SUMMARY of Evangelium Vitae
Evangelium Vitae (Latin: "The Gospel of Life") is the name of the encyclical written by Pope John Paul II which expresses the position of the Catholic Church regarding the value and inviolability of human life. The Pope issued the encyclical on March 25, 1995.This affirmation of the Gospel of Life, which is part of and inseparable from the entire Gospel of Christ, is fundamental to the Church’s mission to the world, and part of the necessary witness of every Christian — especially in our present culture, where the very meaning and value of human life is under grave threat: “Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” The encyclical consists of four chapters, and begins by outlining the present situation, where assaults against human life lead the pope to characterize society today as a “culture of death”. In Chapter I, “The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Cries to Me from the Ground”, Pope John Paul reviews the roots of human violence, and the very serious threats to human life we see today. He draws heavily on Scripture (especially the account of Cain and Abel) in his explanation of the way in which, from the beginning, personal sin undermines the very basis for affirming love and life. “At the root of every act of violence against one’s neighbor there is a concession to the ‘thinking’ of the Evil One, the one who ‘was a murderer from the beginning’. A distorted and “perverse idea of freedom” justifies crimes against life at its most vulnerable — abortion and euthanasia — as “rights”, and underlies the present conflict between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”. Christ’s words, “I Came That They May Have Life”, are the title of Chapter II. Here the pope reviews the history of man created in the image of God, and explains the implications of our being so created. Human life has its meaning within the context of the good Creation, and is fulfilled only in union with God. Making use of copious citations of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments (as he does throughout the encyclical), the Holy Father shows that man’s responsibility for the Gospel of Life includes not only care for the innocent, weak and vulnerable, but also love for enemies. Man’s moral responsibility for creation includes his environment, the natural world; and it involves, also, participation in creation of new life “in the image of God”. Man is not the master of life, nor is he the master of death, the pope stresses. Instead, man entrusts himself entirely to God, who has given him life. Life, therefore, is always good. Thus suicide and euthanasia are always fundamentally immoral. It is impossible, the pope states, for life to be authentic and complete if it is detached from good, from the truth that is the Law of God. This truth is fulfilled in Jesus. The Holy Father presents an extensive reflection on the meaning of the Cross: “It is finished”. The Church’s sacraments are symbolized by the blood and water that flows from Jesus’ side. Contemplation of the cross thus “brings us to the very heart of all that has taken place”. The chapter ends with a prayer, that we learn to follow God’s Word: “Thus we shall learn not only to obey the commandment not to kill human life, but also to revere life, to love it and to foster it”. “You Shall Not Kill — God’s Holy Law” is the title of Chapter III . This commandment of God is “never detached from His love” in creating man in His own image — human life is “sacred and inviolable”, Pope John Paul II proclaims. He emphasizes the personal accountability of each person for protecting and defending all human life. In this chapter he addresses the “unspeakable crime” of abortion. “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church”. This moral...
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