Fr. Thomas Euteneuer says transformation happens by living the Gospel . . .
In his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi, the Holy Father articulates the true nature of Christian mission: to change hearts and minds in order to change society. The Gospel message is not simply a comforting story intended to put us at ease, but a consuming fire that can transform and purify our souls and the soul of our nation. In order for this transformation to take place, however, the Gospel must be truly lived.
Unfortunately, the purveyors of the culture of death also know how to actively transform society. They know that policies and documents, laws and conventions all mean something more than just words. These are the instruments whereby they bring about their desired transformation in society and the world.
A recent high-profile example of this is the rescinding of the Mexico City Policy by President Obama who, only three days after his inauguration, released millions of dollars of funding for organizations whose primary purpose is to promote abortion around the world. The Mexico City Policy was first instituted by President Reagan and upheld by both Bushes (though rescinded by President Clinton) as a restriction on funding groups that promote abortion. Obama reversed this policy, and now the American taxpayer is once again paying to undermine the sovereign pro-life laws of poor pro-life nations.
In February, I saw the effects of such meddling firsthand during a trip to southern Africa. Swaziland is one of the poorest but most pro-life countries in the world, and their population almost universally rejects the whole idea of abortion. You should see all of the children and the hope in their eyes! Like all children, they are the embodiment of hope for their nation. Yet this is a truism that seems to have been forgotten in most “developed” countries that have embraced the ideology now sold under the name “reproductive health.” The dearth of children in our supposedly advanced Western culture speaks more eloquently about our dwindling hope than any survey could.
Yet, during my week-long stay among the beautiful Swazi people I saw how Western money fuels the country’s Planned Parenthood affiliate, the ironically named Family Life Association for Swaziland. They have loads of Western financing to promote the culture of death in a land in which these are foreign concepts — financing that we, as American taxpayers, are now contributing to.
In one meeting I asked a group of Swazi youth leaders: Do the terms “reproductive health” or “gender equity” have any equivalents in the Siswati tongue (the country’s official language)? Where exactly did these words come from and why are they found in the constitution and national policy of Swaziland? Furthermore, why does Swaziland have an official population (reduction) policy when the population is already being ravaged by the highest HIV-AIDS infection rate in the world? No one could answer these questions, but they did begin to realize that these are non-native intrusions into their culture and politics from well-financed and powerful groups.
That is the way of population politics, and what is true of a small country in southern Africa is true in every part of the developing world. American dollars are already dedicated to population control at all levels — from the teaching of hedonistic sex education in the schools to abortion advocacy and population reduction quotas. The reversal of the Mexico City Policy is designed to fill the coffers of those international organizations that advocate the intrusion of the culture of death everywhere.
In keeping with the consistent teachings of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI has been adamant in challenging us to actively resist the culture of death — and not just to talk about it. Our faith is “performative” in the most real sense, whether we are missionaries to the developing world or “ambassadors” to our co-workers and society.
Of course we can affect to some degree the changes we want to see by voting and by supporting organizations that try to stop this assault on the people in the developing world. But the deepest level and most universal means of addressing this problem is always prayer. Our hope is not in the knowledge of this world but in Christ’s infinite mercy. Only our Lord and his Church can ever fully marshal the spiritual strength to make a difference against the culture of death. Prayer still moves mountains!
We can all pray and support various initiatives to fight the culture of death, even if the evils are given endorsement by the powers of this world. We do this with the conviction that evil is never more powerful than the innate gift and force of life. Faith and hope, virtues that allow the Gospel to become performative in our lives, provide our grounding for living the Gospel of Life — and ensure that life will be victorious.
Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer is president of Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization with affiliates in 75 countries.