.tfpstudentaction.org/blog/margaret-sanger-quotes>, accessed 20 January 2018. 2 Mary Eberstadt, “The Zealous Faith of Secularism,” First Things, January 2018, p. 37. 3 Ibid., 36.

[2] Ibid., 39.

[3] Ibid., 39.

[4] Ibid., 40.