Throughout the past year, the Catholic Church throughout the world has celebrated “The Year of Mercy,” an extraordinary Holy Year proclaimed by Our Holy Father Pope Francis. As this jubilee draws to a close, the month of October, once again, urges us, “moved by mercy,” to respect life. There is no value as important, as fundamental, as essentially merciful as the protection of human life – from conception to natural death – and, yet, we are surrounded by a culture that does not share that value, a “throwaway culture (Pope Francis),” a “culture of death (St. John Paul II).”
It begins in the womb with abortion and can be seen and felt in the way we fail to respect the inherent, sacred dignity of human life in all its subsequent stages. Canonized during this Year of Mercy, St. Teresa of Calcutta once remarked, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other.” That is a sad admission and a sad truth.
It is tragic enough that disregard for human life is so blatantly widespread and commonplace everywhere we turn but the fact that it has been justified by and chiseled into our country’s laws is beyond comprehension. What kind of nation have we become? Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of our democracy, wrote, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” There can be no reasonable doubt, as Pope Francis has affirmed, that “the right to life is the first among human rights.” And life deserves our greatest respect, again from conception to natural death. That is what we, as Catholics, are called to believe.
During this “Respect Life” month in these final weeks of the Year of Mercy, let us pray that all human hearts, moved by mercy, may recognize life as God’s gift to us to be respected and ultimately returned to Him but only in his own time and in his own way.