Kansas City, Kan., Aug 5, 2015 / 05:02 am
Too many social trends treat the human person as nothing sacred, but Catholic pro-life efforts are part of an effort to change that, Los Angeles' Archbishop Jose Gomez said last Wednesday.
"Everything we do is rooted in the truth of the Gospel. The beautiful truth that every human life matters - because every human life is sacred and created by the loving plan of God," the archbishop said in his keynote speech at the National Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Kansas.
"We are living in a culture that is deeply confused and conflicted about the meaning of creation and the meaning of human life," he said July 29. "And so we find ourselves more and more indifferent to the cruelty and injustice that we see all around us."
He noted such grave crimes against human life as widespread abortion, experimentation with human embryos, and the euthanasia of the elderly and the sick.
"In a society without God, the human person becomes 'nothing special,' nothing sacred. The value of a human life is judged according to whether it is 'productive' or 'efficient'," he said. "Without God we don't know who we are, or where we come from, or what we are here for."
However, it is not enough to criticize "the cruelty of this culture."
"Our challenge as Christians is to change and convert this culture!" Archbishop Gomez continued. Transforming the culture means "turning it from the darkness of death to the light of life."
"We have to call our society once more to rediscover the sanctity, the dignity and the transcendent destiny of the human person, who is created in the image of the Creator."
Archbishop Gomez said the task for the Church is to seek how to "live and love and work and create," and how to raise families and carry out the Christian mission "in a culture that has no need for God and has no tolerance for people who believe in God."
He credited God's grace for a pro-life victory in California, when the state legislature withdrew a bill to legalize assisted suicide. He also credited the victory to a coalition of doctors and health care professionals, advocates for the disabled, advocates for the poor, and African-American and immigrant community leaders.
"It's a temporary victory, for sure. We expect to see the measure come back in January or later next year in a ballot proposition. But for now it is stopped," he said. He explained that assisted suicide had "dangerous implications" for the poor and those without adequate health care access.
"It is no secret that there was big money and powerful interests behind this legislation, and nobody thought we could win," he continued. "But that what's encouraging to me. Despite the odds and all the political pressure, we were still able to engage legislators on this complicated issue and help them to see our concerns."
Archbishop Gomez also denounced the injustice of racial discrimination, unemployment, homelessness, environmental pollution, bad prison conditions, and the death penalty.
He particularly noted injustices related to immigration, such as family detention, deportation, and deaths in the desert of people trying to enter the U.S.
However, he said that these issues are not all equal.
"The fundamental injustice in our society is the killing of innocent unborn life through abortion and the killing of the sick and defenseless through euthanasia and assisted suicide," he said.
"If the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of - then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone's human rights."
The archbishop drew on the examples of several Catholics, including Blessed Junipero Serra, a California missionary who opposed capital punishment for Native Americans who had tortured and killed one of his friends, a fellow missionary, in an attack on the San Diego mission in 1775.
"Let the murderer live so he can be saved, which is the purpose of our coming here and the reason for forgiving him," the priest said in a letter to Spanish authorities.
Archbishop Gomez noted the life of Servant of God Dorothy Day, who "personally knew the tragedy of abortion and also the despair that leads people to try suicide."
"But she also discovered the power of God's tender mercies - which can heal every wound and bring new life out of sin and death," the archbishop said.
In strong words, she characterized abortion as genocide against the poor and minorities. She also performed works of love and mercy. She encouraged people: "Make room for children, don't do away with them."
Archbishop Gomez encouraged Catholic pro-life leaders to "build bridges and friendships with others in our community" to advance compassion and caring.
The Los Angeles archdiocese's pro-life activities work as part of its peace and justice office, he said. Its program OneLifeLA drew 15,000 people in January to hear inspiring testimonies of hope, courage, love, and self-sacrifice.
The archbishop said the event sought to convey that "that God's love embraces every life," especially those of the vulnerable, the weak, and those who cannot care for themselves.