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January 19, 1996     The Message
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January 19, 1996

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 7 in our public and private conversations about eu- thanasia? Over the past year, in the midst of our re- flections on the crises of abortion and euthanasia in our country, we were blessed with the papal encycli- cal, Evangelium Vitae. Speaking to every country, the Holy Father reminded us that the modern phenom- ena of abortion and euthanasia highlight a crying need to respect, protect, love and serve human life (5). Here we reflect upon these issues in the context of the alarming trend to advance abortion and euthanasia in the name of freedom. But it is a freedom gone wrong. As disciples of Christ, as bishops in his Church, our first concern for human life has to be for those who are unwanted -- with fatal results -- by their parents or their children, or by society itself. Such as these fall victim to the ultimate abuse of abortion or eu- thanasia. As human beings we are outraged at the cruel injustice of these acts of deliberate killing. And our Christian faith gives an even sharper edge to our consciences in this matter, compelling us to call for courage and unconditional love in defense of those who are helpless. is way from Jerusalem to Jericho rObbed and dumped by the side of die. Three travelers later saw him rst and the second were his own fact, one was a priest and the crossed the road to avoid the on his way. The third man was a as Unwelcome as the bandits them- who stopped, gave th vic- to the nearest inn (where he have been welcome to stay), and at his own expense to convalesce (Lk. d by Jesus when asked: "Who befriended the Jew countrymen failed to do. Jesus did his duty, while the did not. To be a neighbor, the kin or countryman, or some- rescuer had made a commitment. in that ditch was neighbor. down from Jerusalem to Jeri- us, for it flatly contradicts so widely held today that our are owed only to those of me Owe fidelity to those we choose we do not choose. It is we Oaen _ to go out of our way for and the unsettling impera- COmpel us as Catholic bishops to neighbors whose lives are degal- the hungry children, the ne- have Stood in jeopardy for various rea- sons in our country and throughout the world, and our witness over the years has taken many forms and defended many victims. Beginning as early as 1840, the Catholic bishops of the United States have spoken out on myriad subjects that concern our fidelity to one another. Alcohol and drug abuse, racial justice, the welfare of working men and women and persons with disabilities, civil fi'eedoms, capital punishment, ado- lescent pregnancy, and world peace are just a few of these. Of particularly grave concern at this time, however, are abortion and euthanasia. We choose now to speak about these concerns because each places human life itself at stake, and each has broad implications for our fidelity to God and to one another. At the very heart of our respect for human life is a special and persistent advocacy for those who depend on others for survival itself. Those most dependent lie on the opposite extremities of their life's journey, near the start and near the finish. Because they are help- less to provide for themselves, they are utterly at the mercy of those closest to them. Many are welcomed by those to whose care they have been entrusted. Others are not so welcomed. Since the legal floodgates were opened in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, an abortion mentality has swept across our land and throughout our culture. The language and the mind- set of abortion  presented in terms of unlimited choice, privacy, and autonomi  pervade our enter- tainment, our news, our public policies and even our private lives. Wrapped so appealingly in the language of self-determination, cloaked so powerfully in the mantle of federal authority, is it any wonder that the logic of Roe has been extended to apply beyond the unborn? Is it any wonder that it appears so explicitly THE FRAYING OF FIDELITY i:i::':aithful to a long tradition, the Second Vatican .::'.::: Council denounced abortmn and euthanasia as "disgraceful" and "unspeakable crimes" (Gaudium et Ses, 27, 51. Yet such practices, proved through centuries of experience to be wrong and de- structive of human life and human dignity, are in our day expounded upon in schoolrooms, prescribed by physicians, condoned by public figures, protected by courts, subsidized by legislatures, and even adver- tised in the Yellow Pages. How has it come to pass that the elimination of one's child or one's parent, acts of desperation wrought in every age, are now de- scribed as sensible and even attractive alternatiw, s? And is it not unthinkable that people who call them- selves Christians sometimes fit in so well among a people that tolerates the killing of its unborn children and elders'? It is for good reason that many find the roots of this disdain for life in the breakdown of the family. The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, for it is within the family that neighbor- ing beNns -- or does not. The family is the first haven where those who are dependent -- by being too young or too old, too disabled or too sick to care for them- selves -- find their closest and surest support. For this reason it can be called the "sanctuary of life" tEt,angclium Vitae, 11 i. At the heart of this sanctuary is fidelity  unwavering loyalty both to those we choose and to those who have been given to us. The unraveling of that fidelity in our time leaves depen- dents to become lawful victims of their guardians. This same shift towards the self has altered our so- ciety's views on marriage and divorce. Men and women find it increasingly difficult to make perma- nent commitments to each other. Marriage, even for many who plan to parent, is seen as optional. At the same time, the grounds for divorce, restricted at first to adultery and desertion, have continually expanded in our society to include general incompatibility, fi- nally giving way 1o groundless or "no fault" divorce. The outcome of groundless divorce has been increas- ingly more divorce and the disabling of marriage itself as an institution in society. Christian marriage is the union of a man and a woman bound by the same transforming fidelity which Christ has for his Church: for better or for worse. When a people lose confident@ in fidelity be- tween husbands and wives, it is an easy leap to imag- ine that other fidelities  of parents to children, and of adult children to their elder parents  no longer need to be permanent, for-better-or-for-worse obliga- tions. When a family lives in fidelity it is a place of refuge and dignity, a place where each member is ac- cepted, respected and honored precisely because he or Of .particularly grave concern at this time, however, are abortion and euthanasia. We choose now to speak about these concerns because each places human life itself at stake, and each has broad implications for our fidelity to God and to one another.