Every year we observe October as Respect Life Month, with the goal of spreading awareness of the importance of protecting life at every stage and rededicating ourselves to the cause. To do that effectively, we need to understand the root problems leading to the attacks on life and work to counter them.
Over the last few years, events in our nation such as the decision by the Supreme Court to redefine marriage, have reminded me that the effort to defend life is much broader than we often realize. When we speak about life, what naturally springs to mind is safeguarding the unborn, the elderly and the vulnerable. But the fact is, abortion, sexuality and the family are all intertwined. And the way that we treat the most vulnerable and precious things in life effects how we treat the poor, those on death row, immigrants and refugees.
In 2018 it will have been 50 years since Blessed Pope Paul VI issued his momentous encyclical Humanae Vitae on the transmission of human life. Too few people know that the Holy Father was able to foresee the societal and relational fallout from widespread use of contraception because he understood that contraception separates the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intimacy. He realized that when you tamper with the gift of life, you impact relationships, marriages, the treatment of women and attitudes toward unborn children.
The accuracy of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s predictions is stunning. He foresaw that widespread use of contraception would do four things: 1) “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality,” 2) that men would lose respect for women and “no longer [care] for her physical and psychological equilibrium,” so that he would consider her “a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion,” 3) it would place a “dangerous weapon… in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies,” and 4) it would lead man to think that he had unlimited dominion over his own body.
Who can argue that all this and more has come to pass in the last 48 years? We see that around 45 percent of marriages end in divorce, that one-quarter of Millennials will not even get married, that women have become objectified – especially through pornography and sex trafficking – that Colorado and other states have engaged in a campaign to insert IUDs into poor women and teens, and that the sterilization is the leading form of contraception used by Americans.
Abortion itself is also linked with a contraceptive mentality, since the idea that it is acceptable to kill one’s unborn child essentially says, “If a child is too difficult to have right now, I can prevent that from happening.” Sexual intimacy and having a child, in other words, are separable.
By striking at life at its very beginning, the Evil One knew that he would be able to impact not just the child but whole families, countries and even humanity as a whole. In this struggle, the words of God to Adam, Eve and Satan after the fall are born out. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15, RSV).”
This makes what Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries from Fatima, wrote to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra all the more relevant. Cadinal Caffarra decided to write to Sister Lucia to ask for her prayers after Pope John Paul II had entrusted him with founding the Pontifical Institute on Marriage and the Family. He did not expect a reply, but he got one. She wrote: “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about Marriage and the Family.”
Some recent developments in science and law make the impact of casting God aside apparent. These include the creation of human embryos with material from three different parents, the push to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, and the attempts to redefine gender, to name a few. The loss of God in society and the resulting distance from the created order is leading to a further slide down a slippery slope that ends in a profoundly inhumane culture. A culture since it does not believe in God, unwittingly gives reign to the Evil One who desires to remain hidden and destroy the dignity of human life.
In October as we work to defend life, it is important to remember that unborn children – because of their innocence and defenselessness – deserve our special protection and first protection. At the same time, we should also be aware that the ideas behind the attacks on life are impacting relationships, families and whole societies. We must work to counteract this with the loving presentation on the truth about sexuality, and sharing it with others in a merciful and honest way. My heart is always filled with gratitude to the Father when I see young people receive the truth on human sexuality and the joy and happiness that comes to them.
Sr. Lucia told Cardinal Caffarra that he should expect attacks, because “whoever works for the sanctity of Marriage and the Family will always be fought against and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.” The devil will always attempt to undermine the family for it is the first society and the heart of every society.
“Nevertheless,” she concluded, “Our Lady has already crushed his head.” Let us take courage and never fail to defend life, especially when it is at its weakest. No matter how dark our times may seem, we must always remember that in Jesus Christ the battle is won!