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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Dignity

In doing a bit of cleaning, I found some writing I had done a few years ago, hoping at the time that our pastor would allow me to write a pro-life series for our church bulletin.  He didn't, so I stopped writing.  But here is a sample of what I had written at that time.  It is only a beginning, and uses a lot of arguing from authority, but it is something which I wonder about - whether or not I should continue writing in this vein. 

I remember the first time it really hit me.  I was at work looking over something I was required to read as part of my job, and reading that a woman who found out she was pregnant would be heading down the to the city for an abortion. Such a simple statement, but sitting in front of the computer screen, I cried for several minutes.  It was too late.  This innocent life was already lost.  I knew then that I must do something, so I began a Rosary for Life group.  One person came the first day.  Then for many months I sat alone and prayed, persistently.  It was then that I began to realize that many, if not most, people were just like I had been:  asleep.  If asked, they would probably have said they were pro-life, but if pressed, no, they hadn't done anything about it.  It was not until recently that I realized my own complicity in the Culture of Death which has enveloped this country.  It is a complicity born out of laziness and fear; a complicity which has emboldened the enemy because of the yawning silence of so many.

"In 2009, 784, 507 legal induced abortions were reported . . . from 48 reporting areas." (cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data/stats/abortion)  This reporting is voluntary.  Two stated did not report their numbers, but using the numbers as given it works out to  2,149 abortions per 24-hour day; nearly 90 per hour - in this country alone!  The same website states that there were 227 abortions per 1000 live births.  I am at a loss, and all I am left with are questions.  Why have so many chosen to embrace death?  What evil has infected us?  Where are we as a society heading when we kill our unborn children in the name of practicality and compassion . . . when we encourage the old and sick to kill themselves in the name of dignity?

The fifth commandment is clear:  "You shall not kill" (Ex. 20:13).  As Christians, we believe that "human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God . . . God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning to its end:  no one can, under any circumstances, claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being" (CCC, 2258).  We are created and sustained by and through "God's creative power.  Nothing would exist except that God has willed it to be" (Catholic Health Care Ethics, 4).  This is central to the Christian understanding that our creation is distinct, different, from that of other created life.  In Genesis, we remember that we are "created . . . in His image" (Gen. 1:27).  "Therein lies the foundation of human dignity and worth" (CHCE, 4).

But what is dignity?  Often the discussion surrounding the life issues entails the use of this word, though there seems to be disparate definitions.  It seems the definition of "dignity" is changed to suit the argument, so that no matter on which side of the issue you find yourself you can argue that a person's "dignity" is maintained.  I would like to proffer a politically incorrect premise:  there is only one true definition of this word, and it is intimately bound up in our relationship with God, our Creator.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say, "The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God . . . for if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.  He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator" (CCC, 27).  We are called to be one with God, to be united to and with Him, and in that call lies the very essence of who we are, the very essence of our dignity.  In many ways, it seems our perception of dignity is tied into our perception of our relationship or non-relationship with God.  But the reality is we have a relationship with God whether or not we admit it, whether or not we choose to perceive it.

One very basic element of our relationship with God is that of created to Creator.  To be "created . . . in His image" is to be created in Love, for He is Love.  Our dignity as created beings derives from love: the love of a perfect Father for His children.  His "divine image is present in every man" (CCC, 1702) and we find our perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good" ("Guadium et spes," 15.2).