Monday, January 7, 2008

A Coalition of Christians and Secularists to Protect the Child

In the post "Let No One Touch the Child." The Church Blesses the Worldwide Moratorium on Abortion from Chiesa comes a report on a remarkable new momentum in Europe, a surprising coalition of believers and secularists, who are joining to support life. The insistence of the Church from the Pope to the faithful on the value of human life has not gone unheard and has touched those who recognize the moral law.

This article discusses the influence of Pope Benedict in the political realm for the defense of human dignity and can be a model for our own efforts. We should look not only to Christians but to all men and women of good will in building a society that protects the person. What we propose is not a theocracy, but a free society that respects the dignity of the human person and the natural structure of the family.

Note also that the Church's support for the UN moratorium on capital punishment was the first step; the proposed moratorium on abortion followed that action. An uncompromising respect for all human life is persuasive and builds on values already recognized. This demonstrates the quote I offered earlier from Pope John Paul II: "The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine."

Benedict XVI made the family the focus of his message to the world for the Day of Peace celebrated on January 1, on the family as the "primary agency of peace."

The Catholics of Spain also dedicated a day to the support of the family, with a grandiose Sunday gathering in Madrid on December 30. A similar mass Family Day was held in Italy, in Rome, last May 12. The next appointment will perhaps be in Berlin, in the heart of de-Christianized Europe.

The Madrid gathering was strongly marked by the Church. It unfolded as an immense outdoor liturgy, presided over by bishops and cardinals, and offered for the observation and reflection of all. The central moment was a television linkup with the pope, who at the Angelus, from Rome, spoke directly to the crowd in Spanish.

On May 12, 2007, in Rome, the square outside of Saint John Lateran was also filled mainly with Catholics. But it was not the hierarchy of the Church that called and presided over that Family Day. It was, instead, a citizens' committee headed by Savino Pezzotta, a Catholic, and Eugenia Roccella, a feminist of radical secularist formation. Also speaking from the stage were Giorgio Israel, a Jew, and Souad Sbai, a Muslim. The form of family presented for the attention and care of all was not primarily the one celebrated by the Christian sacrament, but the "natural union between man and woman" inscribed in the civil constitution.

An initiative that goes against the grain even more emerged in Italy, during the recent Christmas festivities: the promotion of a worldwide moratorium on abortion, after the moratorium on the death penalty approved by the United Nations on December 18....

The Church of Benedict XVI, Ruini, and cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the current president of the Italian bishops' conference, has thus looked very favorably on the fact that a non-Catholic like Ferrara has taken the initiative of launching the moratorium on abortion.

Because in effect, this is what has happened. Ferrara launched his first appeal in favor of the moratorium on abortion on the television program "Otto e mezzo," the same evening as the UN's approval of the moratorium on the death penalty, December 18.

The following day, December 19, this appeal appeared in print in "il Foglio." The afternoon of that same day, "L'Osservatore Romano" published on the front page an interview with cardinal Renato Martino, president of the pontifical council for justice and peace:

"Catholics do not consider the right to life as something that can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, or partitioned. [...] The clearest example is that of the millions and millions of killings of certainly innocent human beings, unborn babies."

On December 20, "Avvenire," the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, gave its full support to the moratorium on abortion, with a front-page editorial by Marina Corradi and an interview with Ferrara.

On December 21, Ferrara announced that he would be fasting from Christmas Eve to the first day of the new year, in support of public financing for the Life Assistance Centers (CAV's) that help mothers who are tempted to have abortions.

In effect, during the following days the Lombardy Region and the municipal government of Milan supplied 700,000 euro to the CAV at Mangiagalli, the Milanese clinic that performs the greatest number of abortions. Last year at this clinic, the CAV was responsible for 833 births, by helping mothers in difficulty. In total, it is calculated that all of the CAV's operating in Italy have saved about 85,000 babies from abortion from 1975 until today.

Meanwhile, pages and pages of "il Foglio" have been filled with letters in support of the moratorium. A growing, unstoppable torrent of letters. Some are simple expressions of agreement, but most of them include sophisticated reflection, stories, experiences of fathers and mothers, painful accounts, and enthusiastic endorsements. Hundreds, thousands of letters in which the absolute protagonist was the tiny little being formed from conception – welcomed, loved, exalted. It is difficult to imagine a Christmas celebrated with music more appropriate than this concert of letters....

But what does the moratorium on abortion propose in practical terms? Ferrara dreams of "five million pilgrims of life and love, all in Rome next summer." To ask for two things from governments all over the world: first, to "suspend every policy that provides an incentive for the practice of eugenics"; second, to "write into the universal declaration of human rights the right to be born." With a manifesto prepared by personalities of various perspectives, like Didier Sicard of France, Italy's Carlo Casini, Roger Scruton, from England, the American bioethicist Leon Kass, and the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, "naturally excluding any form of blame, and far more any legal persecution of women who may decide to have an abortion" as permitted by the laws in effect in the various countries.

On the evening of December 31, interviewed on a widely popular television news program, cardinal Ruini summarized the Church's position as follows:

"I believe that after the good result obtained in regard to the death penalty, it is very logical to recall the topic of abortion and ask for a moratorium, at least to stimulate and awaken the consciences of all, to help people to realize that the baby in the mother's womb is truly a human being, and that its suppression is inevitably the suppression of a human being.

"In the second place, it may be hoped that this moratorium will also provide a stimulus for Italy, at least for the complete application of the law on abortion, which claims to be a law intended for the defense of life, and then to apply this law in those areas that can truly be in defense of life, and perhaps, thirty years after the passage of this law, to update it in keeping with the scientific progress that, for example, has made great steps forward in regard to the survival of premature babies. It becomes truly inadmissible to proceed with abortion at a point where the fetus could survive outside of the womb."

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