Evangelium vitae 17

"Am I my brother's keeper?": a perverse idea of freedom

(Gn 4,9)

18 The panorama described needs tobe understood not only in terms of the phenomena of death which characterize itbut also in the variety of causes which determine it. The Lord's question:"What have you done?" (Gn 4,10), seems almost like an invitationaddressed to Cain to go beyond the material dimension of his murderous gesture,in order to recognize in it all the gravity of the motives which occasioned itand the consequences which result from it.

Decisions that go against life sometimes arise fromdifficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a totallack of economic pros- pects, depression and anxiety about the future. Suchcircumstances can mitigate even to a notable degree subjective responsibilityand the consequent culpability of those who make these choices which inthemselves are evil. But today the prob- lem goes far beyond the necessaryrecognition of these personal situations. It is a problem which exists at thecultural, social and political level, where it reveals its more sinister anddisturbing aspect in the tendency, ever more widely shared, to interpret theabove crimes against life as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, tobe acknowledged and protected as actual rights.

In this way, and with tragic consequences, a longhistorical process is reaching a turning-point. The process which once led todiscovering the idea of "human rights"-rights inherent in everyperson and prior to any Constitution and State legislation-is today marked by asurprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of theperson are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, thevery right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the moresignificant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.

On the one hand, the various declarations of humanrights and the many initiatives inspired by these declarations show that at theglobal level there is a growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledgingthe value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without anydistinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class.

On the other hand, these noble proclamations areunfortunately contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. Thisdenial is still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because itis occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of humanrights its primary objective and its boast. How can these repeated affirmationsof principle be reconciled with the continual increase and widespreadjustification of attacks on human life? How can we reconcile these declarationswith the refusal to accept those who are weak and needy, or elderly, or thosewho have just been conceived? These attacks go directly against respect forlife and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights.It is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning ofdemocratic coexistence: rather than societies of "people livingtogether", our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected,marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. If we then look at the wider worldwideperspective, how can we fail to think that the very affirmation of the rightsof individuals and peoples made in distinguished international assemblies is amerely futile exercise of rhetoric, if we fail to unmask the selfishness of therich countries which exclude poorer countries from access to development ormake such access dependent on arbitrary prohibitions against procreation,setting up an opposition between development and man himself? Should we notquestion the very economic models often adopted by States which, also as aresult of international pressures and forms of conditioning, cause andaggravate situations of injustice and violence in which the life of wholepeoples is degraded and trampled upon?

19 What are the roots of thisremarkable contradiction?

We can find them in an overall assessment of acultural and moral nature, beginning with the mentality which carries theconcept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as asubject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipientautonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others. But howcan we reconcile this approach with the exaltation of man as a being who is"not to be used"? The theory of human rights is based precisely onthe affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot besubjected to domination by others. We must also mention the mentality whichtends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, orat least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of thesepresuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unbornor the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone whoappears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, andcan only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing ofaffection. In this case it is force which becomes the criterion for choice andaction in interpersonal relations and in social life. But this is the exactopposite of what a State ruled by law, as a community in which the"reasons of force" are replaced by the "force of reason",historically intended to affirm.

At another level, the roots of the contradictionbetween the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial inpractice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in anabsolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others andservice of them. While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or inits final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and humancompassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole,betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up bybecoming the freedom of "the strong" against the weak who have nochoice but to submit.

It is precisely in this sense that Cain's answer tothe Lord's question: "Where is Abel your brother?" can beinterpreted: "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (
Gn 4,9).Yes, every man is his "brother's keeper", because God entrusts us toone another. And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyonefreedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This isa great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person andof his fulfilment through the gift of self and openness to others; but whenfreedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of itsoriginal content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted.

There is an even more profound aspect which needs tobe emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factorleading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respectsits essential link with the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipateitself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the mostobvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundationof personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as thesole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth aboutgood and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, hisselfish interest and whim.

