The expression “culture warrior” is used in contemporary conversation to describe people who fight for those causes that run counter to prevailing cultural values and preferences, chief among those causes, the protection of human life in all its stages, from conception to natural death. It is rarely spoken or written in a positive way. And, yet, those who are labeled “pro-life” are, indeed, engaged in a significant battle to convince their opponents and critics that, as Pope St. John Paul II affirmed, “When some lives, including the unborn, are subjected to the personal choices of others, no other value or right will long be guaranteed.”
October is designated in the Catholic Church “Respect Life Month,” with October 7 this year selected as “Respect Life Sunday.” Of course we know that respecting life is a human imperative that cannot and must not be limited to a single month or a single day. It is an everyday and always cause that is not unique to any one religious belief or denomination. For Catholics, however, respecting life, especially the unborn, is intrinsic to our identity as people of faith. It admits no denial, no exception, no compromise. “Every life is cherished, chosen, sent,” as the theme of Respect Life Month expresses.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis wrote “Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of the human person, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her age or stage of development (Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, June 25, 2018).”
The month of October provides each Catholic — indeed each human being — the opportunity to focus special attention, effort and fervent prayer on the conviction that every human life is precious and worthy of protection, from conception to natural death. “Every intentional abortion is gravely wrong (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2271).”
In the United States, the notion of “rights” is particularly strong in our national conversation. Any honest discussion, however, must begin with the assertion that the right to life is the first among human rights, one that even the Founding Fathers affirmed. “Protecting human life is one of the noblest tasks of the State. If a State evades this responsibility, it undermines the foundations of the rule of law (YouCat, no. 383).”
St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed it well: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love but to use violence to get what they want ... it is a poverty to decide that a child must dies so that you may live as you wish ... if abortion isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong.”
Abortion kills children, hurts women and destroys society. I read somewhere that life offers no guarantees, but abortion offers no chances. Fighting against the “culture of death” while fighting for a “culture of life” is a battle worth fighting in today’s world. The unborn have no voice. You do. You may be mocked as a “culture warrior” but the first, last and most important cause you can pursue is to respect life.
We are called to be warriors. And we might draw inspiration from the contemporary quote: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘you cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm’.”