"Evangelium Vitae" as an Appeal for the Weakest

Comments of the Founder of a Movement for Handicapped Children

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PARIS, MARCH 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" is one of John Paul II's most important contributions to peace and human rights, says the founder of a movement for the protection of handicapped children.



Good Friday marked the 10th anniversary of the encyclical. "For 10 years, this text of John Paul II has been the principal motor of my commitment," said Tugdual Derville, founder of the group A Bras Ouverts (With Open Arms).

"I have read and reread it: It is luminous and exciting. It has an extraordinary richness, too often unknown," he told ZENIT in an interview.

On Holy Thursday, Derville, 43, delegate general of the Alliance for the Rights of Life, came out with the book "Le Bonheur Blessé -– Avortement, Eugénisme et Euthanasie en Question" (Wounded Happiness -- Abortion, Eugenics and Euthanasia Challenged), published by CLD.

"This call to respect life is simply the answer to one of the great injustices of our society," said Derville, who holds a degree in political science and is married and has a family.

"In the framework of my mission to help in the Alliance for the Rights of Life, I have heard pregnant women in difficulties, or who have suffered an abortion; their partners; those who look after them; handicapped people; dependents; and the elderly," he said.

"Their testimonies have proved to me that abortion, eugenics and euthanasia are not 'topics of society,' disincarnated, on which one can debate with neutrality; it is a question of millions of profound and painful dramas, with incalculable consequences," Derville said.

"Running the risk of causing fright, I am speaking of a genuine war," he continued. "It has something very particular: Often, the aggressor and the victim are one and the same. In these familiar dramas, everyone is a victim and there are no winners.

"Many women have told me after an abortion: 'I've lost everything.' A state of humanitarian emergency should be declared to put an end to this cycle of devastating violence."

"In fact, in meetings with social leaders, with those who promulgate laws or those who must apply them, I discovered that many politicians are contaminated and blinded by fear; they don't dare see the obvious," the author said. "But our search for happiness cannot be destroyed.

"Although there is an effort to justify abortion, eugenics and euthanasia because of a false idea of happiness, I have tried to make clear what might lead us to false solutions; the wound can and must be cured. Our search for genuine happiness can be liberated."

In his book, Derville highlights the injustice against women affected by abortion and against handicapped people.

"In regard to women who have an unexpected or difficult pregnancy, the most striking injustice is the way in which abortion is often imposed on them as an obligatory solution," he said.

Because of "so much talk of 'voluntary interruption of a pregnancy' as a free act, many women undergo an abortion against their will, out of a spirit of sacrifice, to respond to their partner's request, because society has made them believe that it is better not to have a child who 'has not been planned,' who 'does not come at the right moment,' or who -- because of the lack of a stable couple -- 'will not have a father.'"

"In regard to the handicapped, the injustice is due to the fact that today there are ever more people who believe that 'their life is not worth living,'" Derville warned.

"Certainly a great effort has been made to help the handicapped, in the name of social justice, and thank God it is acknowledged that they make a great contribution to society, and means have been created to promote their social and professional integration," he added.

"But there is a paradox: At the same time, we consider them unhappy; we regard their birth as a mistake, a lack. ... And the consequences of this contradiction are enormous: Parents and competent people feel badly," he continued.

"Such a mentality can have dramatic consequences for all of us toward the end of our lives, when we end by being dependent. We must not be surprised that euthanasia becomes then the great temptation," he warned.

And yet, Derville emphasized, the life of a handicapped or suffering person can be happy.

"Thanks to friends who live with handicaps -- I give some examples in the book -- I have tried to avoid 'angel-ism,' despair and, above all, sadness. But if happiness does exist, it cannot ignore the existence of suffering and its mystery," he continued.

"Therefore, we must struggle against suffering, but to want to eradicate it is an illusion of serious consequences. We have tried to exclude the one who suffers when in reality the challenge is to witness his humanity," Derville said.

He continued: "As a Christian, in this very particular Holy Week, in which March 25, date of the Annunciation, 10th anniversary of 'The Gospel of Life,' coincides with Good Friday, it seemed to me that much more essential to meditate on this mystery in the contemplation of the Cross, source of life."

"In fact, many seriously dependent people teach us with their testimony of life that happiness continues, indeed, to be possible. But, of what happiness are we talking? Big question! This examination might have something heartbreaking and tranquilizing at the same time."

"I believe we have in John Paul II, in this striking period of his earthly life, a paradoxical image of happiness," he said. "Who can say that his life was not fruitful, when his body was able to climb snow-capped summits? Who doesn't feel the paradoxical influence of his presence, when his voice is almost muted?

"Has he not become a living 'argument' for that appeal to respect of the most frail and vulnerable, which he has launched during his pontificate? Who doesn't dream, deep down, of such a fulfilled and dedicated life?"