20 This view of freedom leads to aserious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self isunderstood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point ofrejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one hasto defend oneself. Thus soci- ety becomes a mass of individuals placed side byside, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himselfindependently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interestsprevail. Still, in the face of other people's analogous interests, some kind ofcompromise must be found, if one wants a society in which the maximum possiblefreedom is guaranteed to each individual. In this way, any reference to commonvalues and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social lifeventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point,everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first ofthe fundamental rights, the right to life.

This is what is happening also at the level ofpolitics and government: the original and inalienable right to life isquestioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of onepart of the people-even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of arelativism which reigns unopposed: the "right" ceases to be such,because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person,but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy,contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form oftotalitarianism. The State is no longer the "common home" where allcan live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but istransformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to disposeof the life of the weakest and most defenceless members, from the unborn childto the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing butthe interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legalityis maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia arethe result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rulesof democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature oflegality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledgesand safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its veryfoundations: "How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of everyhuman person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? Inthe name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practised: someindividuals are held to be deserving of defence and others are denied thatdignity?" 16 When this happens, the process leading to thebreakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the Stateitself has already begun.

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide andeuthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to humanfreedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over othersand against others. This is the death of true freedom: "Truly, truly, Isay to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin" (
Jn 8,34).

"And from your face I shall behidden": the eclipse ofthe sense of God and of man

(Gn 4,14)

21 In seeking the deepest roots ofthe struggle between the "culture of life" and the "culture ofdeath", we cannot restrict ourselves to the perverse idea of freedommentioned above. We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced bymodern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social andcultural climate dominated by secularism, which, with its ubiquitous tentacles,succeeds at times in putting Christian communities themselves to the test.Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into asad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency tolose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematicviolation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect forhuman life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of thecapacity to discern God's living and saving presence.

Once again we can gain insight from the story ofAbel's murder by his brother. After the curse imposed on him by God, Cain thusaddresses the Lord: "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, youhave driven me this day away from the ground; and from your face I shall behidden; and I shall be a fugitive and wanderer on the earth, and whoever findsme will slay me" (
Gn 4,13-14). Cain is convinced that his sin will notobtain pardon from the Lord and that his inescapable destiny will be to have to"hide his face" from him. If Cain is capable of confessing that hisfault is "greater than he can bear", it is because he is conscious ofbeing in the presence of God and before God's just judgment. It is really onlybefore the Lord that man can admit his sin and recognize its full seriousness.Such was the experience of David who, after "having committed evil in thesight of the Lord", and being rebuked by the Prophet Nathan, exclaimed:"My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you,you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done" (Ps51:5-6).

22 Consequently, when the sense ofGod is lost, the sense of man is also threatened and poisoned, as the SecondVatican Council concisely states: "Without the Creator the creature woulddisappear ... But when God is forgotten the creature itself growsunintelligible".17 Man is no longer able to see himself as"mysteriously different" from other earthly creatures; he regardshimself merely as one more living being, as an organism which, at most, hasreached a very high stage of perfection. Enclosed in the narrow horizon of hisphysical nature, he is somehow reduced to being "a thing", and nolonger grasps the "transcendent" character of his "existence asman". He no longer considers life as a splendid gift of God, something"sacred" entrusted to his responsibility and thus also to his lovingcare and "veneration". Life itself becomes a mere "thing",which man claims as his exclusive property, completely subject to his controland manipulation.

Thus, in relation to life at birth or at death, man isno longer capable of posing the question of the truest meaning of his ownexistence, nor can he assimilate with genuine freedom these crucial moments ofhis own history. He is concerned only with "doing", and, using allkinds of technology, he busies himself with programming, controlling anddominating birth and death. Birth and death, instead of being primaryexperiences demanding to be "lived", become things to be merely"possessed" or "rejected".

