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Jeffrey Peters: Respect for life is crucial

Easter Vigil is a day of waiting for the resurrection of Christ. Through prayer and reflection, we prepare ourselves for the next life. To help guide the faithful as Lent comes to a close, Pope Francis spoke to a large pro-life group and reiterated the sentiments of his "Evangelii Gaudium," an Apostolic Exhortation.

In the strongest words to date, the pope defended the necessity of a pro-life mindset for any society that claims to respect the dignity and rights of humans. Too often, "dignity" is championed by politicians who are all too willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable. These "progressive" individuals demand social policies that transform human life into something that is merely bought and sold without an intrinsic sanctity. This is a dangerous position to take because, as the pope explained to the pro-life group, "If you look at life as something that is consumed, it will also be something that sooner or later you can throw away, with abortion to begin with."

Although there are those who would claim that Pope Francis will bring about radical changes to the Catholic faith and identity, he defended the traditional positions of the church and stressed in the exhortation, "Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us."

He continued, "Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative."

Going further, Pope Francis condemned those who would try to use abortion for political gain: "Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or 'modernizations.' It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life."

Without such respect for life, a society becomes prey to moral relativism and the rights of individuals no longer matter. Pope Francis warned how this leads to society's collapse: "In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances. In many countries globalization has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of ways of thinking and acting proper to other cultures which are economically advanced but ethically debilitated."

Pope Francis touched on other issues in his exhortation and his recent speech, including the importance of the sanctity of marriage, of the need for families to raise children with strong moral values, and to never forget that the care of the poor and needy is an individual responsibility. Each of these are central to the Christian faith, and we should focus on them as we prepare for Easter.

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