To defend life

Archbishop Jozef Michalik

These words about liberty, spoken by the man who experienced painful discrimination, painful because it happened at the beginning of his life, are very special. When he applied to Cambridge University in 1850 none of the colleges agreed to enrol him. The obstacle was his Catholic faith. He went to Munich to study under the supervision of the well-known theologian and historian Ignaz von Dollinger.
The highest good for a believer is God and his law; the law that is born out of love for man and which defends proper growth. Maturing to freedom is measured by implementation of the norms of the natural law by all people, the law which is inscribed in the conscience of every man - living according to the motto, 'be free and respect freedom of every man as your brother. Only a slave, who does not know freedom, can threaten freedom of other people' (Pawel Hulka-Laskowski).

Law contradicts law

One of the most precious values is human life. All actions against life are the biggest crime against man and humanity. For you do not know what role Lord God has assigned to every human being in this world. Therefore, killing a human being we kill humankind, or at least we make people's proper growth impossible. Among the actions against humankind the biggest crime is killing the unborn life. Its atrocity is that one kills a defenceless being. An equally big crime, which is at the source of the killing of unborn beings, is promoting a false thesis that that a being living under the mother's heart is not a human being. The thesis is so false that it is hard to believe that some groups of people, including the educated ones, accept it unquestioningly. But the law gives the lie to it. In the case of a new life in the mother's womb the law concerning for example division of property allows the unborn child. And the law does not make any formal requirements: whether the child is healthy, whether the mother's life is in dander, etc. The promoted thesis that a foetus is not a life makes many threats, taking for example the threat that was included in the project of the European Union deciding about financing research on human foetuses. That does not surprise us. The fact that this parliament threw out God's name from its constitution means that it consequently despises man. I would like to express my sincere respect and recognition of the Polish members of Parliament the majority of which (over 82%) voted against this act. And we should not be discouraged that we were in the minority. This opinion is important in the European scene of fight for adequate place of God in individuals' lives and particular national communities. I trust others will follow it.
Man and his dignity from conception to natural life is a measure of maturity of national communities to freedom. The Book of Exodus, depicting the slavery of the chosen nation in Egypt, devotes only several sentences to the truth about Jews' oppression by forced labour. But the drama of the commandment to kill all male babies is largely defined. Yes, man can be forced using various ways but a nation dies, must die when its future - children are killed. The Egyptian midwives are examples and witnesses for us that people always treated life as sacred until they were corrupted by evil civilization, civilization of death.
The civilization of Sparta, which forgot about that issue, did not develop. The only traces of that large monarchy are the rocks from which disabled children and infirm old people were thrown. The Hellenistic world, which did not avoid mistakes, but nevertheless promoted man as creator of science and culture, astonishes us by its monuments of human greatness. After all it was Cicero that said, 'Excessive liberty leads both nations and individuals to excessive slavery'.

In the cemetery of victims

Referring to the project of the Parliament to reform the Constitution by adding the principle of the defence of life from conception to natural death it seems reasonable, and even necessary, to recollect the words of the Holy Father John Paul II, spoken during one of his pilgrimages to his Homeland. On 4 June 1991, in Radom, referring to the death of the murdered workers John Paul II stressed the need for a wide view on human life, 'Forgive me, dear Brothers and Sisters, that I will go further. The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn, of the defenceless whose faces were not known by their own mother, agreeing or yielding under pressure to take their lives before they are born. And yet they had the life, they were conceived, grew under the hearts of their mothers, not sensing their deadly threat. But when the threat became real, these defenceless human beings tried to defend themselves. A film camera registered this desperate defence of an unborn child in the mother's womb against aggression. Once I saw the film and until today I cannot get rid of it, I cannot erase it from my memory. It is hard to imagine a drama that is more horrible in its moral human expression.
The root of the drama - how wide and variable it can be. However, this human institution remains, these groups, sometimes groups of pressure, these legislative bodies that 'legalise' the killing of unborn man. What human institution, what parliament, has the right to legalize the killing of an innocent and defenceless human being? What parliament has the right to say 'You are free to kill,' or even 'killing is in order,' where the greatest efforts should be made to protect and help life in the first place? Let us also notice that the commandment 'Thou shall not kill' does not only contain a command. It calls us to assume certain attitudes and positive behaviour. Do not kill but rather protect life, protect health and respect human dignity of every man, regardless of his race or religion, level of intelligence, level of awareness or age, health or illness. Do not kill but rather accept another being as God's gift - especially if it is your own child.
Do not kill but rather try to help your neighbours so that they joyfully accept their child who - from the human aspect - they regard as being conceived at the wrong time.
At the same time we must increase our concern for the conceived child and its parents, especially its mother if the child brings (as they think) troubles and difficulties beyond their capabilities. This concern should be expressed in spontaneous attitudes and activities as well as in creating institutional forms of help for those parents whose situation is especially difficult. Let parishes and congregations join this movement of social solidarity with the conceived child and its parents'.