Moreover, once all reference to God has been removed,it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundlydistorted. Nature itself, from being "mater" (mother), is now reducedto being "matter", and is subjected to every kind of manipulation.This is the direction in which a certain technical and scientific way ofthinking, prevalent in present-day culture, appears to be leading when itrejects the very idea that there is a truth of creation which must be ac-knowledged, or a plan of God for life which must be respected. Somethingsimilar happens when concern about the consequences of such a "freedomwithout law" leads some people to the opposite position of a "lawwithout freedom", as for example in ideologies which consider it unlawfulto interfere in any way with nature, practically "divinizing" it.Again, this is a misunderstanding of nature's dependence on the plan of theCreator. Thus it is clear that the loss of contact with God's wise design isthe deepest root of modern man's confusion, both when this loss leads to afreedom without rules and when it leaves man in "fear" of hisfreedom.

By living "as if God did not exist", man notonly loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the worldand the mystery of his own being.

23 The eclipse of the sense of Godand of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breedsindividualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. Here too we see the permanentvalidity of the words of the Apostle: "And since they did not see fit toacknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct"(Rm 1,28). The values ofbeing are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is thepursuit of one's own material well-being. The so-called "quality oflife" is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency,inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of themore profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence.

In such a context suffering, an inescapable burden ofhuman existence but also a factor of possible personal growth, is"censored", rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, alwaysand in every way to be avoided. When it cannot be avoided and the prospect ofeven some future well-being vanishes, then life appears to have lost allmeaning and the temptation grows in man to claim the right to suppress it.

Within this same cultural climate, the body is nolonger perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relationswith others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: itis simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according tothe sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too isdepersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love,that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other'srichness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument forself-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and thetwo meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of theconjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union isbetrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple.Procreation then becomes the "enemy" to be avoided in sexualactivity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, orindeed the intention, to have a child "at all costs", and not becauseit signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness tothe richness of life which the child represents.

In the materialistic perspective described so far,interpersonal relations are seriously impoverished. The first to be harmed arewomen, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion ofpersonal dignity-which demands respect, generosity and service-is replaced bythe criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others areconsidered not for what they "are", but for what they "have, doand produce". This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.

24 It is at the heart of the moralconscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all itsvarious and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question,above all, of the individual conscience, as it stands before God in itssingleness and uniqueness. 18 But it is also a question, in a certainsense, of the "moral conscience" of society: in a way it too isresponsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behaviour contrary tolife, but also because it encourages the "culture of death", creatingand consolidating actual "structures of sin" which go against life.The moral conscience, both individual and social, is today subjected, also as aresult of the penetrating influence of the media, to an extremely serious andmortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relationto the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society lookssadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. Itis composed "of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth"(1:18): having denied God and believing that they can build the earthly city withouthim, "they became futile in their thinking" so that "theirsenseless minds were darkened" (1:21); "claiming to be wise, theybecame fools" (1:22), carrying out works deserving of death, and"they not only do them but approve those who practise them" (1:32).When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt Mt 6,22-23), calls"evil good and good evil" (Is 5,20), it is alreadyon the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.

And yet all the conditioning and efforts to enforcesilence fail to stifle the voice of the Lord echoing in the conscience of everyindividual: it is always from this intimate sanctuary of the conscience that anew journey of love, openness and service to human life can begin.

"You have come to the sprinkledblood": signs ofhope and invitation to commitment

(cf. He 12,22 He 12,24)

25 "The voice of yourbrother's blood is crying to me from the ground" (Gn 4,10). It is not onlythe voice of the blood of Abel, the first innocent man to be murdered, whichcries to God, the source and defender of life. The blood of every other humanbeing who has been killed since Abel is also a voice raised to the Lord. In anabsolutely singular way, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us,the voice of the blood of Christ, of whom Abel in his innocence is a propheticfigure, cries out to God: "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city ofthe living God ... to the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled bloodthat speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel" (12:22, 24).

