By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — It’s an enormous challenge to build a culture of life when life itself is so cheap, and many lives matter not at all.
But it is a “beautiful challenge,” Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez told pro-life leaders from 51 dioceses at the conclusion of the national Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference.
“All the church’s works of mercy and charity, all our advocacy we do for the unborn, the elderly, the poor, the immigrant, the worker, the prisoner and the sick, everything we do is rooted in the truth of the Gospel, the beautiful truth that every human life matters because every human life is sacred and created by the loving hand of God,” Archbishop Gomez said in his closing keynote address.
He noted that “by the grace of God,” the pro-life movement in California this year stopped a bill to legalize suicide in its tracks.
“It’s no secret that there was big money and powerful interests behind this legislation,” he said.
“Despite the odds and the political pressure, we were able to engage legislators on this issue and let them see our concerns,” he said.
“We made a persuasive case that assisted suicide would have dangerous consequences for the poor and those who don’t have adequate access to health care,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“We have to fight every day for the rights and the dignity of every human life, every life at every stage and in every condition,” he said.
“But if we do that, we face the deeper challenge that is spiritual, moral and cultural. And that is the task of transforming this culture, turning it from the darkness of death to the light of life,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez said that the culture is now “deeply confused and conflicted about the meaning of creation and the meaning of human life.”
“This includes grave crimes against human life — widespread abortion at every stage even in the final hours of pregnancy, experimentation with human embryos, the ‘quiet’ euthanasia of the old and sick,” he said.
“We can also talk about the injustice of racial discrimination, unemployment and homelessness, the pollution of our environment especially in poor and minority communities,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“We can talk about the violence in our neighborhoods, the epidemic of drugs, the crisis of hope among our young people, the scandalous conditions in our prisons, the death penalty,” he said.
“One issue we deal with every day in Los Angeles — the heart-breaking deportations of fathers and mothers, whole families including young children being held in immigration jails, people dying in the desert — all because of our broken immigration system and our failure to fix it,” the archbishop said.
“I’m not trying to say all issues are equal,” Archbishop Gomez said. “Abortion and euthanasia raise basic questions of human rights, questions of what kind of society we are and what kind of people we want to be.
“So the church must proclaim in every time and place that the right to life is the foundation of every other right and the true foundation of justice and peace in our society,” he said.
“If a child in the womb has no right to be born, when the sick have no right to be cared for, there is no solid foundation to defend any one’s human rights,” he said.
“We need to recognize we are living in a culture that has become totally secularized and de-Christianized, “Archbishop Gomez said.
“How do we live and love and work and create, how do we raise our families and carry out our Christian mission in a culture that has no need for God and no tolerance for people who believe in God, a culture that is more and more hostile to the church and her teachings and institutions?” he said.
“What we see throughout our culture, all the cruelty, the injustice and indifference, all of it is rooted in our society’s abandonment of God,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“Without God, we become strangers to ourselves. Without God, we don’t know who we are, or where we came from, or what we are here for,” he said.
“A society that no longer believes in a Creator loses the meaning of creation, loses the reason for human solidarity and community,”
“Without God, the human person becomes nothing special, nothing sacred. The value of a human life is judged according to whether it is ‘productive’ and ‘efficient.’ There is a growing assumption that some lives do not matter as much as others, that some lives aren’t worth society’s investment, not worth paying for or protecting,” the archbishop said.
“Our challenge as Christians is to change and convert his culture,” he said.
“We have to call our society once more to rediscover the sanctity, the dignity and the transcendent destiny of the human person who is created in the image of the Creator,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“We need to show our neighbors by our words and by our actions that every human life is sacred and precious, because every human life is created out of love by God,” he said.
He noted that 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” which Archbishop Gomez called “the Magna Carta of the modern pro-life movement.”
“The Gospel of Life is not only the heart of the Gospel, it is also the heart of the church’s social witness,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed in words of love and words of mercy,” he said.
And its message is crystal clear.
“God’s love embraces every life, especially lives that are vulnerable and weak,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“This is the beautiful challenge, the beautiful duty we have,” he said.
“We are called to save lives and to spread God’s mercy and forgiveness, his healing and peace,” the archbishop said.
“Let us work to open people’s eyes to the beauty of creation, to the beauty of every human life, and to the source of all live in the love of our Creator,” Archbishop Gomez said.