Pope John Paul II Leaves Pro-Life Legacy
On Sunday March 30 2005, Pope John Paul II stood at the window of his Vatican Apartment and blessed pilgrims. The Pope was frail and unable to speak after throat surgery weeks earlier. Three days later, on April 2, he died.
The Pope once wrote, "There are no coincidences with God." His death came shortly after the highly publicized starvation death of Terri Schiavo in Florida.
Cardinal Pompedda a high ranking Vatican administrator who visited the dying Pope told the media, "There were various tubes and an intravenous drip, …but I did not dwell on these." The Roman Catholic Church teaches that food and water, (nutrition and hydration) are ordinary means of care that all human beings need. Terri Schiavo, a Roman Catholic, was denied these necessities of life by the Florida courts, thus causing her death. But Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), " ‘Causing death’ can never be a form of medical treatment even when the intention is solely to comply with the patient’s request. Rather, it runs completely counter to the health care profession which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life." The "still relevant Hippocratic Oath …requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness. Absolute respect for every human life also requires the exercise of conscientious objection in relation to procured abortion and euthanasia," John Paul II wrote.
President George Bush made a statement on the death of the Pope, April 2, 2005; "Pope John Paul II left the throne of St. Peter in the same way he ascended to it – as a witness to the dignity of human life." The President continued: "In his native Poland, that witness launched a democratic revolution that swept Eastern Europe and changed the course of history. Throughout the West, John Paul’s witness reminds us of our obligation to build a culture of life in which the strong protect the weak. And during the Pope’s final years, his witness was made even more powerful in his daily courage in the face of illness and great suffering."
Pope John Paul II wrote about the subject of death in "The Gospel of Life" which helps explain his ability to endure his sufferings:
"It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes most acute" and yet "man rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the absolute ruin and total disappearance of his own person. Man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to matter."
"This natural aversion to death and this incipient hope of immortality are illumined and brought to fulfillment by Christian faith, which both promises and offers a share in the victory of the Risen Christ. It is the victory of the One who, by his redemptive death, has set man free from death… The certainty of future immortality and hope in the promised resurrection cast new light on the mystery of suffering and death, and fill the believer with an extraordinary capacity to trust fully in the plan of God."
The Apostle Paul stated, "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." (Rom 14:7-8). The Pope wrote, "Dying to the Lord means experiencing one’s death as the supreme act of obedience to the Father (cf. Phil 2:8), being ready to meet death at the "hour" willed and chosen by Him (cf. Jn 13:1), which can only mean when one’s earthly pilgrimage is completed. Living to the Lord also means recognizing that suffering, while still an evil and a trial in itself, can always become a source of good… the person who lives his suffering in the Lord grows more fully conformed to Him." (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 2:21)
Gerald Korson, editor of the Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor, wrote in Pope John Paul II: A Tribute, Pope John Paul II was "a man whose sense of service to the church and humanity led him to reach out to the world like no pontiff before him." He continued, "No reasonable person can dispute his profound influence on the church and the world, or his tremendous contributions to the development of Catholic thought… as expressed in his vast writings and teachings."
Of particular interest to pro-life people is John Paul II’s defense of the sanctity of human life. The beauty with which he expressed the value and dignity of each human life is evident in The Gospel of Life. It can be ordered from our Pro-Life Information Center, 506 Broadway, Scranton, PA 18505 for $3.00 per copy by calling 343-5099. These are some excerpts from the Gospel of Life on abortion.
From the Gospel of Life: "At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this great joy is the birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world."
"Every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end."
Why has abortion become widespread? "We are confronted by a larger reality which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. (It) takes the form of a ‘culture of death.’ A life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless or held to be an intolerable burden and is therefore rejected in one way or another. In this way a kind of ‘conspiracy against life’ is unleashed." The Pope continued, "The negative values inherent in the ‘contraceptive mentality’ strengthen the temptation (abortion) when an unwanted life is conceived. Abortion… destroys the life of a human being and directly violates the Divine commandment, ‘You shall not kill.’ Procreation is regarded as "an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response." "God proclaims that He is absolute Lord of the life of man, who is formed in His image and likeness. (Gen 1:26-28) Human life is thus given a sacred and inviolable character… Precisely for this reason God will severely judge every violation of the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ "
The Gospel of Life is easy to read and in 50 pages summarizes the Catholic Church’s teachings on the life issues. It can be useful to those entrusted with the education of Catholic children. John Paul II prayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1999; "May the Continent of Hope also be the Continent of Life. The time has come to banish once and for all from the Continent every attack against Life." Education on life issues found in this document can help advance that end.