I have just finished reading – for the second time – a very interesting and informative book. It is entitled, Toward a Culture of Life. The author is Alex Schadenberg, with Father Tom Lynch. It is published by Life Centre Books Ltd., Toronto, Ontario.

I have known Alex for many years and had the honour of being the celebrant at his wedding to Susan. The book is “An explanation of Catholic teaching on respect for life.” But, I believe that its principles would be accepted by any sincere pro-life person. Alex is currently the Director of the London Pro-Life Office.

In the space of 50 pages, and seven chapters, the writer deals with all the major aspects of what might be termed, “The philosophy of respect for human life.” It must have entailed tremendous research and study, as every principle that is enunciated is supported by either references or actual quotes from the Vatican and other documents. The Pope’s recent encyclical letter, “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life”) is, to a very great extent, the foundation stone of the book.

Under the above heading, Respect for Life, the book refers back to a statement from “The Didache” which was written about the year 80 A.D., and gives the “spoken” teachings of the Apostles. It is not Scripture but tradition, I think the statement is worth quoting as it is so important, “there are two ways, a way of life and a way of death. There is a great difference between them. In accordance with the precept of the teachings: You shall not kill – you shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born.” That statement was written while St. John the Apostle was still alive!

No exceptions

The section No Exceptions concludes with a very definite statement from Pope John Paul’s letter, “The Gospel of Life.” Quote, “Therefore by the authority which Christ conferred on Peter and his successors and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based on that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart, is affirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

The second section deals explicitly with the question of abortion. This chapter is based on the principle of the human-ness of the child in the womb. Quote from Declaration on Abortion No. 12, “For, as soon as the egg is fertilized, a life begins that belongs not to the father or the mother but to a new living human being, who now develops on his own account. He will never become human if he is not already human.” And again, “From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way, because man is the only creature on earth that God has “wished for Himself’ and the spiritual soul is immediately created by God.”

This chapter deals very convincingly with the all the specious reasons given by pro-abortionists for destroying the pre-born child – rape and incest threats to the well-being of the mother, foetal abnormalities. Each one is opposed by official statements from respected authorities. It also deals with the personally opposed” type of political leader, who plays the part of Pontius Pilate – “I find no cause in Him. Take Him you and crucify Him.”

This section is particularly pertinent as we have had a recent election and some new members of Parliament. Alex quoted from the 1974 “Vatican Declaration on Abortion” as follows, “Whatever the civil law may decree in this matter, it must be taken as absolutely certain that a man may never obey an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law approving abortion in principle. He may not take part in any movement to sway public opinion in favour of such a law, nor may he vote for that law.” How any Catholic politician can read that statement support abortion and continue to call him or herself a Catholic is beyond my comprehension.

This section, under the heading “Abortifacient Contraceptives” (page 14), warns that “Many so-called contraceptive drugs, pills and devices act as abortifacients – often without the knowledge of the woman.” It continues, “Morally, there is no difference between an early of late abortion since the result is the same: the death of a child.”

Reproductive technology

I have to admit that this section of the book taxed my intelligence to the limit. It deals with the question of, in-vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, gamete intrafallopian transfer, artificial insemination and low tubal ovum transfer. If you can understand the meaning of all these technical terms, read the chapter and I am sure you will find it interesting and informative.

But if, like me, you don’t understand them, I suggest you skip to the next chapter (Page 28), which is of immense importance in our present “sex saturated society.” This chapter deals with the question of contraception, marriage and natural family planning. The first quote, which is from the present Pope’s letter, “The Christian Family in the Modern World” (1981), pretty well sums up the chapter. Here is the quote, “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God, the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design, which constitutes the norms of marriage, and contradicts the will of the author of life.”

The author says, “A contraceptive mentality is the result of the separation of the unitive and the procreative significance of the conjugal act. This mentality often supports abortion should pregnancy be an undesired result of sexual intercourse. Many people believe that contraceptives are the most effective remedies against abortion. However, recent history indicates that increased contraceptive use leads to an increased acceptance of abortion.”

The remainder of this chapter deals with Natural Family Planning and its different methods and morality. The chapter concludes wit this very apt quotation from “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.” Quote, “Parents should always strive to give example and witness with their own lives to fidelity to God and to one another in the marriage covenant. Their example is especially decisive in adolescence, the phase when young people are looking for lived and attractive behaviour models.”

The remaining dozen or so pages of the book give brief but very clear summaries of the teaching of the Church on capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide and suicide.

The final chapter is a beautiful one entitled “reconciliation,” written by Father Thomas Lynch, Professor of Moral Theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Scarborough.

He quotes a very fatherly statement from the Holy Father’s Letter, “Evangelium Vitae” – (for women who have had an abortion) – “Do not give in to discouragement and lose hope. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

Ed. Note: Toward a Culture of Life is available for $3.95, (plus GST) from Life Cycle Books, 2205 Danforth Ave., Toronto, telephone 416-690-5860.