Vicki's 19. Good student, good grades. Lots of friends. But Vicki's grades are dropping, and she doesn't want to do much these days with friends, not even Andrew. He was such a help when they found out she was pregnant. He drove her to Planned Parenthood and stayed with her. Even paid for the abortion. Andrew said they could have a baby later. The counselor at the campus health center said if she got the abortion, everything would be fine. But Vicki doesn't feel fine. She doesn't really feel anything.
Henry's glad about the execution, and doesn't mind telling anyone who will listen. Can't figure out why anyone would want to protect a guy who killed three people. Henry even told the guys at work he'd like to talk a little sense to the group that's bound to be out there praying and protesting. His daughter thinks differently. Tends to go on about violence; says it has to stop someplace. She says a sentence of life without parole is just as tough and the killer can't hurt anyone if he's in jail. Henry says he can't hurt anyone if he's dead! But sometimes Henry's daughter makes him feel guilty, as though he wanted to kill the guy himself.
Kate has Alzheimer's. Sometimes she can't remember things, no matter how hard she tries. She knows it will get worse and she's afraid of being a burden to Dave and their grown kids. She doesn't know where to turn. So she's asked Dave to help end her life when she gets in a bad way. Or they'll find a doctor to help. In Oregon, she says, doctors can prescribe overdoses for people like her. But Dave's beside himself. He loves Kate and wants to take care of her. And he thought she would have wanted to take care of him if the situation were reversed. Funny thing is, she would.
Different stories. Different situations, but with a common thread. A thread so woven through the fabric of our society, it's difficult to see it.
What do these ordinary people have in common? Faced with a serious problem, each is willing to see death, their own or another's, as a solution. Vicki chooses the death of her child. Henry, the convicted murderer's. Kate's choice involves getting help to end her own life.
Vicki, Henry, Kate. They are not very different from people in our families, or among our friends, or even ourselves. Ordinary people trying to avoid suffering or hardship. People, perhaps, who are caught up in circumstances, or feel trapped and don't know where to turn.
Once, most people saw life as God's greatest gift. Children were seen as blessings. Life was respected no matter how old or disabled or weak. Our own country was founded on the belief that the right to life is sacred and inviolable.
But over the past several decades, we have lost our way. So much so that acts once treated as crimes are considered "rights." We have slipped, often without realizing it, into what Pope John Paul II calls a culture of death.
As individuals, and as a nation, we should ask ourselves: How are we treating God's gift of life? Do we treat human life with the reverence it deserves? It is only with human beings that God shares something of himself. Alone among all his creatures, humans are able to know and love Him, and by their own free will choose to become more godlike. What other creatures yearn for truth, justice, beauty and love, and for God, their source?
But today our nation tolerates and sometimes promotes the intentional killing of human beings–by abortion and destructive embryo research, by executing criminals, by assisted suicide. Transforming the culture of death will not be easy. But it can be done, and we must begin with ourselves.
At some point in our lives, each of us has been dependent on others. In turn, we must extend care and a helping hand to others. We can show them by word and example that there are better solutions to their problems, ways that God expects of his people.
We can help people understand that state-sanctioned killing is unworthy of God's creatures, that there are other ways to protect society from those who have done great harm. Women tempted by abortion need to know that they are not alone, and that help is available for pregnancy needs, adoption, and baby supplies. We need to be with those suffering a terminal illness and their families, offering help, friendship and encouragement, never abandoning them.
We can, by hard work and with God's help, transform our culture into one of respect for life. It must begin in each of our hearts, with reverence for every single human life God has called into existence. We must care for others because God has made us responsible for them–the child not yet born, the dying woman, even the justly convicted killer. No human life should be outside our concern, because none is beyond the reach of God's love.
For more information on these and related concerns see www.usccb.org/prolife.