Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Michael Terheyden

12/23/2012 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

I suspect that most people view The Gospel of Life as the abortion encyclical. It is that, but it is much more

As a Catholic American and a parent, I very much want our children protected from acts of violence, but not just the horrible violence that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, all acts of violence.

Highlights

By Michael Terheyden

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/23/2012 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Sandy Hook, Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, Gun control, Culture of death, Culture of life, Michael Terheyden


KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - As Americans around the country continue to mourn with the grieving families of the slaughtered children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, we are beginning to hear a growing cacophony of voices offering solutions to this tragedy. But if we hope to find genuine solutions, we need to recall Blessed John Paul II's great encyclical written in 1995, The Gospel of Life. In it he warns us about a culture of death enveloping the Western world, but we have not heeded his warning.

I suspect that most people view The Gospel of Life as the abortion encyclical. It is that, but it is much more. Blessed John Paul focuses heavily on abortion and other anti-life issues like euthanasia. These issues are extremely important in and of themselves, but they are important for other reasons too. Our attitude toward abortion and euthanasia is a reflection of our most fundamental beliefs and the kind of civilization we choose.

John Paul says a new cultural climate is emerging that gives crimes against life a more sinister character, and it is creating profound changes in our views about life and human relationships. He writes, "Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practice it is degraded."

John Paul sees abortion and euthanasia as serious crimes, as false and disturbing perversions of mercy which arise out of a "grave moral decline." But he also notes that this moral decline reaches far beyond a mother's decision to abort her baby or a doctor's decision to end his patient's life. He says, "We are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of individuals but also to that of civilization itself."

This threat is rooted in the abuse of freedom. John Paul reminds us that freedom is a gift from God and given to persons so that they might use it for their fulfillment, which is made possible through "the gift of self and openness to others." But when this freedom is not linked with truth and used selfishly, "it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted."

In this way, John Paul says, "freedom negates and destroys itself." Thus, it leads to a serious distortion of life; it results in a loss of the true meaning of rights and human dignity; it leads to democracy contradicting itself and the rise of a "tyrant state"; and it becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others.

But the distortion and abuse of freedom, though hugely important, is not the heart of the problem for John Paul. He says the heart of the problem is "the eclipse of the sense of God and of man typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism." He further says that "when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man and of his dignity and his life." 

He goes on to say that the loss of God leads to a "practical materialism" which breeds utilitarianism and hedonism and where economics, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty, and pleasure dominate at the expense of the more profound dimensions of human existence. Thus, efficiency, functionality and usefulness replace respect, generosity and service.

As such, materialism impoverishes personal relations. Women, children, the sick, and the elderly are the first to be harmed. Human sexuality is easily exploited and trivialized, which for John Paul, "is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life,"  and suffering is seen as nothing more than an inescapable, useless burden to be avoided.  

Moreover, at the service of this materialism is moral relativism. John Paul says that when man usurps the power of deciding right and wrong and life and death, he does not act as God in wisdom and love. "[Man] inevitably uses [such power] for injustice and death. It amounts to the strong over the weak and the sense of justice is lost in society." St. Thomas Aquinas writes that if human law is not in conformity with right reason, it is unjust and becomes an act of violence.

Among the cacophony of voices seeking solutions to the massacre at Sandy Hook, the loudest appear to be coming from the same people who have promoted a culture of death in the past. If their voices prevail, I would be concerned that we would not get genuine solutions but more violence and death, a different sort no doubt, but no less harmful to our children and our society.

I am referring to a kind of institutionalized violence often associated with authoritarianism. This kind of violence targets the mind, spirit and soul first then the body. We already see examples of this in our society. Some recent examples in the schools include so-called lunch inspectors, tracking ID cards, strip searches, and the police handcuffing and arresting children of kindergarten age. One of the most notable examples for me is the federal anti-bullying campaign introduced last year.

It is really a campaign to promote the homosexual agenda in our public schools. In the video included at the top of this page, we see President Obama's pick to head up this program, homosexual activist Dan Savage, speaking to a group of students. In his talk, he uses profanity to describe the Bible and refers to the students who walk out as pansies. He then tells the students that Christians are like pansy asses when homosexuals push back.

These examples reflect acts of violence against our children, and more of the same will not result in genuine solutions. Gun-control activists are hysterical. Others are calling for more surveillance and greater controls. Responsible regulation and governmental policy are one thing, but if they are part of an overall effort to disarm and control a law-abiding citizenry, they are probably a bad idea.

Fortunately, The Gospel of Life also presents us with the foundation for a culture of life. John Paul writes, "Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence . . . which will reach its full realization in eternity."

Elsewhere he writes, "The life which God bestows upon man is much more than mere existence in time. It is a drive towards fullness of life; it is the seed of an existence which transcends the very limits of time: 'For God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of his own eternity' (Wis 2:23)." Thus, the dignity of human life stems from the fact that it comes from God in the beginning and that its destiny is fellowship with God as its final end.

Consequently, if we really want to protect children from violence, then the solutions need to be based on a correct understanding of human nature, and they need to respect the noble dignity of human life in its totality. But this understanding of human nature is not popular in today's culture. 

