Cardinal Carlo Caffara explained this today in his homily given at the cathedral in Bologna for the 31st National Day for Life in Italy. He spoke specifically of the case of Eluana Englaro, 37, who has been in a coma since 1992, when she suffered a car accident.
Her case has been called Italy's version of the Terri Schiavo battle that raged in the United States in 2005, and ended in Schiavo's death by dehydration and starvation.
The cardinal said that Eulana has become a "'sign of contradiction' between a culture of death and a culture of life."
"Her martyred body," he explained, "has become the question addressed to every conscience that reflects on man's destiny: To whom does man belong? Who has dominion over man's life and death? Who owns man?"
According to Cardinal Caffara, "the spiritual event of the West has come to the end of the line: If the life of man does not belong to man but to God, no one has control over it for any reason, [but] if the life of man belongs to man, it is consistent to hypothesize circumstances in which everyone can do what he wants with his life or ask others to put an end to it."
He said "the illusion of building a human home 'as if God did not exist' must at some moment bring us to this point." And the cardinal added: "In the body of this woman, and in her fate, there is an image of the fate of the West."
Cardinal Caffara invited the faithful to pray that the Lord "give wisdom to our legislators, so that they know how to defend the good of the person, of every person, by means of just norms."
To the human and civil community the archbishop of Bologna said, quoting St. Irenaeus, that "God's nearness to man that the Church grants us makes us once again repeat with great conviction: 'the glory of God is man fully alive, but man's life is the vision of God.'"