Speeches 1993 - Friday, 29 October 1993
Thursday, 4 November 1993
1. I am pleased to welcome participants in the course sponsored by the Centre for Studies and Research on the Natural Regulation of Fertility currently underway at the Policlinico Gemelli. My special greeting goes to your Director, Doctor Anna Cappella.
I know well and esteem the contributions of the Centre. Since 1976 its work has been constant and valuable, especially in training teachers, knowledgeable in the area of responsible procreation, for pastoral work at the diocesan level. Having previously brought together instructors from Italy for a renewal course, the Centre has recently devoted itself to training new teachers for Africa and Europe. This educational work is among the best ways of commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Encyclical Letter "Humanae Vitae" and preparing for the International "Year of the Family".
2. Since the publication of that Encyclical, the Church has noted with satisfaction the increasing success of methods of natural family planning which respect "the lawful regulation of procreation" (Paul VI, Humanae Vitae HV 24). Pope Paul VI expressed the hope that men and women of science would succeed in identifying a secure as well as a moral basis for the regulation of birth. Supported by science, experience has confirmed the educational value of natural family planning in contributing to an integrated vision of sexuality, marriage and responsible procreation.
By faithfully and confidently following the teaching of the Church, the Centre has trained people to instruct others not only in techniques but also in the spirit – the anthropological and moral reasons – underlying "natural methods", namely, an openness to life and the promotion of the dignity of marriage and the family. The importance of teachers in all educational and apostolic works is decisive. In this area it is even more so because of the sensitivity of the task and the values that are involved.
3. I wish you every success among the people from whom you come, helped by the local Churches which have sent you. It is my desire that leaders in civil life and health care and all who are concerned about the well-being of the family will give ever more attention to your teaching.
It is also a great pleasure for me to note that among you are physicians and health-care workers who are at the service of families. To you and to your colleagues I wish to underline the importance of what you have learned in these days and are now in a position to propose to others: the appropriate understanding of natural methods of responsible procreation.
Upon all of you I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. With great joy I welcome you – the Bishops of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island: "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come" (Ap 1,4). Our meeting manifests the profound spiritual and visible communion which exists between your particular Churches and the Church Universal, a communion which springs from our being "grafted" into Christ (Cf. Rom. Rm 11, 17ss.). We must constantly turn to him, the chief Shepherd (Cf. 1Pt. 1P 5,4), in order to realize what are the "unsearchable riches" (Ep 3,8) with which he has invested us for the building up of the spotless spouse (Cf. Rev. Ap 19,7). She it is whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom he unceasingly "nourishes and cherishes" (Ep 5,29 cf. Lumen Gentium LG 6). Our unfailing trust and confidence rests in him and in the power of his Gospel to save (Cf. Rom. Rm 1,16).
Following upon the "ad Limina" visits of your brother Bishops from Quebec and from the West and North, your presence is a reminder of the vastness of your land which extends a mari usque ad mare (Cf. Ps. ) and which presents so many challenges for the "new evangelization". With the other Bishops I reflected on some aspects of their pastoral care of the Church and I encouraged them to be vigilant guardians of the truth, shepherds who proclaim the full truth of Christ and the Church. Today our thoughts turn to some other aspects of your ministry.
2. As Pastors you are called to feed your flocks, refreshing their souls (Cf. Ps. ) with the abundant life won by the Good Shepherd as he freely gave himself up to death on the Cross (Cf. Jn. Jn 10,10-11). At the centre of your sacramental ministry is the Eucharistic Sacrifice, offered to nourish the faithful with the Bread which gives life to the world (Cf. ibid. 6: 51). In some cases the shortage or uneven distribution of priests makes it difficult to meet the faithful’s need for the Eucharist – the very source, center and culmination of the Church’s life (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 11). This situation, coupled with a critical decline in the number of Catholics attending Sunday Mass, calls for vigorous pastoral action that is faithful to Church teaching.
In meeting this challenge, certain fundamental principles should always guide your pastoral response. The parish is a community of the baptized who express and confirm their identity through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 26). This requires the presence of an ordained priest whose first privilege and irreplaceable responsibility is to offer the Eucharist in persona Christi (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 10 John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 48). Great care must be taken to ensure that no misunderstanding arises about the nature of the Eucharist and its essential link with the ordained priesthood.
