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January 19, 1996     The Message
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January 19, 1996

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The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Faithful for Life she is a person; and if any member is in greater need, the care which he or she receives is all the more in- terTsc and attentive (Evangelium Vitae, 92). If it be- comes each one only for himself or herself, then in- stead of being the source, school and standard for fidelity to neighbor, the family can become the scene of its harshest violations. The home becomes the place where, when you knock, they no longer have to let you in. FREEDOM VS. COMMITMENT his decay of inviolable trust has had pervasive effects. The view of human life as the pursuit of individual satisfaction, not to be curtailed by faithful duty, is a belief powerfully expounded in the United States in the fields of education, entertain- ment, information and politics. As servants of Christ's gospel, however, we are convinced that such a view of human life is profoundly mistaken (Veritatis Spleli dor, 84-87). As the gospel tells us, human beings find fulfill- ment in pursuing what is authentically good for the human person as created by God. The pursuit of dis- ordered desires masquerading as "interests" easily leads to violence or greed or self-indulgence or loneli- ness. Our true needs include virtues that human be- ings sometimes lack the wisdom or the audacity to de- sire: steadfast friendship, clear thought, patience, candor, compassion, self-control. These are the sinews and ligaments of love. It is not good for anyone to be alone (Gn. 2:18). We find our fulfillment as committed individuals bound in kinship, friendship and fellowship to our families, our neighbors, and then beyond them to strangers and even to enemies. Without community, we wither. Many of the critical moments in our lives require that we rise to meet responsibilities given to us, not chosen by us. This is true of our obligation to be stew- ards of the world's resources. It is .equally true of the obligations which bind us in love to our families. We are bound to our children, not because we chose them, but because we were given them: simply because they are our children, our very near neighbors. Many in our society today seem to live by the belief that human beings find their ultimate sense and ful- fillment in unlimited individual freedom. Unlimited personal choice is celebrated as the prerequisite for every satisfying human experience, even within the family. Yet such an individualistic concept of freedom severs the true meaning of freedom from its moorings and distorts social life. It extols a society in which in- dividuals stand side by side, but have no bonds hold- ing them together. Yet between life itself and freedom there is an inseparable bond, a link. And that link is love or fidelity (Evangelium Vitae, 20, 76, 96). To live in fidelity we have to rearrange our lives, yield control, and forfeit some choices. To evade the full burden of putting ourselves at the disposal of those we belong to, to allot them only the slack in our own agendas and not what they require, is to practice desertion by other means. VIOLATION OF LIFE AND TRUST A bortion, and now euthanasia, have become so- cially accepted acts because many have been persuaded that people unfairly lose their free- dom when others make claims on them that pose bur- dens and obligations. In the course of a very few years many people have come to think of an unplanned baby as an unwanted baby, and of an undesired baby as an undesirable one. The prescribed social remedy has been to put an end to the baby's life before he or she can make a claim on yours. Some even believe that a parent or a spouse who has lost the capacity to fend for herself or himself, or is too old or sick to be a good companion, or for whom the cost of care is hard to bear, should be helped to die. It is cruelly ironic that the thought of eliminating one's child or one's parent could be considered an acceptable, even altru- istic, action. To be sure, no one should be blind to the problems that women may face in regard to pregnancy. A deci- sion to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother. At times it is the father who pressures her to abort their child, or who indirectly encourages her to such a decision by leaving her to face the prob- lems of pregnancy alone. Parents and friends may exert such pressure. A teenager, pregnant and de- serted, may feel that she cannot give up her baby in adoption because she does not feel assured that the child will be well cared for. A mother may be persuaded that her child who is disabled would be "condemned" to live a "defec-" tive" life. But none of these cir- cumstances, however serious and tragic, gives the parent a right to kill his or her child be- fore or after birth (Evangelium Vitae, 58-9). The same kinds of seemingly altruistic claims are sometimes made in regard to the very old. The old and the sick can be persuaded that their lives have become too burdensome both to themselves and to their care- givers -- that they have lives "not worth living." But those who would remove, through killing, the disability, pain, or depression of the young or the elderly often act with a conflict of interest they do not see m that it is not the lives of those they care for that are unbearably burdened, but their own lives. The most obvious victims of abortion and euthana- sia are, of course, those who die. But desperate acts leave many casualties. Absolute personal autonomy, pushed to its insanely logical limit, has fueled the abortion movement, resulting in the deaths of more than 30,000,000 unborn children'since 1973 in the United States of America. It has also harmed tens of millions of women who are relegated to the "tender mercies" of a $500 million a year abortion industry. Yodngsters who learn that their parents destroyed or were ready to destroy a child for one reason or an- other -- wrong gender, wrong father, wrong time, wrong health, wrong economy w can and do fear that their own claim on their parents' love and care might go terminally wrong. If a parent destroys one child in the womb, will she or he be able to retain a no-mat- ter-what loyalty towards other children in the family? The same can now be asked of adult children and their parents. In a climate in which euthanasia is ac- cepted, will adults be able to provide their infirm par- ents with the unconditional loyalty once needed to survive as children? DISTORTED T oday, when many people fear a object without dignity at lives, doctors and families minent death can be tempted in two They may resort to aggressive but! dures as proof of their faithfulness to tient, who may not want or be able demanding procedures. This cure or to sustain, would be needlessly imposed on someone imminently dying, it can cause on the patient and other burdens on sponsible for his or her care. Frustrated by the anguish and dilemmas, doctors and families may to a total denial of fidelity: the as euthanasia. For once we have that every human ailment simply the undeniable fact of incurable to consider "curing" life itself. An, We are bound children, not be chose them, but .we were given simply because our children. movement has convinced many P only "escape" from the pain and and over-treatment is a This second and more grave sisting" the vulnerable patient by her life, wears the garb of caring it knows nothing of the Christian compassion, of "suffering with" our leviating their fears as they the end of life. It shies away from solutions to a patient's problems, convince the patient that he or she problem solved only by his or John Paul II has reminded us, true to sharing another's pain; it does whose suffering we cannot bear 66). Efforts to legalize such an uncritical love of freedom kill oneself is not promoted eqtm counter problems in life -- but on the perduring worth and dignity