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Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Archbishop Porteous: May our culture rediscover the wonder of every human life

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Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Today we celebrate life. The wonderful gift that is every human life. We celebrate each new human being conceived in the womb.

The Day of the Unborn is celebrated close to the Feast of the Annunciation, the moment when Christ, the Son of God, was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year, due to an early Easter the feast was celebrated last Monday, following the Easter Octave.

While the conception of every new life awaits the moment of birth which brings joy for the couple as they hold their new child in awe, there is something very dark and disturbing sweeping the world of our time. It is the culture of abortion, a culture of death.

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We face the loss of over 90,000 children each year in Australia. Now that abortion is legal up to birth we have hundreds of cases of infanticide when a viable life is simply abandoned to die.

The hidden cost of abortion is the grief that afflicts women following abortion. Emma, who had an abortion at the age of 16, commented,

“What I can tell you is that, when my eyes opened in that ‘recovery’ room I was forever a different person—because not only a baby was killed inside of me that day, but part of my soul died as well. But nobody else could see that part of me died too because I became very good at hiding my pain.”

Women are not empowered but are diminished by abortion.

Constitutional right to abortion

Recently the French parliament made abortion a constitutional right. When the law was passed by both houses there were scenes of exultant rejoicing. Women were rejoicing that children could be killed in the womb.

How can this be? Mothers glad that they now have a constitutional right to destroy their child. How can we have come to this?

There are now powerful cultural forces sweeping our Western societies in particular. These new ideologies are rapidly replacing Christian morality as a cultural influence.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

What we can describe as “philosophical postmodernism” has swept the world in recent decades and captured the minds of so many people. It denies the existence of objective and verifiable truth. Thus, a foundation for morality and for law has ceased to exist. This ideology is rapidly replacing the Christian ethic, based in the Decalogue.

The postmodernists say that there is no such thing as truth, reality is a merely political construction and morality is meaningless. The mind is now morally blind. It simply cannot see evident moral truth—like the injunction, “you shall not kill.” Thus, there is no authority beyond the self. Those actively promoting this ideology now want the law to support their view.

Hence, we witness the disturbing scenes of women rejoicing that their right to destroy their child in the womb is enshrined in the very constitution of their nation.

The Christian sees things so differently. We believe in a Transcendent God, creator of all. We believe that there is a moral foundation to human existence. Christian faith holds each human life as sacred, a gift of the Creator.

There has been a moral collapse in the West. Ultimately it is because of the rejection of God. We know that a large percentage of our society claim to have no religion. There is a spiritual void in their life and this quickly leads to a moral void.

This spiritual void, though, needs to be filled and while many find ideology or simply hedonism to fill this void, there is another dangerous element—the rise of darker spiritual forces.

In the books of the Old Testament we see the struggle between preserving faith in the one true God and succumbing to the pagan gods of the nations around them. It is a constant theme, particularly in the writings of the prophets.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

The books of the Law in the Old Testament called the people to see that they are first and foremost God’s own people and so called to be holy as God is holy (Lev 19:2). As God’s own people they were to live differently to the peoples around them. We read in the Book of Leviticus, for instance, the Lord commanding: “You must not behave as they do in Egypt where you once lived; you must not behave as they do in Canaan where I am taking you” (Lev 18:3).

There was the ever-present risk of falling into the worship of the Gods of the people among whom they dwelt. In the Book of Leviticus we read that the people are warned not to hand their children over to Molech (Lev 18:21). Molech was a Canaanite deity which demanded child sacrifice.

We learn, though, that the people fell under the influence of the Canaanites and sacrificed their children. The Prophet Jeremiah warns the people as they fell into idolatry, building shrines to other gods and, as he says, “there to make their sons and daughters pass through fire in honour of Molech” (Jer 32:35).

The people succumbed to worship of pagan gods and adopted terrible practices, like being prepared to sacrifice their children to these gods. It seems that dark, and one could say, demonic forces swept over them. They ended up doing unconscionable things.

As the society around us condones the destruction of the child in the womb as a right, we raise our voices to declare that every human being is precious in God’s sight. We cannot be silent as children are sacrificed to the dark gods in a culture of death.

Life is a wondrous gift

The beginning of each human person is a wondrous thing. Human life begins at conception when a man’s sperm cell unites with a woman’s egg cell. It occurs at the microscopic level, yet the DNA signature of the man and the DNA signature of the woman combine to form a unique new person, carrying a mix of the genetic programming of both father and mother. This single cell will undergo a remarkable growth so that by nine months a child is born.

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

There is yet another dimension to the wonder of the beginning of a new life. As the parents impart part of their nature to their child, so too God imparts a part of his nature to the child. Each new human person is created in the image and likeness of God. They are given an individual soul, a spiritual dimension to themselves. God has breathed his very life into them.

This is our dignity as human beings. We are possessors of an immortal soul. Each person is at once material and spiritual. Each person has an eternal destiny that awaits them.

Today let us for a moment ponder the sheer wonder of being a human being. Let us consider not only our extraordinary origins but also our destiny. Our deep sense of the sacredness of every human life calls on us to declare this truth. We want to promote a culture of life.

Longing for change

We long for legislative change that would protect life, but it appears a long way off. However, this should not deter us from raising our voices for those who are defenceless in the womb. Our voices at this time may seem to be voices in the wilderness. However, they are prophetic voices. They may not be accepted but raise our voices we must. We raise them, not in anger, but in love.

It is true that legislation is downstream from the culture and the culture is downstream from religion. While our society abandons faith in God, so our culture abandons the recognition of the sacredness of every human life.

Our culture must move from nihilism and moral relativism to rediscover the need for truth, beauty and goodness. There is a long way to go. But we know that truth cannot be eliminated, as much as it is denied. Light may be suppressed but it will eventually triumph over the darkness.

In these Easter days we are buoyed up by the triumph of Christ in his resurrection. The victory is his.

Today we pray that our culture will once again discover the sacredness and wonder of every human life.

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