Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FIRST MARTYRS OF THE CHURCH OF ROME

After celebrating the solemn feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Church gives us today a feast in honor of all the early martyrs of the Roman Church. They were victims of the Emperor Nero who blamed Christians for a fire that destroyed most of the city of Rome in the year 64. In honoring these early martyrs we can’t help thinking about their gruesome deaths. Some were crucified and others were painted in tar and then set afire to serve as street lamps to illumine the night. In some cases they were taken to the Coliseum to entertain the Roman populace. Children were dressed in animal skins and told to pretend they were rabbits and dogs. Then they were taken into the arena where lions were set loose on them. It was so gruesome that some of the audience turned away in disgust. We may think that almost two thousand years later humanity is much more civilized. Yet even today humans have concocted all sorts of terrible ways to torture and to kill one another. Isn’t partial birth abortion and the others methods for killing babies in the womb just as gruesome as what happened in the time of Nero?

We pray now for Pope Benedict’s General Intention—that every institution may strive to guarantee respect for life—as we reflect on his words to government officials in Austria during his 2007 visit there.

It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right – it is the very opposite. It is “a deep wound in society”, as the late Cardinal Franz K├Ânig never tired of repeating.

In stating this, I am not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather, I wish to act as an advocate for a profoundly human need, speaking out on behalf of those unborn children who have no voice. In doing so, I do not close my eyes to the difficulties and the conflicts which many women are experiencing, and I realize that the credibility of what we say also depends on what the Church herself is doing to help women in trouble.

In this context, then, I appeal to political leaders not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness, nor to abolish in practice your legal system’s acknowledgment that abortion is wrong. I say this out of a concern for humanity. 

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