(Antonio Suetta, Bishop of Ventimiglia-Sanremo address at March for Life, Rorate Caeli – May 22, 2021) A warm and cordial greeting to all present, to those who share this moment from a distance and to all supporters of this initiative. I wish to thank Virginia Coda Nunziante, the President of the March for Life, and all organisers and collaborators of this 2021 event.
I am here first and foremost to share with all of you the joy and celebration of life and to bear witness to the commitment of the Church, of believers and of so many people of sound conscience to promote, serve and protect human life from its beginning to its natural end, in all its variety, and especially when life is most vulnerable and suffering.
I am here to offer the strength of my voice and my heart to all those people who even in extremely difficult circumstances have said, and continue to say, yes to life: the courageous mothers who have not surrendered in the face of serious problems, the doctors, the women and men of science who offer their skills, courage and commitment to promoting the gift of life, the volunteers in all areas who, with generosity and a deep sense of responsibility, accompany so many people, and society as a whole, in order to make just and coherent choices regarding this great gift of God.
I am also here thinking of my young sister-in-law, Ilaria, who died three years ago of leukaemia, and who spent so much energy and put a lot of her heart into supporting life through generous voluntary work, rich in faith.
This regular gathering encourages us to consider the gift of life in all its expressions and especially to support and promote life in all possible ways when it is most fragile and defenceless: by spiritual and material support, by spreading pro-life culture and thinking, through prayer, witness, research, volunteering and socio-political commitment.
Today’s date coincides with the sad anniversary of the approval of the wicked and unjust Law 194, which introduced legal abortion to our country, to be practiced by the health service and at the expense of all citizens, including all those who are rightly opposed to it.
It is, therefore, quite right that the main purpose of this manifestation is to, say once again – clearly, courageously and with untiring perseverance – that we call for the repeal of this iniquitous law, strongly rejecting the perverse conviction that individuals as well as the State have the right to kill a human life. Respect for natural law, which God has written in the human heart, is still alive in many countries of the world, and in others concrete steps are being taken to recover a correct understanding of the dramatic spread of abortion and other attacks on life. Unfortunately, these attacks have now risen to the rank of accomplishments of our civilisation as rights to be recognised and guaranteed by selfish and inhuman practices in order to overcome circumstances which are seen as burdensome.
We say once again that all this is profoundly unjust, inhuman and contrary to God’s plan and His law. Let us not forget the effective imagery used by Pope Francis: “It is not right to ‘take out’ a human being, no matter how little, to resolve a problem. That is like hiring a hitman to resolve a problem.” (General Audience 10 Oct 2018)
We say this in order that a word of truth may enlighten hearts and consciences and, like good yeast, move people of good will, institutions and scientists to rediscover the due reverence and fidelity to the sacredness of human life.
We witness with deep sorrow, but also with understanding, the havoc that crimes against life cause within human society, devastating it and depriving it of hope and a future.
In particular, the family which is the cradle of life, the natural place for its growing in strength, as well as for caring for vulnerable life, is constantly and fiercely threatened, its original beauty and vitality are forsaken and manipulated. I wonder, how it is possible to talk about the future, considering the birth rate which is an essential element in our future perspective, without condemning and rejecting the main cause of the so-called demographic winter we are going through; that is, the conviction that human life is on the one hand regarded as a consumer good or a right – almost a caprice – on demand and at any cost, and on the other hand, it is being abused, trampled upon and suppressed as soon as, due to a short-sighted selfish attitude, it disturbs an absurd claim to a comfortable life. Unfortunately, the main cause for the declining birth rate, which is extinguishing mainly the western world, is the scourge of abortion, and not only because of the figures – which are frightening and reflecting a genuine genocide – but also because of the mentality it presupposes and further increases; the individualistic, hedonistic mentality lacking any understanding of an authentic anthropological perspective and of a real common good.
Above all, I would like to emphasise that it is incoherent, especially for believers, to think that it is possible to overturn the natural order, written in the heart of man, which is the foundation of his existence and his social measure. The divine commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is an irrepressible command that cannot be repealed or suspended either by the claim to self-determination or by unjust and therefore illegitimate laws. Disobedience to God’s commandment is unfortunately the precursor of a series of subversions, which under the guise of personal freedoms and individual rights threaten one of the cornerstones of human coexistence: the family. The current debate on the Zan bill is a bitter confirmation of this.
And we, as St John Paul II said, will not stand by and watch, but we will stand up:
“We will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life. When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family. When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or reduced to a temporary, conditional arrangement that can easily be terminated, we will stand up and affirm the indissolubility of the marriage bond.When the value of the family is threatened because of social and economic pressures, we will stand up and reaffirm that the family is ‘necessary not only for the private good of every person, but also for the common good of every society, nation and state.” (Homily in Washington, 7 Oct 1979)
I look with affection and confidence at these people, whom I feel part of; who, as St John Paul II himself stated in Evangelium Vitae, “are the people of life” (cf EV no 79) and who are called to act accordingly.
As a bishop of the Church of Christ, I strongly feel the responsibility incumbent on pastors: “may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium.” (cf EV no 82) For this reason I am here today: to give witness, strengthened by courage that does not come from me but from Christ and also from you, the people of life. Truly, “for I have many people in this city”. (cf Acts 18:10)
I urge you to be confident and courageous in fighting this good and peaceful battle. I have confidence in so many, and becoming more and more, we are able to respond to the need and to fulfil the duty to defend and promote life, always and in all circumstances, each with their own skills and responsibilities entrusted to them.
We must not be afraid to confront a culture of rampant death and to proclaim the treasures of our faith and sound reason; to oppose even the strongest powers with all means… and not so quietly. Let us remember, we should do this also with our vote. Evangelium Vitae strongly recalls this responsibility and right of the citizen, just as it exhorts Catholic politicians not to betray the primacy of conscience and the truth of God. The Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, issued by theCongregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2002, reiterates this with equal clarity: “those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose’ any law that attacks human life”; and adds: “for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them”. (no 4) With all due respect, or indeed appropriate anguish, considering many of those in Europe as well as overseas, who scramble to reconcile the Catholic faith with support for abortion or other cases contrary to the law of God!
It may seem to be an unequal battle, and humanly speaking it may even be so; however, let us not forget the story of Goliath and David: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” (1 Sam 17:45)
May the Blessed Virgin Mary assist and guide us, with Saint Joseph who was docile to God and undertook the painful exile and hard labour to save the Child Jesus from the murderous fury of Herod. May they teach us to uncover every false idea of progress and freedom and to understand that those who would lead us against God’s truth do not want our good, but rather our goods, our freedom and our compliance. History and the world are full of characters like Herod, and we can look at them plainly and serenely knowing that “non praevalebunt”. I conclude my greeting to you with affection and with a passage from the book of Sirach as a word of blessing: “Strive even to death for the truth and the Lord God will fight for you.” (Sir 4:28)