Pope John Paul II, 1995
Read the Document EVANGELIUM VITAE
Pope John Paul II released the encyclical Evangelium Vitae on March 25, 1995. It deals with the most basic of all principles – the value and sacredness of human life. Our duty to protect life is central to the Christian message. The encyclical is broken into four main chapters which discuss contemporary threats to life, the Gospel’s message regarding life, God’s law, and hope for a new culture of life.
The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message to humanity – he came so that we have eternal life. Even in the most disturbing of times, human life is sacred from its very beginning until the end.
Since the beginning we are called to love one another and to not be like Cain who murdered his own brother. Life has been threatened by poverty, hunger, diseases, violence, and war for centuries – but new threats to human life are emerging quickly.
New scientific and technological processes represent new attacks on the dignity of human life – especially the weak and defenseless. The Church was not silent about the injustices at the end of the last century, and it must continue to speak out about the most grievous forms of injustice and oppression.
Disregard for the sanctity of human life and a contraceptive mentality have led humanity to a crisis of culture. Today life is greatly threatened in its earliest and final stages – children in their mother’s womb and the sick and elderly. These attacks are no longer considered “crimes”; paradoxically they are considered “rights.”
Disturbing decisions are being made on the basis of defending personal freedoms. “The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.” (Paragraph 13) Equally unsettling threats confront the incurably ill and dying. The hastening of death is seen as a solution to resolve the problem of suffering.
These threats to the dignity of all human life increase as the sense of God as creator is lost. The blood and death of Christ demonstrates how precious humanity is to God. Jesus’ death gives meaning to the lives of all peoples.
Human life is always good, even murderers retain their human dignity. We are entrusted to defend and promote, love and revere life. There is no moment of human life from the unborn to those nearing death that shouldn’t be protected. We are to love God and one another – God’s law commands us to follow his commandments including the prohibition on killing.
No reasons, however serious and tragic, “can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.” (Paragraph 59) All people, including doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators, legislators, cannot overlook this calamity.
Similarly, the elderly and those close to death are threatened when life is valued only for one’s own fulfillment. Suicide is also to be considered murder of one’s self, and the rejection of God’s gift of life.
It is the role of the church to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of life to all peoples. The family plays a unique and important role in serving as the sanctuary of life.
A transformation of humanity is necessary to preserve and maintain a culture that respects and protects all life. The protection of life is central to the Gospel and the struggle between good and evil in our world.