It is the sprinkled blood. A symbol and prophetic signof it had been the blood of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, whereby Godexpressed his will to communicate his own life to men, purifying andconsecrating them (cf. Ex Ex 24,8 Lv 17,11). Now all of this is fulfilled andcomes true in Christ: his is the sprinkled blood which redeems, purifies andsaves; it is the blood of the Mediator of the New Covenant "poured out formany for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26,28). This blood, which flows fromthe pierced side of Christ on the Cross (cf. Jn Jn 19,34), "speaks moregraciously" than the blood of Abel; indeed, it expresses and requires amore radical "justice", and above all it implores mercy, 19it makes intercession for the brethren before the Father (cf. Heb He 7,25), and itis the source of perfect redemption and the gift of new life.

The blood of Christ, while it reveals the grandeur ofthe Father's love, shows how precious man is in God's eyes and how pricelessthe value of his life. The Apostle Peter reminds us of this: "You knowthat you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, notwith perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood ofChrist, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pt 1P 1,18-19).Precisely by contemplating the precious blood of Christ, the sign of hisself-giving love (cf. Jn Jn 13,1), the believer learns to recognize and appreciatethe almost divine dignity of every human being and can exclaim with everrenewed and grateful wonder: "How precious must man be in the eyes of theCreator, if he ?gained so great a Redeemer' (Exsultet of the Easter Vigil), andif God ?gave his only Son' in order that man ?should not perish but haveeternal life' (cf. Jn Jn 3,16)!". 20

Furthermore, Christ's blood reveals to man that hisgreatness, and therefore his vocation, consists in the sincere gift of self.Precisely because it is poured out as the gift of life, the blood of Christ isno longer a sign of death, of definitive separation from the brethren, but theinstrument of a communion which is richness of life for all. Whoever in theSacrament of the Eucharist drinks this blood and abides in Jesus (cf. Jn Jn 6,56)is drawn into the dynamism of his love and gift of life, in order to bring toits fullness the original vocation to love which belongs to everyone (cf. Gen1:27; 2:18-24).

It is from the blood of Christ that all draw thestrength to commit themselves to promoting life. It is precisely this bloodthat is the most powerful source of hope, indeed it is the foundation of theabsolute certitude that in God's plan life will be victorious. "And deathshall be no more", exclaims the powerful voice which comes from the throneof God in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Ap 21,4). And Saint Paul assures us that the present victory oversin is a sign and anticipation of the definitive victory over death, when there"shall come to pass the saying that is written: ?Death is swallowed up invictory'. ?O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'" (1 Cor 1Co 15,54-55).

26 In effect, signs which point tothis victory are not lacking in our societies and cultures, strongly markedthough they are by the "culture of death". It would therefore be togive a one-sided picture, which could lead to sterile discouragement, if thecondemnation of the threats to life were not accompanied by the presentation ofthe positive signs at work in humanity's present situation.

Unfortunately it is often hard to see and recognizethese positive signs, perhaps also because they do not receive sufficientattention in the communications media. Yet, how many initiatives of help andsupport for people who are weak and defenceless have sprung up and continue tospring up in the Christian community and in civil society, at the local,national and international level, through the efforts of individuals, groups,movements and organizations of various kinds!

There are still many married couples who, with agenerous sense of responsibility, are ready to accept children as "thesupreme gift of marriage".21 Nor is there a lack of familieswhich, over and above their everyday service to life, are willing to acceptabandoned children, boys and girls and teenagers in difficulty, handicappedpersons, elderly men and women who have been left alone. Many centres insupport of life, or similar institutions, are sponsored by individuals andgroups which, with admirable dedication and sacrifice, offer moral and materialsupport to mothers who are in difficulty and are tempted to have recourse toabortion. Increasingly, there are appearing in many places groups of volunteersprepared to offer hospitality to persons without a family, who find themselvesin conditions of particular distress or who need a supportive environment tohelp them to overcome destructive habits and discover anew the meaning of life.

