The Right to Life
In the first two months of 2018, America is mourning mass murder in the form of school violence once again. In January, Alex Hribal was sentenced in the 2014 stabbing of 21 people at Franklin Regional High School, near Pittsburgh. On Valentine’s Day, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 17 students and staff were killed, and 16 wounded. These are not isolated incidents, as CNN reports in a chronicle of violence in schools leading back to 1998. With young, strong, vibrant youth being killed at school, Americans face to face with death are asking for answers. In response to the latest murders, many have proposed gun control measures, better mental health care, and stricter background checks. While these may be very helpful, violence will not stop until the culture of death stops. Until all people respect and truly understand the right to life, and live it daily in every action, death will continue to dominate.
America’s great Declaration of Independence affirms the right of every person to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It also upholds these virtues as being “endowed by their Creator,” and unalienable by any human entity. Yet Americans have been losing understanding of the true dignity of all human life, leading to a condition described by Pope St. John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, “a structure of sin…a ‘culture of death.’…a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected….”
Legalized abortion has resulted in the deaths of 60,069,971 children as of January 18, 2018, according to LifeNews.com. Euthanasia is rapidly becoming accepted, and is even legal in six states and in the District of Colombia. Contraception, divorce, in vitro fertilization, gestational surrogacy, human trafficking, slavery, racism, pedophilia, abuse in any form, voluntary sterilization, bullying, rape, and neglect of the poor and hungry are other manifestations of the culture of death. Americans rightly oppose many of these, but often subconsciously accept others, not realizing how their actions are wounding society.
Roots of School Violence
School violence, gun-related or otherwise, is not isolated from the rest of American culture. It does not spontaneously arise. In a February, 2018 interview on The World Over, Fr. Charles Sikorsky made an excellent point: “in our culture…the breakdown of the family, of marriage, of life, all these things that the Church teaches and preaches about, and sometimes takes a lot of heat for, there are consequences for ignoring…. The Church isn’t out to just make rules.…The Church teaches what it teaches because it supports the good of the human person.”
The culture of death begins with the destruction of the traditional family as the basic unit of society. Children have a right to be parented and nurtured with love and respect for their own dignity, in a stable home. Luxury and materialism harm children’s attitudes and relationships with others. For example, sharing a bedroom can teach acceptance of another person’s needs, even when they interfere with his or her own wishes, and be an invaluable lesson for children to learn. Relationships are forged in the crucible of the family, and while that can be difficult and challenging, it is an irreplaceable formation of the child.
Instead, Americans are increasingly delegating the care of their children to institutions. The Census Bureau states that 32.9% of pre-schoolers are cared for by day care or other care programs outside the family unit. They further report that child care for more than 85% of school-aged children is performed by the school itself. The public school system is a place where Christians have allowed their most deeply held beliefs to be abolished. Youth cannot pray or celebrate the
true meaning of Christmas in public school, but they are subjected to age-inappropriate state and federal guidelines for education, immoral sexual education, and moral relativism, and the nation’s children are being entrusted to this morally broken system for their care and upbringing.
Despite well-intentioned but largely ineffective anti-bullying programs, children are still being terrorized at all ages in school by their peers, with inadequate protection from adults in charge. What is a child with little time spent with a loving family, who is abused at school, going to do to cope? Some people commit violence as an effect of the lack of stable relationships in their lives, but there are many others whose traumatic life experiences lead to them committing violence against themselves, through self-loathing, cutting, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, and suicide. Would it be so wrong to teach them in school that they are immensely valuable, created and willed into existence by a loving God who died just for them? Yet this is against the law of a country founded in Christianity.
Turning the Tide is Still Possible
Prevention of violent crimes, including school violence, requires a radical and country-wide determination and conversion. Catholics and other Christians must spread the word of God and re-evangelize the culture. While rights of non-Christians must be protected, the great majority of Americans come from a Christian background. Even though they are in the majority, there is a pattern of bowing to pressure from atheistic groups striving to shove Christianity underground. Forcing removal of images of the 10 Commandments from public places is a prime example. The Ten Commandments are a most basic moral code, including “Thou shalt not kill.” Where is America as a nation that this is considered offensive? Catholics are being called now to radically and counter-culturally live their faith, needing to refuse to allow the truth to be demonized and to bravely stop removing signs of faith from public areas.
Until there is a fundamental conversion and return to God, affirming the right to life of every person, it is foolish to expect violence to stop. Americans have promoted or passively allowed the country to succumb to the Culture of Death. Hearts and lifestyles must change and Catholic Christians must unite to courageously defend God’s laws. Yet there is great hope for conversion of hearts and re-evangelization of society if Christians actively participate according to their faith, listening to the Word of God, and living it. Human Life International President Fr. Shenan J. Boquet, in “The Seduction of Evil,” says “…we know that conversion is always possible and that lives, people and nations can be transformed-through repentance and amendment of life.” To quote again from Evangelium Vitae, “…in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”