When a community is deprived of the priest who acts publicly in the name of Christ (Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2), this regrettable situation calls for an emergency response. Sunday celebrations should continue, and the lay persons who lead their brothers and sisters in prayer are exercising in a commendable way the common priesthood of all the faithful, based on the grace of Baptism. It would be a serious mistake, however, to accept this as a normal way of involving Religious and lay men and women in the Liturgy. Such provisions should be regarded as only temporary, while the community is "in expectation of a priest" (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directorium de Celebrationibus Dominicalibus Absente Presbytero, Christi Ecclesia, 27, 2 June 1988). Your assiduous oversight is required so that all will see "the substitutional character of these celebrations, which should not be regarded as the optimal solution to new difficulties" (Ibid. 21). Your Pastoral Letter The Ministry of Priests (January 18, 1990) reaffirmed the Church’s tradition when it stated unequivocally that "a Church without priests is unthinkable". On the contrary, the sacramental incompleteness of these celebrations should lead the whole community to pray more fervently that the Lord send laborers into his harvest (Cf. Mt. Mt 9,38). And I join you in pleading with him that the Church in Canada may experience a fresh springtime of priestly and religious vocations.
3. The forthcoming apostolic visitations of your seminaries will provide the Episcopal Conference of Canada with ample opportunity to reflect on ways of improving the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation of priests. In the light of the relevant documents of the Holy See and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis", the updated ratio fundamentalis which you intend to draw up (Cf. From Pain to Hope, VII, Recommendation 50) will address the challenging task of deepening – both among the faithful and the candidates themselves – an understanding of the ontologioal bond uniting the priest to Christ, the High Priest and Good Shepherd. In this way the whole community will have a correct awareness and esteem for the priest’s transcendent mission of being "the means and the living instrument for conferring God’s grace" upon his people (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 73).
4. At this time, when some question the desirability of maintaining the discipline of priestly celibacy, Bishops must courageously teach the fittingness of linking this "sign of contradiction" with the ministerial priesthood. On the basis of her experience and reflection, the Church has discerned, with growing clarity through the ages, that priestly celibacy is not just a legal requirement imposed as a condition for ordination. It is profoundly connected with a man’s configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd and Spouse of the Church. As "Pastores Dabo Vobis" states: "Certainly it is a grace which does not dispense with, but counts most definitely on, a conscious and free response on the part of the receiver. This charism of the Spirit also brings with it the grace for the receiver to remain faithful to it for all his life and be able to carry out generously and joyfully its concomitant commitments" (Ibid. 50).
Cultural considerations, and the scarcity of priests in certain regions, sometimes give rise to calls for a change in this discipline. To give decisive weight to solutions based on criteria deriving more from certain currents of anthropology, sociology or psychology than from the Church’s living tradition is certainly not the path to follow. We cannot overlook the fact that the Church comes to know the divine will through the interior guidance of the Spirit (Cf. Jn. Jn 16,13), and that the difficulties involved today in keeping celibacy are not sufficient reason to overturn the Church’s conviction regarding its value and appropriateness, a conviction constantly reaffirmed by the Church’s Magisterium, not least by the Second Vatican Council (Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 16). Like the Church in other countries, the Church in Canada is called to face this situation with faith and courage, trusting "in the Spirit that the gift of celibacy... will be generously bestowed by the Father, as long as those who share in Christ’s priesthood through the Sacrament of Orders, and indeed the whole Church, humbly and earnestly pray for it" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 16).
The scandal given by those members of the clergy and those Religious who have failed in this regard has been a source of great suffering for the Church in Canada. I wish you to know that I have personally shared this anguish with you and that it has been the cause of much prayer to the "Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2Co 1,3) for those who have been victims of sexual misconduct, as well as for those who have been guilty of it. Let us abide by Saint Paul’s sound counsel: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rm 12,21). Recalling with profound gratitude the fidelity and zeal of so many priests in Canada who, with pure and selfless hearts, have made the total gift of themselves to Christ and his Church, I ask you to convey my encouragement to every priest whose father in God you are (Cf. Christus Dominus CD 16).
