Hope for the Gospel of Life in America

The Holy See is celebrating Blessed John Paul’s landmark encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life) June 15-16. Issued in 1995 and dated March 25 to coincide with the Feast of the Annunciation, The Gospel of Life is considered by many to be the best of an impressive set of 16 encyclical letters from his papacy, and perhaps his most heartfelt.

It makes sense—does it not?—when we consider his own life experiences in twentieth-century Europe. His father had fought in a senseless world war that produced tens of millions of casualties. Besides toppling the Czar and establishing atheistic communism in Russia, that war set the scene for an even bloodier one a mere 20 years later, which mowed down millions throughout the world.

This brings us to consider what progress, if any, our own country has made in creating or recovering a “Culture of Life” since Blessed John Paul issued his encyclical. After all, the pope himself identified a “conspiracy against life” involving government, international organizations, and the mass media—and we know from our own experience that the mass media spare few opportunities to depict pro-life people as enemies of freedom and progress.

Please don’t shoot the messenger of bad news, but I have to be honest with my opinion about the successful spread (or lack thereof) of the Gospel of Life in the United States. Since the introduction of “the Pill” (read Mary Eberstadt’s recent book on the subject) around 1960, the United States has been in an ongoing free-fall as regards the inviolability and dignity of the human person, with no sign of turn-around in the near future.

To quote from Pope John Paul II: “the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man [is] the eclipse of the sense of God and of man.” This results in “a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism, and hedonism.” Quality of life is seen purely as material well-being (consumerism, pleasure, etc.), with no spiritual or religious dimension. Suffering must be avoided at all costs. People are considered not for what they “are” but for what they “have” or “produce.” The first victims of this materialistic mentality “are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly.”

Face it folks, the United States is no longer a Christian country.

We already have the most liberal abortion laws in the world, responsible (at a minimum) for tens of millions of deaths, with the morning-after pill now available at your local pharmacy for teenage girls and younger. Pope John Paul II was a prophet, but even he might have been startled by the pace at which we are embracing the culture of death in all forms.

Pornography is the most profitable and watched form of “entertainment.” Marriage is being redefined not as a covenant between man and wife, with one of its purposes being the procreation of children, but as more or less whatever one wants it to be: men contracted to men, women to women, and maybe bestiality down the road. I shudder to think of where it may all end, especially when our collapsing population is already at the lowest rate in American history. And who can disingenuously doubt that universal euthanasia for the incurable will become common with the help of our new “health” plan?

But wait—is there hope? Yes, even though God only promised a rose garden to Adam and Eve (and they blew it, as we well know, seeing that we still suffer the consequences). However, we have the promise that someday, after the final judgment, we will inhabit a new heaven and a new earth with the company of the Holy Trinity, Our Lady, and all the saints.

I look forward to it, but in the meantime we have work to do. The future is always bright for faithful Catholics, and it is an honor and a privilege to be foot soldiers in the Battle for Life in this country. All is not lost for us and our country, since HE is on our side.

Blessed Pope John Paul the Great (who we may piously hope may be proclaimed a saint before the year is out!) has told us what to do. The question to ask ourselves is: Are we doing what he told us—with faith, hope, and charity, and without faltering?

Let’s turn again to the lessons of the encyclical: “We need first of all to foster, in ourselves and in others, a contemplative outlook,” developing a habit of prayer linking ourselves with God. Then comes action, “our support and promotion of human life” by “personal witness, various forms of volunteer work, social activity and political commitment.”

The “structure of sin” that threatens human life must be dismantled. We must commit ourselves to changing unjust laws that permit violence against life. Such laws are not inevitable (look at what some governors are doing in states like Gov. Sam Brownback’s Kansas). Finally, we must raise our children as Christians. The witness of Christian families is vitally important in building a new Culture of Life.

Fr. C. J. McCloskey III, S.T.D. is a Church historian and Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, DC. He is perhaps best known for guiding into the Church such luminaries as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Lawrence Kudlow, Robert Novak, Judge Robert Bork, and Senator Sam Brownback. His articles, reviews, and doctoral thesis have been published in major Catholic and secular periodicals. He is co-author (with Russell Shaw) of Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith (Ignatius Press) and the co-editor of "The Essential Belloc" (St. Benedict's Press).
Articles by Fr. McCloskey:

  • RichardGTC

    “He who loves her loves life.”–from the Book of Sirach. The ‘her’ in the quote refers to wisdom.

  • Martin L.

    “… the United States is no longer a [Catholic] country.” Then leave, because the USA has been, is now, and forever will be a Protestant country. We Protestants have no problem with abortion, contraception, euthanasia, pornography and the like.
    I hear the Catholic missions in Africa need help….

    • Jim

      Father said the United States is no longer a Christian country. I’m almost scared to ask what church you are a member of, as it certainly won’t reflect well on it! As for Catholic missions in Africa, the reverse is actually taking place, as Catholicism is booming in Africa. So, it’s not unusual for African Catholic priests coming to America as pastors to help out in dioceses that have current shortages of clergy. God takes good care of his Church!

    • January24

      Oh, Martin . . . I smell troll all over you. I’m a Protestant and, like millions of other Protestants, I have LOTS of trouble with abortion, pornography and the like. You’re a phony. But there are some people who might not understand that you’re a phony and might therefore believe that you actually represent an authentic point of view. You do not.

  • Robbie J

    Thank you, Fr. McCloskey. I quote:
    “Finally, we must raise our children as Christians. The witness of
    Christian families is vitally important in building a new Culture of
    Life”. These 2 sentences at the end are (to me) the most important of all. The transmission of faith to our children is paramount.
    ;and we can only do this if we ourselves set a good example.
    God bless..

  • Alecto

    “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a
    pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and
    so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect
    he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without
    love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to
    bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to

    Thank you, Mr. Dostoyevsky

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