Our public school system and institutions of higher learning are teaching young people that human life is merely a stage in material evolution and on a par with the animals. In many cases they are being taught that God does not exist or is of little practical significance, and that truth, especially moral truth, is relative.

Furthermore, these ideas are being spread throughout our culture by way of the media and the entertainment industries. As a result, over the past forty years or so our culture has been saturated with music, movies, video games, and books that glorify chaos, sex, violence, vulgarity, and perversion. 

We must not underestimate the power that education, music, movies, and the media have on our minds and culture. In a certain sense, they are more powerful than guns or the state. If we are going to truly protect our children, we first have to effect change in these industries. We need to use these powerful levers of culture to inform our children and neighbors of the truth, to inspire them with beauty and goodness, and to help ignite a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. 

Of course, transforming the culture of death into a culture of life is a long-term solution, and it is only part of an overall solution. But I believe it plays an important and essential role in our search for genuine solutions. As a Catholic American and a parent, I very much want our children protected from acts of violence, but not just the horrible violence that occurred at Sandy Hook, all acts of violence.

-----

Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More U.S.

Catholic Shopping .com is about to have its biggest sale ever for Black Friday weekend!

Image of Sign up so you don't miss any deals during this special Black Friday weekend sale!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This weekend, Catholic Shopping .com is having an amazing sale with up to 70% off of selected items. These deep discounts will help you finish your shopping early, but be prepared, many of these sales will last just an hour or two and then the specials will be gone! ... continue reading


A Boston man has something new to be thankful for after he received a double arm transplant Watch

Image of Will Lautzenheiser, a professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University had to undergo surgery to remove his arms and legs in 2011 after he came down with a life-threatening streptococcal infection.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Boston man who received a double arm transplant in October is making remarkable recovery, just in time for Thanksgiving. The best part, he says, is that he is able to hug his loved ones again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Will Lautzenheiser became infected ... continue reading


Dreaded cartel overlord Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez sentenced to 22 years in prison in U.S. Watch

Image of Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine. Some of the damning evidence against him was provided by twin brothers Pedro and Margarito ... continue reading


Here's 3,000 reasons why Obama just made illegal immigrants more attractive to your employer Watch

Image of Due to a loophole in Obamacare, the president's new amnesty plans mean that employers who hire illegals don't have to cover them with insurance, and won't be fined for doing so.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama's new amnesty plan is going to have some drastic effects that most American's aren't aware of, one that may just get you kicked out of a job because of all things, Obamacare. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Under the Affordable Care Act, ... continue reading


Fr. Randy Sly on Thanksgiving and Our Roots of Faith

Image of Ceremonies and periods of thanksgiving are woven through the entire tapestry of history. We find them in the Jewish Calendar of Feasts, in other world religions, in European cultures and native practices of North America, South America, Asia and Africa.

By Fr. Randy Sly

Thanksgiving Day has become a time when we watch parades and then take in large amounts of food and football. According to some calculations, 46 million turkeys-around 550 million pounds-will be consumed during Thanksgiving this year. But that's not how it began! ... continue reading


Thanksgiving Day: We are Still One Nation - Under God Watch

Image of The sincere sentiments expressed by this extraordinary leader, George Washington, should inform our response to all of the challenges we face today in the United States of America. We are still one Nation - under God. They should also inspire us to pray for great leaders to emerge in this our great hour of need. Leaders who can help us see this as an hour of opportunity and an invitation to reaffirm our reliance on God.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This week the people of the United States of America struggle to find a way through the trauma we are experiencing in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Too many self-appointed "experts" seem all too eager to tell us what divides us. However, even in ... continue reading


Acknowledging Unknown Soldier over known soldiers: Over 1.2 million veterans lack health insurance Watch

Image of As a culture, many of us feel more comfortable honoring the tomb of the Unknown Soldier --

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As many leave laurels at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the United States refuses to acknowledge the health and benefits of known soldiers. While most people assume that veterans automatically receive health care coverage through the Veterans Health ... continue reading


Ferguson in flames as policeman who shot, killed teenager found not guilty Watch

Image of Police claimed they came under heavy automatic weapon fire. Some buildings were left to burn because of the danger.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

People have responded to violence - with violence. After Police Officer Darren Wilson was been cleared of all charges in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in August. His surrounding community of Ferguson, Missouri has responded with widespread ... continue reading


Priest in Ferguson reports deep mistrust between groups fueling tension Watch

Image of Police in Ferguson move detain a protester.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Catholic priest assigned to Ferguson, MO, spoke with Vatican Radio about the "festering" mistrust between the populace and police. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican Radio shared an interview with Fr. Arthur Cavitt, a parish priest who was asked about the ... continue reading


Guliani/ Dyson Debate: Racism is Sin. Legitimate Social Analysis and Questions are Not Watch

Image of Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Georgetown Sociology Professor and media commentator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

By Keith A. Fournier

I do not believe that the comments of the former Mayor of New York revealed racism or what the Professor of Sociology called "white supremacy". Rather, he raised matters concerning sociological statistics which need to be considered as we all seek to further the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-8, 9
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2014 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at Diest, Brabant. He ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter