We Value Life
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
We value life.
This is a pretty basic statement that seems quite obvious. Yet we need to remind ourselves of this every day. In a beautiful statement that the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops released this past week entitled On the Sacredness of Human Life and Its Untimely Termination, they highlighted that “it is our responsibility as human beings to treat all life accordingly: with care, reverence, humility, and love. The recognition of each human person as created in the image and likeness of God, destined for eternal life and therefore, sacred and inviolable, is a cornerstone of Christianity. All human life is both sacred and inviolable, regardless of age, health, or any other status… we are inclined to care deeply for one another and to cherish and protect each and every person.” (“On the Sacredness of Human Life and Its Untimely Termination”)
What are the concrete and practical applications of this statement? We can simply say WE VALUE LIFE.
These past days our nation’s attention has focused on the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade and the impact this will have in the lives of countless people. We have millions of people rejoicing that this ruling brings protection to the most vulnerable and defenseless of society – the new life in a womb.
When does life begin? What responsibilities do we have to protect this life and assure that he or she has every opportunity to grow and flourish. Of course, a life in the womb depends completely on their mother; a life intimately intertwined with their mother and a person that cannot survive on his/her own. This utter dependence on the mother, as well as on others will continue long after the child is born. It will take years before an infant, a toddler, or even a young child can survive on his/her own. Love depends on others. Love implies sacrifice. Love offers life to others.
We value life.
At the same time that many people are rejoicing over this latest ruling of the Supreme Court, millions of other people are scared and angry, are scared of what this means for the future and are angry that a right our country has given them for the past 50 years is taken away.
When we say we value life, we must value the lives of everyone. Appreciating someone implies listening to them, trying to understand them, and offering comfort to them.
Many people are scared that this ruling will threaten women, especially poor, pregnant women who feel desperate because of conditions of poverty, abuse, coercion, neglect and despair. Societal norms and realities darken their hopes for a world where they feel they can properly raise a child.
When we say we value life, we have to value the lives of these women who are afraid just as much as we value the child in the womb. And we must be very careful not to say this solely with our words but we need to respond in concrete actions. We hear in today’s Gospel reading “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Seeking out the kingdom of God implies not simply being “hearers of the law, but doers of the law,” as Saint Paul says. The greatest law of God is to love – to love God and to love the other, to love the baby in the womb as well as to love the mother of a baby who is afraid and uncertain about her future. It also implies to love the baby after he or she is born and throughout each stage of their life!
This is so easy to say and to preach, yet “doers of the law will be justified.” How will each of us concretely reach out and help others at each stage of their lives? How will each of us concretely push and support policy in our government to offer help to those who need it? Will pro-life proponents be just as zealous and rejoice in helping women and children at every stage of their lives?
Our bishops noted in their statement that, “Church-sponsored and other programs that provide spiritual, physical, psychological, and financial support to expectant single mothers and couples in situations in which abortion is being considered, and to young families in need of extra care, should be vigorously supported by the Church and the faithful.”
We can’t just offer these words without offering concrete action. Ross Douthat in a NY Times Op Ed piece entitled “The End of Roe is Just the Beginning” highlights how the pro-life movement’s many critics portray those who support the overture of Roe v Wade as “punitive and cruel and patriarchal, piling burdens on poor women and doing nothing to relieve them, putting unborn life ahead of the lives and health of women while pretending to hold them equal.” Douthat goes on to challenge the pro-life proponents “to show how abortion restrictions are compatible with the goods that abortion advocates accuse them of compromising — the health of the poorest women, the flourishing of their children, the dignity of motherhood even when it comes unexpectedly or amid great difficulty.”
When we say we value life, we have to be sincere and honest about valuing life and people at every stage and in all circumstances. Will we participate in concrete ways to show that we truly value life? Will we hold our politicians do the same?
One of the many dangers and temptations will be to support, as Douthat warns, “punitive and stingy politics, in which women in difficulties can face police scrutiny for a suspicious miscarriage but receive little in the way of prenatal guidance or postnatal support?”
As our bishops noted in their statement, “mercy and healing – not retribution and punishment – are the way of the Lord. The Church is called to minister to those seeking abortions, those who have had or those who have been forced to have abortions, and those who have performed abortions, knowing that abortions are often sought because of poverty, abuse, coercion, neglect, despair, or the influence of a life -denying ethos that has become a societal norm.”
We value life. How do we value life? And what concrete actions of love and mercy and support will we show that we truly value life - at every stage, for every person, in every circumstance, whether people make poor choices and get themselves into difficult situations. Valuing life means seeing God’s image in every person and treating them as we would treat Christ Himself.