Every life is priceless

This project may not have been proposed at a right time, just before the election of the local authorities. Its opponents tried to diminish the significance of this decision, accusing the originators of mercenarism of intention. Such opinions have already appeared. The Church will be accused of an attempt to callously enslave women in their free decision to conceive and bear a child. I want to protest firmly against such attempts to politicise the Church's intentions. The Servant of God Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski said, 'To defend faith the Church will even sacrifice her freedom but to preserve freedom the Church will never sacrifice faith'. These words are important and they are worth listening to in the year of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Prisoner of freedom in the name of saving faith. Being obedient to his words we repeat: we will not sacrifice freedom in the name of praises and the name of 'open Church', given by the libertarians in order to consent to deceitful theses about life. We are surprised by the opinion of one woman, an MP, who does not hide her hatred towards the beauty of motherhood, that the new law will discriminate women - mothers, depriving them of alterative choices between their lives and the lives of the unborn. The Church has never preached such a thesis. Every life is a priceless value. The decision depends on the woman. And it happens many times, like in the case of the Saint Doctor Gianna Molla, that women freely choose life. Naturally, there are cases they choose their own lives. The Church does not deprive them of this right. Moreover, the Church let those women who choose their comfort, careers at the cost of the conceived life return to normal life if they regret it and convert through the sacrament of penance and a network of pastoral counselling centres. One can give thousands of such examples. The women, who have been deceived by the enemies of life, sometimes being left to themselves, experience deep depressions or try to commit suicides after killing their children. The Church, through her pastoral effort, shows them God's mercy and directs them to the ways that promote life. This brings effects. We do not beguile them with easy words. We are aware that every new life is a big challenge and sometimes the choice is connected with suffering but as Pope Benedict XVI said, 'The man who does not face suffering does not accept life. Escaping suffering means escaping life.'
Therefore, any changes of the Constitution concerning the jurisdictional regulations about conditions of admissibility, i.e. abortion in case of rape or disease of the conceived child do not seem right. The most important thing is that the Constitution should praise life, its elevation. Other institutions are to define the conditions that should be always consider in the spirit of liberty, the biggest vector of which, let us refer to Seneca again, is 'to be obedient to God.'

Maturing to parenthood

The defence of life, apart from this inalienable right to exist from conception to natural death, means also the concern about healthy growth of human beings, especially young people. The growth, which is to lead to proper maturity so that a young man grows to be a father or a mother. Questioning the truth about true humanity of every foetus, and consequently diminishing greatness, and for us, believers, sacredness of the very act of conceiving, is against such a growth. The last appalling events in youth circles confirm that the words of the Primate of the Millennium were prophetic, 'One of the biggest mistakes of our contemporary life was that the reformation of social and economic life began with the destruction of moral and religious order. The mistake cost us a lot.'
We should do our best to make the words of Gertrude von Le Fort true, 'It is not only the mother who bears a child but also the child bears a mother'.
The child is a book that we are to read and in which we are to write. Undoubtedly, this is a difficult task. One cannot perform it without a deep prayerful contact with God. Therefore, finally I want to invite all communities of the Church to pray fervently. Prayer causes that 'a Christian is always in contact with some Different One who knows his life and its destiny. The One is not from this earth, but from another world' (Chiara Lubich).
'Every child is an evidence that God is not bored with man, that he does not have enough of people' (Rabindranath Tagore). I want to dedicate these words to all who defend life at its every stage. God will never get bored of us since he is Love. Man can get bored of the world and be against God's love, and make the earth a wilderness and not a planet of people by his bestial deeds of murdering the conceived and the old.

"Niedziela" 47/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl