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PRO-LIFE BASICS: What is the culture of death?

The best way to explain the culture of death is to go to the one person who defined it so beautifully in 1995: St. John Paul II. 

In The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), St. John Paul II not only defined the culture of death but laid out the fundamentals that establish a culture that denies the value and dignity of the individual human being. He said that such a culture “ends up . . . becoming the freedom of ‘the strong’ against the weak who have no choice but to submit” (EV, 19). When confronting the cruelty of abortion, we realize that the preborn individual never even has a choice. The life or death decision is made by others, and, sadly, millions have already died.

St. John Paul II reminded us that such a culture creates “structures of sin” (EV, 24)—such as decriminalized abortion, the availability of contraception, and the ever-growing pressure to protect euthanasia by law—that go against life. All of these threats against innocent human beings derive from the deadening of conscience that has affected far too many people in our midst.

He also wrote that “this situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’ We find ourselves not only ‘faced with’ but necessarily ‘in the midst of’ this conflict: We are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life” (EV, 28).

And that is the key to unlocking the Pandora’s box of evils that is the culture of death. Only when we are unconditionally pro-life can we battle these Satanic forces effectively and consistently. The way the devil has tempted so many to ignore, deny, and destroy human beings requires a strength that comes only from God Himself.

Once we see this reality, we become evangelists for Christ—men and women who understand that “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6) can overcome this cultural devastation. It is our job to reach out and teach the truth, one person at a time. In the process, we will be responding to the clarion call contained in the encyclical: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life.”

Let us renew our efforts to build and strengthen this culture of life. Lives and souls depend on it.

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About the author

Judie Brown

Judie Brown is president of American Life League and served 15 years as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.