In the weeks leading to the 2008 Presidential election, a friend of mine expressed huge disappointment about the video created by the US Bishops and shown at each parish across the country. He mentioned that the Church with its stance on abortion was obviously supporting GOP. I replied, no because the Catholic Tradition existed centuries before the founding of the party and since its inception, a great defender of life. I further added that while it highly promotes the inalienable right of the human person and offers a deeper vision on hot button moral issues of the day, it does not derive its sacred teachings from the dictates of the media, societal influence and political arena. The video highlighted abortion but the content was much larger and broader in scope. It presented and cut across the whole spectrum of life from the moment of conception to natural death, which we call, the Seamless Garment. In this approach, the Church attempts to engage in the ongoing debate to help form conscience, inspire imagination, shape lives and weave Divinely revealed truths and Natural law, as essential components of the ethical order. Just like any parent, she is the Mother of the Faithful, doing everything she possibly can, to protect the institution from danger and harm. She definitely cannot remain neutral and be silent when it comes to morality. Anybody who claims that Catholics should refrain from entering into the public sphere does not know Christianity. We worship a crucified God who was with us until death and not someone simply sitting on a throne, giving orders. If you don’t hold the same opinion, I don’t feel bad because the papal encyclicals were almost unknown to everyday Catholics.
What is the basis and foundation of the Church’s moral and social teaching, then? Why do some Catholics led mostly by Bishops and Priests operate under the impression that they are prepared to die for as long as the sanctity of life is respected? Why organize a non-violent protest and support the March at the nation’s capital in the midst of a frigid weather? Why provide humanitarian aid to the undocumented migrants when doing so is against the state’s law on immigration and endangers one’s status as citizen of the land? The answer is Biblical. Man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). This means that the value and worth of a person depends not on credit score, car owned, outfit worn, savings account, efficiency and the likes but by virtue of being made as a replica of God. Under any circumstance then, should one violate the inalienable dignity God has stamped on us.
The bombing of the Twin Towers, a symbol of America’s economic prosperity and global power and the massacre of over 3,000 innocent people were a great insult to the country. Wanting revenge and vengeance, it declared War with Saddam and Al- Qaeda even if there was no apparent connection between the two, including any group that harbors and condones terrorism. It’s not only the extremists but modern society in general, is becoming violent, as well. In public places, even with a 24-hour surveillance camera and police officer within the vicinity, anyone depressed with life and angry at the world can easily plant a bomb and fire random shots at any given point in time. Talk about Columbine High School and Virginia Tech shooting spree. Earlier this week, Tyler Clementi, a student of Rutgers University, realizing he could not handle the embarrassment after his roommate shared a supposedly private sexual encounter in a streaming video online, jumped off the GW bridge.
At a time when there is a growing sense of loss of the meaning and purpose of life, Religion comes into the scene, makes up for the deficiency of our flawed nature and presents a message that goes beyond the confines of human affairs. We are meaning- seeking creatures. We easily fall into despair if we find no reason for our existence. In a stage in history whereby radical individualism is over the top, always wanting to prove something, People of God have a critical role to correct such an exaggerated assertion of the importance and priority of the individual against anything social. We currently live in a culture of constantly seeking self-expression and accolades, in which happiness is frequently and popularly sought by self-gratification and not through self-sacrifice. We need to make a statement that, as Catholics, profoundly collective and communal, life is worth living, even in pain and suffering and that life is better lived in a web of genuine human relationships in families, circle of friends, social groups and large entities that show mercy and compassion, bear each other’s burden and manifest concern and care especially to the needy, the weak and the powerless. Amen.