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The Dignity of Human Life: Challenges and Progress Today

Jeffrey Bruno
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Fr. Frank Pavone gives a talk on the challenges and progresses in the dignity of human life, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

It is a pleasure to share these reflections with you today and to participate in this conference, and I do so with fond recollections of my own time of service as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family under the Presidency of His Eminence Alfonso Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo. I bring you today the prayerful greetings of our entire association known as Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. In particular I bring you the greetings of Janet Morana, our Executive Director, who has also had the privilege of presenting at a previous conference of this Pontifical Council for the Family, and Dr. Alveda King, our fulltime director of African-American Outreach, and the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. All of us are especially grateful to His Excellency, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, for his leadership and for the collaboration which our Association enjoys with this dicastery.

The Rights of the Family and the Right to Life

Brothers and sisters, at the heart and foundation of the defense of the rights of the family is the defense of the right to life. At the very soul of the promotion, celebration, and service of the family is the promotion, celebration, and service of life itself.

In Article 4 of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, we read, "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception."

In the foundational encyclical Evangelium Vitae, moreover, we read the reasons for which Blessed John Paul II, who throughout his pontificate addressed the numerous threats to human life and dignity in our world, nonetheless concentrated his attention in that document on the evils of abortion and euthanasia. He wrote,
 

"Here though we shall concentrate particular attention on
another category of attacks, affecting life in its earliest and in its final stages, attacks which present
new characteristics with respect to the past and which raise questions of extraordinary seriousness. It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as "crimes"; paradoxically they assume the nature of "rights", to the point that the State is called upon to give them
legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of health-care personnel. Such attacks strike human life at the time of its greatest frailty, when it lacks any means of self-defence. Even more serious is the fact that, most often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the family—the family which by its nature is called to be the "sanctuary of life"." (n. 11)

Five years after the Holy See issued the Charter of the Rights of the Family, Blessed John Paul II issued the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, and reminded us that our integrity and credibility in defending the rights of the family depends on the determination we have to defend the underlying right to life. He writes,
 

"[T]he common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if
the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." (n. 38)

Why is this the case?

First of all, it is clear from logic that the loss of the foundation implies the loss of the house. The destruction of the right to life contains within itself the destruction of the rights of the family, religious liberty, and every other human right.

This is also evident from the psychological sciences. The damage abortion does to the entire family is being revealed through the research of psychologists and psychiatrists. Perhaps no person in the world has done more research on the impact of abortion than Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Ney. He declares without reservation that there is nothing more damaging to the family than abortion. He points out that an abortion distorts the mother’s ability – and indeed the ability of the human species – to respond properly to the helpless cry of its own young. Having met that helpless cry with the violence of abortion, we are less able to respond to that cry the next time, not only in regard to the unborn child, but to other members of the human family.

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