Those who attended Mass at the end of April heard how Jesus contrasts his mission with that of an evil one. In John’s Gospel, we read: “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Jesus reveals God’s glory in his life-giving mission of healing, raising the dead to life, forgiveness, compassion, unconditional love and, most of all, his passion, death, and resurrection.
In the spirit of Jesus’ teaching, life and mission, the Catholic Church calls her mother to respect life from the moment of conception to natural death.
Mother Teresa once stated at a national prayer breakfast that “the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion, because it is a war on children … and if we accept that a mother can kill her child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another.”
Jesus embraced children and those most vulnerable and least valued by society. Many Christians pull together to pray for an end to abortion. They even join hands at rallies and work to change legislation to make abortion a crime. I have worked to bring God’s healing and forgiveness to many women who have had abortions. Seeing them struggle all their lives to forgive themselves breaks my heart, the compassionate love for them.
The Church also holds that euthanasia is wrong. It is extremely painful to see a loved one suffer with a terminal illness that slowly drains his or her life. Still the Church holds that God alone should decide when a person should die.
The Church also takes a strong stand against capital punishment. Bishop David B. Thompson stated in an address to former Gov. David Beasley, “We must remember that the death of Jesus on the cross was legally sanctioned and justified by the civil authority as an act judged necessary to protect the public order of society.”
In his statement, Bishop Thompson makes the good point that the issue of capital punishment, the taking of a human life in the name of a higher good of society, has and will continue to divide our state and nation.
Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and fall on the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust. … Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
It is God’s work to judge, and we sinners are joyous that he does his judging through the merciful eyes of Christ! Bishop Thompson implored Gov. Beasley to “help the citizens of this state re-establish a culture of life, a society in which the life of every human person even those who have committed heinous crimes is respected and protected from the threat of death.”
Many times people argue that capital punishment discourages others from committing acts of murder, rape and the life. I agree with the Bishop’s arguments against this thought.
“There is ample evidence from impartial studies to prove conclusively that the threat of capital punishment does not deter violent criminals. The death penalty is a dramatically more expensive legal strategy than incarceration for life without parole. The burden of capital punishment falls disproportionately on racial and ethnic minorities, on the under-educated, and on citizens who are poor and disadvantaged.
Capital punishment feeds the cycle of violence in society by pandering to a lust for revenge. It brutalizes us and deadens our sensitivities to the precious nature of every single human life.
Finally, the common thread running through the Catholic Church’s pro-life stand against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment is respect for all of life. We are all God’s children. We are called to see God in each other and to treat each other not only as we want to be treated, but as we are treated by God with forgiveness, compassion, mercy and unconditional love.
Father Timothy M. Lijewski is chaplain at the St. Thomas More Center at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and administrator at St. Theresa Church in Winnsboro.