5. Among your pastoral concerns, you are also called upon to address the vital question of the role of women, with their rights and duties, in your particular Churches and in Canadian society. The whole People of God needs to recognize and rejoice in the irreplaceable gifts of "feminine genius" that women bring to the life and mission of the Church (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 51). These rich gifts of femininity originate with the first covenant of creation, which confers on woman "an expression of the ‘image and likeness of God’ that is specifically hers" (John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 10). In the New Covenant, which seals the redemptive union of Christ and the Church (Cf. Eph. Ep 5,32), women enjoy a special priority in the "order of love" (Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 29).
Since "God entrusts the human being to her in a special way" (John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 30), woman’s commitment to the home, marriage and family should not be seen as restrictive or demeaning. Rather that commitment reflects, in a profound and specific, though not exclusive way, the love which God himself has for his creation insofar as he cares personally for every one of his sons and daughters (Cf. 1Jn. 1Jn 4,16). In this perspective it constitutes a serious pastoral responsibility, as well as a matter of charity and justice, to foster the authentic advancement of women, which will be achieved only if it is anchored in the truth of creation and of divine Revelation.
6. Dans les mois qui nous séparent de la tenue du Synode de 1994 sur la vie consacrée et son rôle dans l’Eglise et le monde, je voudrais inviter les religieux et les religieuses du Canada à se préparer à cet événement par une prière toujours plus fervente. La vie religieuse est un don de l’Esprit “à” l’Eglise et “pour” l’Eglise. Le vaste ensemble d’écoles et d’hôpitaux catholiques existant chez vous n’aurait jamais pu être constitué, et il ne pourrait poursuivre ses missions, sans l’esprit d’initiative, la determination et le don d’elles-mêmes de milliers de religieux et de religieuses. Je pense en particulier aux travaux héroïques de sainte Marguerite Bourgeoys, de sainte Marguerite d’Youville – les premières saintes nées au Canada – et de la bienheureuse Marie-Léonie Paradis dont j’ai présidé la béatification au cours de ma visite pastorale dans votre pays.
Cependant vous etes tous inquiets de voir que, dans certains groupes, l’idéal de la vie religieuse n’exerce plus le meme attrait depuis quelques années; nous espérons que les religieux et les religieuses canadiens mettront à profit l’occasion fournie par le Synode “pour réfléchir à nouveau à la question de leur renouveau, à la lumière des défis et des possibilités de notre temps” (Lineamenta, n. 33). Il est particulièrement urgent pour eux de méditer sur leur identité et sur le charisme de leur fondation. Dans un esprit d’humilité profonde et en s’en remettant à Celui dont la puissance agissant en nous est capable de faire bien au-delà, infiniment au-delà de tout ce que nous pouvons demander ou concevoir” (Ep 3,20), les religieux et les religieuses devraient s’interroger sur le renouveau proposé par le deuxième Concile du Vatican: a-t-il été effectivement mis en oeuvre (Cf. Perfectae Caritatis PC 2) et a-t-il porté les fruits de sainteté et de zèle apostolique qui étaient attendus? Vous etes pasteurs de toute la communauté de vos diocèses, et votre ministère concerne les religieux présents dans vos Eglises particulières. Ils ont besoin de votre soutien et de vos orientations non seulement pour leurs activités pastorales mais aussi pour promouvoir l’observation des conseils évangéliques par lesquels ils sont “aconsacrés à Dieu en Jésus-Christ pour lui appartenir exclusivement” (Jean-Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 7).
7. Chers frères dans l’Episcopat, nous arrivons au soir du IIème millénaire qui déjà touche à son terme (Cf. Luc. Lc 24,29).
Vous, pasteurs de l’Eglise au Canada, je vous invite à commencer les préparatifs du grand Jubilé de l’Incarnation rédemptrice de notre Seigneur. Par-dessus tout, dans les différents moments de la vie pastorale, fortifiez et encouragez un nouvel “élan de sainteté” (Cf. Jean-Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 90) chez les prêtres, les religieux, les religieuses et les laïcs.
Comme des pasteurs selon le coeur du Seigneur (Cf. Jer. Jr 3,15), conduisez les fidèles catholiques aux sources de la vie: “La vie éternelle, c’est qu’ils te connaissent, toi, le seul véritable Dieu, et celui que tu as envoyé, Jésus-Christ” (Jn 17,3).