Medical science, thanks to the committed efforts ofresearchers and practitioners, continues in its efforts to discover ever moreeffective remedies: treatments which were once inconceivable but which nowoffer much promise for the future are today being developed for the unborn, thesuffering and those in an acute or terminal stage of sickness. Various agenciesand organizations are mobilizing their efforts to bring the benefits of themost advanced medicine to countries most afflicted by poverty and endemicdiseases. In a similar way national and international associations ofphysicians are being organized to bring quick relief to peoples affected bynatural disasters, epidemics or wars. Even if a just international distributionof medical resources is still far from being a reality, how can we notrecognize in the steps taken so far the sign of a growing solidarity amongpeoples, a praiseworthy human and moral sensitivity and a greater respect forlife?

27 In view of laws which permitabortion and in view of efforts, which here and there have been successful, tolegalize euthanasia, movements and initiatives to raise social awareness indefence of life have sprung up in many parts of the world. When, in accordancewith their principles, such movements act resolutely, but without resorting toviolence, they promote a wider and more profound consciousness of the value oflife, and evoke and bring about a more determined commitment to its defence.

Furthermore, how can we fail to mention all thosedaily gestures of openness, sacrifice and unselfish care which countless peoplelovingly make in families, hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly andother centres or communities which defend life? Allowing herself to be guidedby the example of Jesus the "Good Samaritan" (cf. Lk
Lc 10,29-37) andupheld by his strength, the Church has always been in the front line inproviding charitable help: so many of her sons and daughters, especially menand women Religious, in traditional and ever new forms, have consecrated andcontinue to consecrate their lives to God, freely giving of themselves out oflove for their neighbour, especially for the weak and needy. These deedsstrengthen the bases of the "civilization of love and life", withoutwhich the life of individuals and of society itself loses its most genuinelyhuman quality. Even if they go unnoticed and remain hidden to most people,faith assures us that the Father "who sees in secret" (Mt 6,6) notonly will reward these actions but already here and now makes them producelasting fruit for the good of all.

Among the signs of hope we should also count the spread,at many levels of public opinion, of a new sensitivity ever more opposed to waras an instrument for the resolution of conflicts between peoples, andincreasingly oriented to finding effective but "non-violent" means tocounter the armed aggressor. In the same perspective there is evidence of agrowing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty isseen as a kind of "legitimate defence" on the part of society. Modernsociety in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by renderingcriminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.

Another welcome sign is the growing attention beingpaid to the quality of life and to ecology, especially in more developedsocieties, where people's expectations are no longer concentrated so much onproblems of survival as on the search for an overall improvement of livingconditions. Especially significant is the reawakening of an ethical reflectionon issues affecting life. The emergence and ever more widespread development ofbioethics is promoting more reflection and dialogue-between believers andnon-believers, as well as between followers of different religions- on ethicalproblems, including fundamental issues pertaining to human life.

28 This situation, with its lightsand shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormousand dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the "culture ofdeath" and the "culture of life". We find ourselves not only"faced with" but necessarily "in the midst of" thisconflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapableresponsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

For us too Moses' invitation rings out loud and clear:"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. ... Ihave set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life,that you and your descendants may live" (
Dt 30,15). This invitation isvery appropriate for us who are called day by day to the duty of choosingbetween the "culture of life" and the "culture of death".But the call of Deuteronomy goes even deeper, for it urges us to make a choicewhich is properly religious and moral. It is a question of giving our own existencea basic orientation and living the law of the Lord faithfully and consistently:"If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command youthis day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keepinghis commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live ...therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lordyour God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to youand length of days" (30:16,19-20).

The unconditional choice for life reaches its fullreligious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished byfaith in Christ. Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflictbetween death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God whobecame man and dwelt among men so "that they may have life, and have itabundantly" (Jn 10,10). It is a matter of faith in the Risen Lord, who hasconquered death; faith in the blood of Christ "that speaks more graciouslythan the blood of Abel" (He 12,24).

With the light and strength of this faith, therefore,in facing the challenges of the present situation, the Church is becoming moreaware of the grace and responsibility which come to her from her Lord ofproclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of life.

Evangelium vitae 17