Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver encouraged a gathering of pro-life University of Notre Dame students to be courageous in fighting for their beliefs and to always remember what being Catholic really means.
“(W)e need to learn that not from the world; not from the tepid and self-satisfied; and not from the enemies of the Church, even when they claim to be Catholic; but from the mind and memory of the Church herself, who speaks through her pastors,” he said in an April 8 speech at the university.
Chaput noted how the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski stressed the reality of evil. Though not an orthodox religious thinker, Kolakowski talked about Satan “not as a metaphor or legend or the figment of neurotic imaginations, but as a living actor in history.”
The devil, the archbishop said, “works in the present to capture our hearts and steal our future. But he also attacks our memory; the narrative of our own identity.” This is because our memory of history conditions our thoughts and choices in our daily lives.
Archbishop Chaput encouraged his audience to participate in politics, saying, “Christ never absolved us from defending the weak, or resisting evil in the world, or from solidarity with people who suffer.”
Catholics cannot exclude their religious beliefs from guiding their political behavior, because God sees that this “duplicity” is a kind of cowardice. This lack of courage wounds Christians’ individual integrity and also discourages others who try to witness publicly to their faith.
Christians should act on their beliefs always with humility, charity and prudence, but also always with courage, he emphasized.
“We need to fight for what we believe,” he said. “Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work.”
The archbishop also described abortion as “the foundational human rights issue of our lifetime.”
“We can’t simultaneously serve the poor and accept the legal killing of unborn children. We can’t build a just society, and at the same time legally sanctify the destruction of generations of unborn human life,” he added.
Abortion is no longer the only major threat to the right to life, which now faces a range of challenges including physician-assisted suicide, cloning, genetic screening, genetic engineering, and cross-species experimentation.
He noted that people are discussing the need to return science to its “rightful place” in human life, warning that this can become a slogan to justify unethical research. Citing the Jewish bioethicist Leon Kass, he said the present day is an age of “salvific science” in which a “scientific savior” supposedly takes away the “sin of suffering.”
Yet science accountable to no moral authority outside itself leads to “a hatred of imperfection” in real human persons, and the simplest way to deal with imperfections is to eliminate the imperfect.
Science and technology are “enormously powerful tools” but they can undermine human dignity just as easily as they can advance human progress.
“Virtue does matter,” the archbishop said as he finished his talk. “Courage and humility, justice and perseverance, do have power. Good does win. And the sanctity of human life will endure.”
The sanctity of life will endure, he said, because young men and women like those in his audience will remember that “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son” and “it’s worth fighting for what’s right.”