Recourant à l’intercession des saints du Canada, et vous confiant, avec tous ceux dont vous avez la charge pastorale, à la protection bienveillante de Notre-Dame, je vous accords de grand coeur ma Bénediction Apostolique.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to greet the distinguished international leaders in the sector of food and agriculture taking part in the Twenty-seventh Conference of FAO. Our meeting, which has become traditional, is a sign of the cooperation existing between the Holy See and FAO. In spite of their different missions and purposes, both are committed to serving the cause of man and promoting human dignity. Human dignity requires that under no circumstances and for no cause whatsoever may people be deprived of the fundamental right to nutrition. As last year's International Conference on Nutrition sponsored by FAO and the World Health Organization recalled, the right to nutrition is a direct expression of the right to life.
Indeed, nutrition does not merely involve responding to physical necessities. It also includes providing the opportunity for every person to have access to sufficient and healthy food, and to take part in its production and distribution (cf. Address to the International Conference on Nutrition, 5 December 1992). The right to nutrition thus means being able to share fully in the harmony of creation.
Our meeting today is particularly significant because it is taking place forty-five years after the establishment of official relations between the Apostolic See and FAO. On 23 November 1948 the Conference, at its fourth session, decided to admit the Holy See to participation in the activity of the Organization with the status of "Permanent Observer". In according the Holy See this status, unique even with regard to other institutions of the United Nations System, the Conference recognized the specific nature of the Holy See as the central and supreme organ of government of the Catholic Church, which throughout the world carries out a mission of service to humanity, working for justice, peace, social harmony and development. As is well known, the Holy See's international activity is part of its mission of proclaiming the "Good News" to all peoples, without distinction, for the sole purpose of serving man in his dignity as a person and thus contributing to the common good of the whole human family.
The particular status enjoyed by the Holy See continues to reflect the specific nature of its contribution to the purposes and activity of FAO. Without entering into technical and specialized matters, the Holy See wishes to provide those ethical guidelines which inspire the values which have gained ground in the life of the international community and which ought to guide all its activities, including, as in the case of FAO, those which are more technical in nature. This is the necessary basis for a determination of the conditions and the means needed for the ordered coexistence of humanity.
In forty-five years the Holy See has never failed to offer this particular cooperation, which it wishes to continue at this time of change in the direction of the Organization. I take this occasion to express my gratitude to the Director-General, Mr Edouard Saouma, who in his many years of leadership has guided FAO in meeting the challenges of changing global realities. His notable gifts of professionalism and broad experience will now benefit his native Lebanon, which today desires to rediscover in the unity of its peoples the solid basis for national reconstruction, peaceful coexistence and the recovery of its own tradition.
To the Director-General elect, Mr Jacques Diouf, I offer my good wishes for the success of his work in the years to come on behalf of FAO and the entire international community. His knowledge of the situation in the developing countries, his experience in the field of multilateral diplomacy and his commitment to international development hold out the promise of fruitful activity in favour of the whole rural world, and especially in favour of those who until now have benefited least from agricultural improvements, such as the small farmers of the poorest countries.
Just as at Hot Springs, fifty years ago, when the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture laid the foundations of FAO, the present session of the Conference is also taking place at a time when the international community has undergone profound changes and is still experiencing new developments almost daily. Now as then, there are new actors on the world scene, new international relationships are needed, new problems must be faced and appropriate responses have to be given. Such responses are called for by that universal common good which consists of making possible all the conditions needed for the development of individuals, of peoples and of the whole human family. The important decisions which you are called to make can contribute to improving the plight of millions of people who expect concrete actions which can alter their situation of underdevelopment, of poverty and of hunger.
At the Hot Springs Conference there was already an acknowledgment that "the first cause of hunger and malnutrition is poverty" (United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, Resolution XXIV). Today the same awareness must inspire all your work. There is an urgent need to ask why, after so many years, poverty continues to be the cause of hunger and of malnutrition. Perhaps it has too often been forgotten that "the poor - be they individuals or Nations - need to be provided with realistic opportunities" (Centesimus Annus, CA 52).
The present Conference, the twenty-seventh, underlines the universality of FAO in terms of the number of its Member States, with the admission of a conspicuous number of new ones. But, as you are aware, this universality should not be read only in terms of numbers, or interpreted as representing some kind of equality. Rather it should be compared to the various situations within countries and between them: the wealth of some, the extreme poverty of others. In the universality of FAO, therefore, there is reflected the reality of a world divided, in which often the selfishness of a few will not permit the weaker ones to benefit fully from resources and other goods, from commerce, scientific discoveries, the benefits of new technology; all this can help to negate the equal right of every people to "be seated at the table of the common banquet" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 33).
