Party Platform Versus Catholic Faith

Bishop Aquila on Nonnegotiable Life Issues

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, JAN. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt of the address Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo gave Nov. 15 to Loyola College in Baltimore titled "The Sanctity of Human Life from Conception to Natural Death." The presentation was part of the Loyola Alive Seamless Garment Series. It can be found in its entirety on the ZENIT Web site.



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The understanding of conscience as the voice of God in the heart of each person is essential. The voice of God is rooted in the good and the true and in love as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. God is the one who establishes the good. Truth is objective and is most fully discovered in the person of Jesus Christ.

Once again the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section on conscience will help you to form your consciences. If a conscience is not formed, it is easy for it to be erroneous in its judgment of good and evil. Tragically in reflecting on what decisions to make, a person may be listening to the father of lies rather than to God.

Jesus reminds us that "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:9-12).

A Catholic with a properly formed conscience puts faith in Jesus Christ, lives the commandments, has knowledge of the teaching of the Church as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and desires to live a virtuous life through the total gift of self to God and by living his love in the world.

The proper formation of your conscience in love and truth -- in Jesus, who is both love and truth -- is necessary if you are to experience joy. To build a culture of life Catholics must form their consciences and always choose life and the dignity of the human person from the moment of conception to natural death.

Finally, and most challenging, is the promotion of the culture of life in society. Catholics in the political arena today are too often more faithful to party platforms and partisanship than to their faith in Jesus Christ, his Church, and the promotion of a culture of life. There is a false separation between one's private life and faith and one's public life.

Today some Catholic politicians who support abortion hide behind the lies of "pro-choice" or not wanting to "impose their morality" on others. Yet they strongly support other life issues by opposing capital punishment, seeking just treatment for immigrants, and correctly understanding that part of just governance is ensuring the dignity of human life. Quite rightly, they do not consider this to be "imposing morality" in these areas.

There may also be politicians who are pro-life with respect to abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research, yet who support capital punishment and policies that result in the oppression of immigrants. They seem to forget to opt for the dignity of the human person in these cases, and they choose to be more faithful to their party platform than to their Catholic faith.

Catholics in the political arena must recognize that opposition to intrinsic evils, such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, embryonic stem-cell research and same sex unions is always required by the faithful Catholic. Because these intrinsic evils are direct attacks on human life and marital dignity, they are nonnegotiable for every Catholic. Catholics must recognize, too, that in the other human life issues -- such as immigration, capital punishment, the economy, health-care and war -- the dignity of the human person must first and foremost be taken into consideration in seeking solutions to these questions.

As John Paul II reminded everyone involved in civil and legislative affairs, "A law which violates an innocent person's natural right to life is unjust and as such, is not valid as a law" ("Evangelium Vitae," 90). "Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection" (ibid., No. 73). We are warned in Scripture and by John Paul II that "we must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29, "Evangelium Vitae," 73).

Every Catholic who supports intrinsic evils is reminded that they will one day stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of themselves and how they lived the Gospel of Life.

At the same time, as pro-life Catholics, we must have concern for immigrants, the suffering, the sick and the poor. We must work for the avoidance of war, the elimination of the death penalty and an end to drug trafficking. If we are truly going to be pro-life and build a true culture of life, all of these are matters of concern.

While there can be different solutions for questions regarding some issues which are not intrinsic evils, the inherent dignity of the human person from the moment of conception to natural death must be the lens through which all decisions are made. We must constantly, at every level, promote the dignity of the human person and the truth that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of his or her conception until natural death.

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