Thursday, October 05, 2006

Respect for Life and the Dignity of the Human Body

From the beginning, when God created the universe and “saw that it was good”, He created humans “in the image and likeness of God.” (Gen. 1.25; 1.27) This ‘image’ is the source of our innate ability to love and be loved; it is essential to our humanity. It permeates our very existence allowing us to appreciate the beauty of a foggy morning sunrise, the grandeur of a thunder storm, the cadence of a melody, and the smile of a loved one. It is at the heart of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life.

Life is a gift from God. Each human being is a unique creation of God, and so we not only respect life we cherish it. From conception to natural death, the human person has infinite worth precisely because he or she is created in the image and likeness of God. This is why we reject abortion, euthanasia and murder as contrary to the will of God – it kills a creature that has infinite dignity. To kill a human being, created in the image of God, is to reject God Himself.

In the Theology of the Body, the Great Pope John Paul II contrasts the spiritual beauty of intimacy in the love of husband and wife with the spiritual emptiness of wanton sexual license in the decadent pursuit of selfish physical indulgence. The one leads to life; the other to death.

Recognizing the dignity of the human person necessarily includes respect for the integrity of the human body. A sexual act devoid of this respect reduces a human being to a thing for one’s own sexual gratification and violates his or her dignity. It ignores personhood and idolizes the flesh for sexual pleasure.

Therefore, the Church denies the notion that sexual immorality is a ‘victimless’ crime. We particularly condemn acts that harm the young and vulnerable, and recoil against the abuse of children for debased sexual pleasure. We work to safeguard them from predators who would degenerately use them, and construct safe environments where the innocence and dignity of their bodies will be respected and protected.

Our Lord said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mat. 18.6) Respect for life and for the dignity of the human body is not a matter of politics or orientation. It’s not about personal choice or point of view. It’s not about liability or public relations. It’s about accountability; it’s about being created in the image and likeness of God.

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