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As a people of life and for life, we have the moral responsibility to promote the common good, to actively work to promote a culture of life.

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“Primum non nocere,” “first do no harm” is a guiding principle for medical practitioners. It recognizes the wondrous mystery of the human body, that doctors are to be skillful servants of something beyond their full understanding and that there is always something beyond us when we encounter another human being.

When it comes to choices like abortion, assisted suicide, and the death penalty there is a lot of evidence that they do harm. Science tells us that women suffer from abortion bodily (organ damage, inability to conceive, death) as well as from soul-rending effects (higher anxiety, depression, suicidal behavior). Assisted suicide teaches doctors and nurses that it is better to kill a patient because of their symptoms rather than care for a person and struggle to understand and treat the source of their suffering. The death penalty ends a life but fails to give resolution; in fact, it denies the basic tenets of human dignity and corresponds to practices of human rights abusers (Oregonians Against the Death Penalty, oadp.org, 2018).

Most science textbooks define a living thing as something that moves, responds to stimuli, reproduces and grows, and is dependent on their environment. Our Catholic faith informs us that a person must never be a means to an end; but that the only proper response to a living human being is to love them as an end in themselves (actually even the cold philosophy of Immanuel Kant came to the same conclusion). Love does do harm to our neighbor. We have to ask ourselves, has our society created an environment of love or of harm for humanity?

It is dangerous to ignore the truth science reveals to us. It is also dangerous to ignore the truth faith reveals to us, namely, that every life is a gift and that we are not the masters of life but its stewards. As a people of life and for life, we have the moral responsibility to promote the common good, to actively work to promote a culture of life.

To allow a culture where harm to individuals is sanctioned does grave moral harm to society; it makes us less than we can be, it promotes a society of suffering and indifference. Every person deserves to be always treated with love for who they are, and never as a means to someone else’s purposes: women, children, everyone.

It is imperative to look out for the most vulnerable in our society. At the same time, to be pro-life means more than only pro-birth. To be pro-life is the bold choice to respect the dignity of every human person. Women should be treated better. Immigrants should be welcomed. Discrimination of race, sex, age, religion or class needs to end. The dignity of every person needs to be advocated for, not just those with whose cause we agree or those who have never made mistakes or gotten caught.

How is God calling you right now to build a culture of life? On this Sunday, Respect Life Sunday, now is an appropriate time to discern your answer.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.