Back in 1995 when Pope John Paul II issued his now legendary 188-page encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” – which means “The Gospel of Life” – critics assailed the clear delineation between “a culture of life” and a “culture of death” as something of an oversimplified and overly moralistic treatise destined to scare off allies and further alienate ideological opponents.
Many also thought it was overwrought and overdone. Too much gloom and doom.
Nearly thirty years later, the document not only holds up – but is considered by many to have outright predicted the mire of the moment.
Back in the mid-90s, sixteen years into his pontificate, John Paul II warned about the “emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable ‘culture of death,’ ” that pits “the powerful against the weak.”
“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the church,” he said.
“Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law,” wrote the Pope.
Looking back, pundits who continue to dismiss the pontiff’s warning must either have an ice-cold conscience or ignore all together the grim reality of what’s transpired since 1995.
Based on worldwide abortion rates, nearly one billion babies have been aborted across the globe since the Vatican issued the 1995 encyclical – nearly 30 million children in the United States alone.
We’re reminded of the cavalier and callous dismissals when looking at the celebratory scenes from Ohio earlier this week. On Tuesday, voters in the Buckeye State overwhelmingly approved “Issue 1” on the ballot, which codified a right to abortion in their constitution.
The Babylon Bee, known for sometimes using gallows humor to make a point, yesterday satirized Ohio State University was replacing its mascot “Brutus” with the demon Moloch, claiming “the demon notorious for child murder had never quite gotten the recognition he deserved.”
Only the emerging and expanding “Culture of Death” is nothing to joke about. Pro-lifers and reasonable people bemoan and mourn its emergence, but what happened in Ohio is even worse than most people may think.
That’s because enshrining abortion as a right further erodes the dignity of life – not just of the preborn but also the elderly and everyone in between. It will lead to the expansion and normalization of euthanasia. Individuals with special needs will be vulnerable and potentially deemed dispensable. As Pope John Paul II warned, history shows us that people with disabilities in such a culture are often eventually deemed “intolerable and too burdensome.”
Normalizing death on demand is not only chilling and heartless, but it cheapens those on the margins and the rest of us in the middle.
We’ll see the further corrosion of civility and decline in tenderness. Violence and crime will increase. Incidents of abuse will rise.
People decry images of looting and general lawlessness and never seem to connect the crime to broader attitudes and the embracing of sin. But the fact of the matter is how we treat the most vulnerable members of our society correlates to the tone and tenor of the broader culture.
As Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, we can remain hopeful that God’s hand remains on our lives, but the same cannot be said of His hand on a culture that continues to flout and flaunt the freedom He gives us all. Hold onto Him, but also recognize the worst is yet to come unless He soon returns, or our nation turns back to God.
Image from Shutterstock.