During the month of April, Washington had a graphic picture painted for all of us of what years ago Saint John Paul II called the difference between a culture of death and a civilization of love and life.
Both worldviews have their publicity events, their rallies of supporters and their spokespersons.
Over the course of one week late last month, we saw what this culture of death and this civilization of love and life look like close-up.
On April 20, the Lecture Fund of Georgetown University sponsored what was nothing less than a pro-abortion rally. This well-orchestrated event, by the sponsor’s own admission planned for years, had as its chief cheerleader the head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. Part of the event was a salute to the nearly 300,000 unborn children aborted by Planned Parenthood in 2014.
Another part was directed at ridiculing pro-life teaching, including the fellow Georgetown students standing outside the auditorium protesting the presence of Planned Parenthood on their campus. Another part was the raucous approval of the free condoms that Planned Parenthood bragged it had brought to the Georgetown University campus.
University administrators and supporters claimed the program was evidence of “free speech” and open dialogue on campus. But not once was the head of Planned Parenthood asked to explain or to attempt to defend the many videos now widely viewed that showed her organization blithely discussing abortion procedures over lunch and the prospect of sales of body parts of the unborn.
Across Georgetown the next day was a pro-life Mass. At Epiphany Church there gathered hundreds of students from campuses across the city. They came simply to testify to the dignity, value and worth of all human life. They received no free handouts and they left with what I hope was a sense of quiet pride in having spoken up for the defenseless child in the womb and another whole vision of what constitutes a truly good and just society.
Two days later, the Project Rachel Ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington celebrated its 25th anniversary and again we had a Mass with hundreds of people, young and old. Project Rachel Ministry is an outreach to women and men who have participated in an abortion and who feel the pain, the regret and the repentance. Project Rachel and all of those involved in it lovingly, caringly invite to a healing of mind, heart and soul those who have participated in the scourge of abortion.
What is very clear in contrasting these two worldviews, the one on display at Georgetown University and the other seen in the people at the pro-life Mass and the Project Rachel celebration, is that we are all aware there will be, given the human condition, children conceived sometimes by a mother who is unmarried, unemployed and very much abandoned. Other abortions have other motives.
The contrast is not in the reality of unintended pregnancies. The contrast is in the response. The culture of death offers what Planned Parenthood held out at Georgetown University — the killing of as many of these unborn children as deemed appropriate. The answer of the civilization of love and life is very different.
Another difference in these two approaches to life and death is the ease with which the culture of death simply walks away from the mother, father and aborted child while the civilization of love and life stands by to offer practical, material, financial, emotional and spiritual help.
In the context of our nation’s history, some will attempt to claim that the killing of the unborn, innocent children is in some way similar to the great social justice struggles that our nation has faced — many times enlightened by the church’s social teaching. Whether it was the fight against slavery, racial discrimination or unjust working conditions, the church’s proclamation of the dignity of all human life was the center. No one should attempt to reduce what for many epitomizes the greatness of the American dream to the level of free contraceptives or the death of the unborn.
In one short week we saw three events that so clearly describe two very different visions of life, society and the future. Personally, I was very proud to be associated with those young and not so young people who were not a part of the pep rally for abortion and were not waiting in line for the free contraceptives at Georgetown University, but rather for those who quietly, with dignity and moral integrity, simply said there is a much better way to live.
• His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl is archbishop of Washington.