Archbishop Martin on the Right to Life
Advent is a season of hope as we reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus Christ into human history. The coming of Jesus takes place within the real and concrete events and lives of people who form part of human history. Jesus comes to us not by removing us out of earthly realities, but in the midst of a concrete and at times confused world. Jesus came not to an idealistic or idealised world; he came and comes with his saving message to our concrete and confused and compromised world. It is in such a world that we are called to witness to the salvation offered us by Jesus Christ.
In Advent we turn to Mary as we reflect on how she, despite her natural perplexity, awaited in hope the birth of her firstborn, who was to bring salvation and new life into the world. In the current debate in Ireland on the right to life, Christians should be inspired by the compassion of Jesus Christ in the face of anyone who finds themselves troubled by a pregnancy.
I particularly commend the quiet work of Cura which confidentially extends a hand of counselling, encouragement and practical support to women and to protect the life of the nascent child. The Church and Irish society owe Cura a great debt of gratitude for how it has witnessed in a powerful way to the care of Jesus Christ for all those who are anxious and troubled during a pregnancy. Those who are troubled and distressed need a caring and concerned Christian community to be there for them and to support them as they make the choice for life and as they regain hope.
The Christian message is a message of life. It is about how every human life is a reflection of the very life of God. Each of us is created in the image of God. Catholic teaching clearly affirms that every human life has unique and irreplaceable dignity. Every human life has the right, from its very beginnings, to flourish and develop as God wants it to.
The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to the life of a mother. By virtue of their common humanity a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred with an equal right to life. In facing situations of conflict, Catholic teaching stresses the equal rights of the mother and the unborn child and the desire to save both lives.
Stressing the equal dignity and right to life of the mother and of her unborn child is also a strong affirmation of the fact that there are no second class human lives, no human life whose right to life deserves lesser respect or lesser protection. Any society which attempts to define certain lives as being of lesser worth and of lesser protection betrays the common good. All should be equal before the law. That is a fundamental principle of our Constitution – and indeed of democracy – to be maintained and protected.
As is pointed out in Evangelium Vitae (n.72), “Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good”
Being Pro-Life is not just being anti-abortion. It can take many different forms from direct action in support of those who are poor or sick, to advocacy for those whose rights are threatened; from development work in poorer parts of our world, to highlighting the horrors of war, to the promotion of respect for the environment. The Church has long recognized, however, that there are times when the value and dignity of human life is especially likely to be obscured or neglected. In Ireland today that applies in a special way to the defence of the value and worth of human life in the womb. This must be a concern for every man and women in Ireland, every doctor or nurse, every parliamentarian. Our enviable record in protecting the lives of women and children shows the value of the strong pro-life ethic of our medical profession. This is something we cannot afford to loose.
This article appears in this week’s Irish Catholic Newspaper (13December)