Is it not also because of this selfishness, this lack of sharing and communion between countries, that a large part of humanity suffers from hunger and malnutrition, to the point of seeing its hopes for life itself compromised?
Your daily commitment and the varied activities of FAO testify that hunger and malnutrition are not just the result of natural disasters but also represent the consequences of individual and collective attitudes, whether active or omissive, which depend on the will and the action of man.
There is a collection of factors preventing all individuals from having sufficient food, notwithstanding that the data examined in this Conference show, yet again, that world production is sufficient to respond to the demand of the world's population considered as a whole. Indeed, the longer view which an accurate study by FAO offers on these works is precisely that of a more balanced relationship in the world between agricultural-food production and demographic growth, which at this time appears to be stationary or tending to a slowing-down with respect to today (cf. FAO Conference, Agriculture Towards 2010, Doc. C 93/94). As a consequence the solution of limiting the number of participants at the "common banquet rather than multiplying the bread to be shared seems ever less justifiable!
The persistent imbalances between different parts of the globe - and therefore the crises or shortages of food - cannot be explained only by the different level of growth which separates the developed and the developing countries. They are rather to be attributed to the action of economic policy and in particular to the agricultural policy of individual countries or groups of countries whose effect in global terms assumes importance with regard to levels of production, sale and distribution, therefore affecting the availability of agricultural and food products.
This means that it is necessary to modify the list of priorities in the struggle against hunger and malnutrition at both the national and international levels. In fact, while food self-sufficiency remains a valid objective in the development of a given country, the adequate distribution of goods assumes greater importance, so that they will be effectively available, especially to the very poor. The adoption of criteria of solidarity and of sharing requires a proportionately stronger and disinterested readiness on the part of the richest countries and the major producers. This is a readiness more than ever necessary at a time when the criteria inspired by the latest global economic tendencies require the weaker economies to make structural adjustments which can in the short term compromise the basic rights of peoples, and even in some cases the actual availability of food commodities.
Besides this, the struggle against hunger and malnutrition requires that all countries should come together and adopt new and binding regulations responding to the changed demands of trade and international exchange and not to the interests of a small number of countries. In this way it will be possible to avoid clear symptoms of protectionism in its various forms, which constitute the principal obstacle to trade and create actual barriers to markets for the developing countries. Thus the movement towards a new world order of trade which does not penalize agricultural progress in developing countries should be put into operation as quickly as possible, thus fostering the integration of their potential into the economies of the rich countries.
The pursuit of the goal of sustainable development thus involves the need to find a proper balance between the demands of production required by the struggle against hunger and the need to safeguard the environment and preserve the great variety of the resources of creation. By means of such a criterion FAO can respond with ever greater precision to the task of putting into practice a part of the conclusions of the Rio Conference, thus offering a real service also to future generations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is clear that choices leading to solidarity between countries must be made concrete in the indispensable work of making goods and resources available for the immediate and future use of the most needy. The stability of international coexistence requires it, the conditions for true peace demand it.
This duty also requires a careful rereading of the aims and objectives of all the institutions of the United Nations system, so as to give full reality to the directives of the United Nations Charter, where it is affirmed that to realize "conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations... the United Nations shall promote conditions of economic, social progress and development" (Art. 55). And notwithstanding the fact that the methods and means need to be made more precise, it cannot be forgotten that even recently the imperative to guarantee sufficient food, denied by situations of conflict, has been the central motive for international humanitarian action.
Thus the idea is maturing within the international community that humanitarian action, far from being the right of the strongest, must be inspired by the conviction that intervention, or even interference when objective situations require it, is a response to a moral obligation to come to the aid of individuals, peoples or ethnic groups whose fundamental right to nutrition has been denied to the point of threatening their existence.
Upon your work, therefore, rest precise responsibilities, and your decisions will have not only technical consequences but also consequences filled with human implications. Strive to ensure that all people, and especially those who live and work in the rural world, can continue to have confidence in the activity of FAO.
