At the second annual conference hosted by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute
Cardinal Burke gave the keynote address at the second annual conference on human dignity held this past weekend [28 June 2013] at the Vatican's Casina Pio IV. The Dignitatis Humanae Institute, hosting the event, was founded in 2008, as a think tank for the promotion of human dignity in the public forum.
Promoting human dignity necessarily means respecting all human beings without exception, men and women equally, from conception to natural death. It is learned in the home, founded on the model of the strong, traditionally-understood family, whose members mutually support and love one other. The Dignitatis Humanae Institute exists to promote human dignity based on the recognition that each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God.
The truth regarding the inviolable dignity of every human life is under constant attack in an ever-more secularized world. One only has to read the daily newspaper or turn on the television for the evening news to know that the Christian's holding to the truth of the moral law is no longer tolerated by many, and that the secularist agenda never ceases in its efforts to overshadow, drown out, and intimidate the witness of faithful Christians. The goal is to silence the Christian witness. But we cannot succumb to such tactics. I urge all who are here this evening to stand firm in your witness, knowing that it is indeed the Lord's work and that He will never fail to accompany you. Tonight, the Vigil of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, two of the greatest saints who are venerated by all Christians, gives us particular inspiration in our steadfast witness to the inviolable dignity of innocent human life. Tomorrow, we will celebrate their martyrdom in Rome for
love of Christ and in faithful witness to His Gospel. We trust in the intercession of the Prince of the Apostles and of the Apostle of the Gentiles, even as we recognize that the persecution which they suffered is not only a reality recorded in the books of history but continues in our own time.
Even as we gather to celebrate the work of the Dignitatis Humane Institute, we are conscious that Christian persecution is sadly at a high point throughout the world. W read every day of such persecution, for example, in Syria, Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria and Indonesia, but we also see examples in our own nations, which have a rich Christian heritage and yet have turned their back on the very foundational truths taught by the Christian faith.
Politrical leaders in my home country, the United States, are relentlessly advocating further liberalization of any restriction upon procured abortion. They are backed by powerful lobby groups with vested interests,
such as Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International. Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, we have witnessed a Gay Marriage Act, forced through Parliament in spite of considerable opposition with little consideration of its legal impact upon the Catholic Church and society in general. The secular form of coercion can also be seen in the United. Nations which makes its support for third-world countries dependent upon the provision of contraception and abortion. A thinly-disguised population control agenda is steadfastly at work in the sheep's clothing called "maternal health". The agenda, in fact, has nothing to do with maternity and nothing to do with health. We cannot be deceived. There is no greater issue facing human dignity today than the relentless attack on human life, the integrity of the human body. It is the plight of those who are born into a twofold poverty, the poverty of their personal circumstances and the poverty of the developing world.
As these examples teach us, laws and policies are being employed to further the secular agenda, yet with little reflection upon the sort of "brave new world" which is thereby developed. Without a careful articulation of the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, society's only measure of the good of an indi-
vidual human life is what the person possesses or produces. It is the way of moral relativism which indeed, in the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is a tyranny based on the supremacy of the strong and the
neglect of the weak and vulnerable.
The rapid moral decline of society has resulted in what Blessed Pope John Paul II correctly called the
"culture of death" (cf. Evangelium Vitae). We must recognize that the culture of death advances in good part because of a lack of attention and information among the public. It is all too easy, with the intensity of the modern world and the preoccupation with our own lives and their struggles, to overlook a pervasive and negative trend of our society. Ignorance and lack of attention of the public is what allows the culture of death to continue and become ever more pervasive.. We cannot allow this culture of death to increase and to snuff out our Christian way of life.
How can we ensure that the culture of death will not dominate our lives and our society? First of all,
those of us who are Christians must all be attentive to laws that safeguard the dignity of the human person. We must support just laws which respect the inviolable dignity of human life. And we must support the political leaders who work for such legislation. Similarly, it is essential that we become aware of the laws and policies which are attacking human dignity and the goods of our Christian faith, some of which I have mentioned earlier.
In addition to the enhanced awareness of public policy, we must work toward a new evangelization regarding human life. We have the magna charta for such a new evangelization in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae of Blessed Pope John Paul II. The transformation of hearts by which one truly believes in the dignity of all men, without boundary, is the most fundamental means of a new evangelization.
Despite the virulent strains of secularism, there are millions of Christians across the world who have risen up in response to the culture of death with their own manifestations of support of the culture of life, in their work place, and in the public square. What we have recently witnessed in France is an eloquent example. Just two weeks ago, 40,000 people gathered in Dublin to march against a government bill to legalize abortion. This rally was the largest in the history of the country and showed the public's desire to safeguard the life of both the mother and the child. In Brazil, talk show host and pastor Silas Malafia recently led another march of at least 40,000 people against proposed laws to legalize abortion and so-called "gay marriage". And in the United States a new pro-life coalition called Stop the Gosnells was recently formed to prevent from occurring in the future crimes like those committed by Dr Kermit Gosnell.
Seeing hundreds of thousands unified in witnessing to the Gospel of life gives hope that a new evangelization regarding human life and the dignity of human life will continue and develop, leading our culture along the right path, the path that leads to true freedom and, therefore, lasting peace. These manifestations of faith truly give me hope and inspiration. So, too, does your presence here tonight. A most significant event has taken place here today because leaders from across Europe and beyond Europe. have gathered to discuss the fundamental importance of human life and dignity.
Thinking specifically about the Universal Declaration of Human Dignity which the Dignitatis Humanae Institute exists to promote, I compliment the Institute for its excellent service in bringing the Church face to face with the secular ambient, so that this important document will be more fully understood and appreciated. There are few other institutions with the call to promote human dignity, which, fulfill that mission as authentically and comprehensively as does this Institute.
*Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura