Evangelium Vitae 1-6
The Gospel of Life - Introduction
1. The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ message.
Presenting the heart of his mission,
“I came that they may have life,
and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)Incomparable Worth of the Human Person
2. The human person is called to a fullness of life
that exceeds this earthly life,
for it consists on sharing God’s life
even in its temporal phase.
Life in time,
is the fundamental condition,
the initial stage and an integral part
of the entire unified process of human existence.
This process is enlightened by the promise
and renewed by the gift of divine life,
which will reach its fullness in eternity.
Life on earth is not an ultimate,
but a penultimate reality,
a sacred reality entrusted to us
and to be brought to perfection
in the gift of ourselves to God
and to our brothers and sisters.
The Gospel of Life has a profound echo
in the heart of every person, fulfilling all the heart’s expectations
while even surpassing them.
Every person open to truth and goodness
and led by the light of reason and grace
can come to recognize
- in the natural law written in the heart (Rom 2:14-15) -
the sacred value of human life from its beginning to its end
and the right to have it respected.
It is is upon this right
that every human community is founded.
Believers in Christ have a special duty
to defend and promote this right
because, “by the incarnation,
the Son of God has united himself in some fashion
with every human being” (GS 22)
The church feels called to proclaim this ‘gospel’
to the peoples of all times.
The living human person is the way for the church.
New Threats to Human Life
3. Every threat to human dignity is felt in the church’s heart.
It affects its faith and engages its mission
of proclaiming the Gospel of Life -
a proclamation especially pressing
because of the new threats
to the life of individuals and peoples,
especially where life is weak and defenceless.
Next to the old scourges
of poverty, hunger, disease, violence and war,
new threats are arising at an alarming scale.
I repeat the words of the Second Vatican Council
condemning crimes and attacks against human life:
” - whatever is opposed to life itself
such as any type of murder, genocide,
abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction;
- whatever violates the integrity of the human person
such as mutilation,
torments inflicted on body or mind,
attempts to coerce the will itself;
- whatever insults human dignity,
such as subhuman living conditions,
arbitrary imprisonment, deportation,
the selling of women and children;
- as well as disgraceful working conditions,
where people are treated
as mere tools for profit,
rather than as free and responsible persons …
all these things and others of their kind
are infamies indeed.
They poison human society,
but they do more harm to those who practise them
than to those who suffer from injury.
Moreover they are a supreme dishonour
to the Creator. (GS 27)
4. But this disturbing state of affairs is expanding.
Scientific and technological progress give rise to new forms
of attacks on the dignity of the human being.
A new cultural climate is growing and taking hold,
giving crimes against life an even more sinister character.
Broad sectors of public opinion
justify crimes against life
in the name of the rights of individual freedom,
claiming not only exemption from punishment,
but even authorisation by the state,
so that they can be done with total freedom
and with the assistance of health-care systems.
The fact that many countries decided
- against their own constitutions -
not to punish these practices against life and even to legalise them
is a disturbing symptom and a grave cause of moral decline.
Choices once considered criminal
are gradually becoming socially acceptable.
Certain sectors of the medical profession
are increasingly willing to carry out these acts.
Demographic, social and family problems
are left open to false and deceptive solutions.
The end result is tragic:
not only are human lives still to be born
or in their final stage destroyed,
but the distinction between good and evil is darkened.In Communion with All the Bishops of the World
5. The Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals in April 1991
was devoted to the threats to human life today.
The cardinals unanimously asked me to reaffirm
with the authority of the successor of Peter
the value of human life and inviolability.
That is why I wrote a letter to each of my brother bishops,
a letter at Pentecost 1991,
to help me to draw up a specific document.
I am grateful for the answers I received.
Just as a century ago the church came to the defense
of the oppressed working classes,
the church now feels duty bound
to speak out for those who have no voice.
There is a multitude of weak and defenseless people,
unborn children in particular,
whose right to life is tramped upon.
The church cannot remain silent today
when the social justices of the past
are being compounded in many parts of the world
with even more serious forms of injustice and oppression,
though these developments are being presented
as elements of progress in view of a new world order.
This encyclical appeals in the name of God to everyone
to repent and to protect, love and serve every human life.
6. Together with all my brothers and sisters in the faith,
I wish to meditate once more and proclaim the Gospel of Life.
I pray that a general commitment
to support the family will reappear,
as the family will always remain the ‘sanctuary of life.’
Let us offer together this world new signs of hope,
affirming a new culture of life
and building a civilisation of truth and love.
From “The Encyclicals in Everyday Language”
by Joseph G Donders.