May the Almighty Creator of the Universe strengthen your perseverance and enlighten your work.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. With fraternal affection I welcome you – the Bishops of New Jersey and Pennsylvania – and pray that our meeting will further strengthen our unity of heart and mind (Cf. Acts Ac 4,32), and our communion in faith, hope and charity. "May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you" (Jud 1,2). United with Christ and with one another, we share the sublime privilege of the episcopal ministry, as bearers of the Gospel message of salvation to the world, to every individual and to all peoples. The fulfilment of this task, including the missionary mandate which it involves, may seem as difficult and challenging today as it did when the Apostles first set out to preach the truth of the Gospel to all creation (Cf. Mk. Mc 16,15). We need constantly to reaffirm our trust in the Lord’s words: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). With this certainty, your "ad limina" visit is an occasion for us to support and encourage one another in the fulfilment of our ministry, remembering the words of Saint Paul, that "it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy" (1Co 4,2).
2. To speak of mission is to recall the fundamental and personal duty of every Bishop to evangelize: to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to communicate divine life through the sacraments. This means going out in search of the men and women of our time, with a sensitive and loving heart, spreading the grace and love which come from the Spirit. It means helping them to recover a sense of the transcendence of God, the Father of all, who is to be adored "in spirit and truth" (Jn 4,23). It means bearing witness to the power of the Cross of Christ (Cf. 1Cor. 1Co 1,17) in a complex and often confused social and cultural context.
In fulfilling these tasks, the disciple of Christ is constantly challenged by a spreading "practical atheism" – an indifference to God’s loving plan which obscures the religious and moral sense of the human heart. Many either think and act as if God did not exist, or tend to "privatize" religious belief and practice, so that there exists a bias towards indifferentism and the elimination of any real reference to binding truths and moral values. When the basic principles which inspire and direct human behavior are fragmentary and even at times contradictory, society increasingly struggles to maintain harmony and a sense of its own destiny. In a desire to find some common ground on which to build its programmes and policies, it tends to restrict the contribution of those whose moral conscience is formed by their religious beliefs.
3. Against this background and trusting in the word of her Saviour, the Church invites the faithful to let their light shine before the world (Cf. Mt. Mt 5,16) and to communicate to society the religious and ethical principles which give full meaning to human life. In this way the Church seeks to sustain an urgent and necessary dialogue with contemporary culture, especially with regard to moral principles. Fundamental moral principles, in fact, are an essential ingredient of the formation of public policy, as was clearly understood and intended by your nation’s Founding Fathers. As I had occasion to say during my recent visit to Denver: "Only by instilling a high moral vision can a society ensure that its young people are given the possibility to mature as free and intelligent – human beings, endowed with a robust sense of responsibility for the common good, capable of working with others to create a community and a nation with a strong moral fibre. America was built on such a vision, and the American people possess the intelligence and will to meet the challenge of rededicating themselves with renewed vigor to fostering the truths on which [their] country was founded and by which it grew" (John Paul II, Welcome ceremony at the International Airport of Denver, 3, 12 August 1993). Perhaps more than ever before in the history of your country, Catholics who are aware of the Church’s true intellectual heritage can make a clarifying and much needed contribution to the discussion of the direction in which society must go if it is to be truly just and truly free.
Such a dialogue is fostered by "emphasizing the rational – and thus universally understandable and communicable – character of moral norms belonging to the sphere of the natural moral law" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 36).
It is a blessing that the Church in the United States has been successful in educating and motivating many lay people to contribute actively to the public debate on important issues, and to become personally involved in public service. This is their right and duty, deriving from their vocation "to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them to God’s will" (Lumen Gentium LG 31). The Pastors need to call on the Catholic people of the United States to realize ever more clearly that society needs the testimony of their Christian life and good works, as well as their capacity to explain and defend certain fundamental truths and values essential to society’s well–being, especially in relation to the inalienable dignity and value of human life, and its transmission in a stable family setting.
4. In a spirit of fraternal solidarity, I encourage your efforts to assert the Church’s teaching on the absolute inviolability of human life from the moment of conception until natural death (Cf. Centesimus Annus CA 47). The pro-life movement, overwhelmingly dependent upon the work of lay persons who have provided both its leadership and "grass roots" support, deserves your continued support and guidance. To defend the right to life of unborn children is one of the greatest human rights issues of our day. This is the only "choice" open to conscience, which as I wrote in "Veritatis splendor" – "expresses itself in acts of ‘judgment’ which reflect the truth about the good, and not in arbitrary ‘decisions’. The maturity and responsibility of these judgments – and, when all is said and done, of the individual who is their subject – are not measured by the liberation of the conscience from objective truth, in favor of an alleged autonomy in personal decision, but, on the contrary, by an insistent search for truth and by allowing oneself to be guided by that truth in one’s actions" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 61).
