The Culture of Life
The Culture of Life World Youth Day Speech Monday, July 22, 2002 Olympic Island, Toronto, Ontario
In 1996, after having been elected to the United States Senate, partial-birth abortion was being debated on the floor. Partial-Birth Abortion is when a baby late in the pregnancy term, after 22 weeks or 20 weeks, is partially delivered outside of the mother and then killed. Most of these abortions occur when the child is discovered to be abnormal or to have a birth defect. If it has a birth defect, many in society perceive the child to be undesirable and would like to dispose of it. One day, I saw the procedure on television in my office. The baby is brought through the birth canal. Everything but the head is exposed and is outside of the mother. The baby is still alive and a pair of scissors is thrust into the back of the baby's skull. A vacuum tube is inserted in that hole, and the baby's brains are sucked out. I was horrified to see this--and stunned to hear a Senator say that this is legal in the United States of America. I couldn't believe it, but it was true!
Although all of my advisors thought I should not get involved in this issue, I felt compelled to fight against this gruesome procedure. A bill for this was not passed, but it was vetoed by President Clinton. I was determined to lead other senators in the Veto-override. Unfortunately, we lost the override; we were unable to get enough votes over President Clinton's Veto. At the time of that debate, I spoke about the fact that my wife and I were expecting another child. This child was 20 weeks into the pregnancy. A week later, my wife went in for a routine sonogram and found out that our child had a birth defect and was going to die. I was devastated. I couldn't understand how God could allow this when I was trying to do his will both in my private life and in my professional career.
We fought for almost two weeks to save his life but failed. Gabriel Michael, whom we named after the two archangels, was born in October of 1996. He lived for two hours in my arms and died. But before he died, I baptized him. This child was blessed because for those two hours he knew only love from his mother and father and had received God's grace.
The next morning, I got a call from a friend who told me: "You are blessed; you have a son in heaven." Before that, I never really realized that as a father the most important thing you can do for your children is to help them know, love and serve the Lord--and ultimately, get them to heaven. Now, I have a son in heaven. It was a hard lesson. That lesson has turned into a mission for my life to help others see the sanctity of life and the beauty of God.
My wife wrote a book called Letters to Gabriel. As she always did with all her pregnancies, she spent hours late at night writing letters to our children when they were in the womb. She wrote letters about the difficulties we were experiencing with Gabriel. This book has sold almost 20, 000 copies and has touched many people who are going through the same painful experience. My wife and I have received many letters from people who said they changed their minds about having an abortion after reading her book. God was faithful. He transformed this tragedy into a blessing for others.
This tragic experience also showed me how important it is to integrate your private and public life. I really believe you cannot check your faith at the door like a hat or a coat. This applies if you are a United States Senator or if you are a construction worker. Whatever your profession, your faith has to be an integral part of your life. However, most people embrace politically correct positions in public even if they contradict their personal views and faith. For Catholics, in America, this dates back to 1962, when our first and only Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, gave a long speech in Houston, Texas and talked about how he was not going to submit to the Pope or to his faith in public office. He believed faith is a private matter. Unfortunately, he made it acceptable for Catholics, and for most Christians in America, to separate their private and public lives. This resulted in the legitimization of private morality bereft of any public bearing.
This departure between private and public morality gained ground in the 1960's. It is important to trace the serious effects of the cultural revolution of the 60s that embraced a private morality separated from public life. This cultural revolution usurped the notion of moral absolutes. They young pioneers of this revolution fought for sexual liberation and for women's rights. The mantra was: "If it feels good, do it!" They pushed to change laws so that they wouldn't have to suffer the consequences of their behavior. Without any success, they tried to de-criminalize drug use and alcohol use and lower drinking ages. The result of the sexual revolution and the women's liberation movement was freedom of choice, abortion, no-fault divorce and the repeal of sodomy laws.
There have definitely been positive advances for women. Unfortunately, the effects of the cultural revolution have been disastrous for other areas of society. The divorce rate has doubled. Domestic abuse and child abuse have also doubled. Illegitimate births have gone from 5% in 1962 to 1 out of 3 in America. A third of all pregnancies end in abortion. A child conceived in America today has only a one in 4 chance to live to age 18 in an intact two-parent family. When abortion was legalized in 1973 there were 700,000 abortions. It peaked in the early 90 's at almost 1.5 million abortions. Since 1973 in America there have been over 42 million children whose lives were snuffed out by abortionists.
Today, I challenge you to join the revolution of a Culture of Life. This revolution will be much more difficult than the revolution of the 60's, but it will be much more rewarding. The Culture of Death that suffocates this generation is even more toxic than the decadent culture of the 60s. This culture war will be fought on many fronts. The first and foremost battlefront is to reclaim the sanctity of marriage. This means opposing same-sex marriage and reinforcing the dignity and importance motherhood. Promoting abstinence to teenagers is also central to fighting the scourge of abortion and standing up for the sanctity of human life. Many of you are already engaged in this battle, working in youth groups, in churches and in crisis pregnancy centers.
I challenge all of you, young and old, to live your faith in all that you do and say. You must be counter-cultural. You must be rebels of faith. I challenge you to pursue not what feels good, but what God says is good. You must live your faith at school, at work and at home. Ultimately, you must live the culture of life by being faithful to the moral teachings of Jesus Christ. Your witness to Christ will be criticized by your peers, for very few have the courage to live their convictions in public.
Do not be afraid to be intolerant. Tolerance is probably considered the greatest virtue in America today. It is a virtue because according to the popular culture, if you are tolerant you can let other people do whatever they want. Do not be afraid to be intolerant of sin and evil because you fear being ostracized by your peers. Intolerance does not mean hating your neighbor. It is just the opposite. It is caring for his soul by teaching him the error of his ways. But always remember, you must hate the sin but love the sinner. We are all sinners. We all fall short every single day. Don't let the Devil trick you into thinking that because you fall, you cannot be a moral leader. Look at David, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Paul, and St. Augustine. It is precisely because of your falls that you can sympathize with others and lead them to a higher ground.
Finally, I'll read the last few words of my wife's book. During the partial birth abortion debate a senator was thanking the women who had had partial birth abortions, for coming forward with their stories. My wife writes: "They are crying. They are crying because they do not understand how senators can take away an option. They are crying because they do not believe those senators truly understand what this meant for their families. Daddy said in response, "The senators said she hears the cries of women outside this chamber. We would be deafened by the cries of the children who are not here to cry because of this procedure."
The Washington Post described what happened next: "Republican speaker Rick Santorum turned to face the opposition and in a high, pleading voice cried out: 'Where do we draw the line? Some people have likened this procedure to an appendectomy. This is not an appendix!" he shouted pointing at a drawing of a fetus. "This is not a blob of tissue, it's a baby! It's a baby!' And then, impossibly, in an already hushed gallery, in one of those moments when the floor of the senate looks like a stage set...the cry of a baby pierced the room and echoed across the chamber from an outside hallway. No mention was made of the cry, but for a few seconds, no one spoke at all." My wife finishes her book by saying: "Coincidence? Perhaps. A visitor's baby was crying outside the gallery outside the door of the senate, just as the door of the senate was opened and then quickly closed. Or maybe it was a cry from a son, whose voice we never heard, but whose life has changed us forever.
In conclusion, let me assure you that God is faithful. I am living proof of this even though I am not always faithful to Him. Remember that when you open your heart and allow Him in, He can do wondrous things.
Thank you, and God bless you.
Senate Republican Conference
http://www.catholic.org DC, US
Senator Rick Santorum - Senator, 202 224-9068
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