Since it is never lawful to do evil in order that good may come of it (Cf. Rom. Rm 3,8 cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 79-83), Catholics have a duty to promote legislation which corresponds to the moral law and to seek to reform legislation which does not reflect the truth of man’s dignity and transcendent destiny, always by lawful means and rational debate. As a Conference, you have rightly asserted that safeguarding respect for the sanctity and dignity of human life is – the primary and decisive criterion to be used in evaluating public policy (Cf. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Resolution on Health Care Reform, 18 June 1993). I pray that society will take up your challenge "to put children and families first" and will support your endeavors "to promote life – giving alternatives to abortion" by encouraging the loving choice of adoption and programmes of support for pregnant women, especially among the poor (Cf. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Putting Children and Families First: A Challenge for Our Church, Nation and World, 14 November 1991, VI.A.1).
5. Catholics should also express their deep concern regarding the grave threats to human dignity posed by euthanasia, assisted suicide and all other actions which put at risk the elderly, the ailing and the disadvantaged. Despite the intentions or circumstances, direct euthanasia is an act which is always and per se intrinsically evil (Cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 80 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2277) – a violation of divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person. The faithful are looking to you as spiritual and moral teachers to make ever more widely known, with clarity and compassion, the Church’s teaching on the end – of – life questions increasingly faced by so many families and health personnel. Naturally, that teaching should be placed in the wider context of the whole Christian approach to suffering, whereby "the redemptive value of suffering, accepted and offered to God with love, derives from the sacrifice of Christ himself, who calls the members of his Mystical Body to share in his sufferings, to complete them in their own flesh (Cf. Col. Col 1,24)". (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 78). Indeed, in a society which often values people more for what they "do" or "have" than for who they "are", the Church must continue to implement the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan. Her pastoral activity "for" and "with" the infirm ought to be solidly grounded on the affirmation that, because we are all created in the image and likeness of God (Cf. Gen. Gn 1,27), we enjoy an indestructible personal dignity which is not lessened by pain or serious illness (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 37). The witness of a convincing solidarity with the suffering and the dying should be the normal mark of a society genuinely on the side of life.
6. Dear Brothers: integral to our prophetic mission as heralds of "the truth of the Gospel" (Ga 2,14) is the challenge to proclaim the Church’s full teaching on the responsible transmission of human life within marriage.I note with satisfaction your Conference’s statement entitled Human Sexuality from God’s Perspective, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Encyclical "Humanae Vitae", This is an opportune moment for you to increase your efforts to restore respect for God’s wise and loving plan for human sexuality, With admirable clarity, my predecessor Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s constant tradition of "the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning" (Paul VI, Humanae Vitae HV 12). A fully consistent ethic of life requires a concerted effort by Bishops, moral theologians and pastors of souls to help the faithful to understand more clearly that conjugal fulfilment is linked to respect for the intrinsic meaning and purpose of human sexuality.
An enormous challenge awaits you in proclaiming – in a way that is convincing and supportive – the beauty and splendour of true conjugal love. As Shepherds you must be watchful that the word of God in its fullness is faithfully taught. When necessary, you must take the "appropriate measures to ensure that the faithful are guarded from every doctrine and theory contrary to it" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 116). Your priests should be helped to give their firm assent to this teaching and to commit themselves to forming the consciences of those entrusted to their pastoral care according to the full truth of the Gospel.
7. While recognizing that we are "men who will have to give account" of our pastoral stewardship to the Father (Cf. Hebr. 13: 17), we can take comfort in the fact that Christ has called us his "friends" (Cf. Jn. Jn 15,14). Let us place our episcopal ministry in the hands of Mary, Mother of Mercy, and commend to her maternal care all the priests, Religious and laity of your Dioceses. I pray that the Spirit who renews the face of the earth (Cf. Ps ), will illumine with the splendour of divine truth the mind and heart of America! With my Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 1993 - Friday, 29 October 1993