In 1995 Pope John Paul II issued the papal encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” or “Gospel of Life,” in which he warned that western society was fast becoming a “culture of death.”
The Pope saw growing divide between moral law and civil law. Moral law, defined by the Gospel, was losing its direct influence on the shaping of civil law, determined by governments. He argued that civil law should conform to the demands of moral law. Increasingly, those in the west saw moral and civil law as two separate entities and rejected the idea of any kind of conformity. Church and state are to be separate.
The Pope argued that there are certain moral facts established by God and they cannot be altered. Specifically, he wrote of the growth of legal abortion and euthanasia. Civil law may declare these are not crimes, but by the standards of moral law they remain morally wrong, or in the words of the church, a sin. Just because the state declares something a right, does not make it right.
John Paul predicted that if these trends remain unchecked that Western civilization would continue to morally decline. When a society legalizing killing – when it becomes a culture of death rather than a culture of life – that society will revert to barbarianism and list toward totalitarianism as a solution.
Was John Paul II correct? Have we become a culture of death? Have we reverted backward toward barbarianism?
Euthanasia is legal in seven countries and in seven of the United States. Nine other states are considering legalizing it. The right to an abortion is the law of the land in the United States, with over 500,000 abortions legally performed every year. Abortions peeked at over 1.4 million in 1990 and have declined annually every year since.
Barbarianism is not, however, limited to these two issues. Consider this: prior to the 1980s school or campus shootings were very rare, on average less than 4 a year. Since 1980 school or campus shootings have increase to nearly 17 on average each year.
In 2017 alone, 108 persons died in mass shootings. Thus far in 2018 there have been 12 school or campus shootings. Over 25 have been killed in all mass shootings, including the 17 students and teachers who died in Parkland, Florida just last month.
Thousands more have died in terrorist attacks since 2000. Public venues are marked by an army of security, weapons, and armored vehicles. People are arming themselves in record numbers. More and more are retreating behind security systems, fences and walls. Even churches are arming people for protection.
Is this what a culture of death looks like? God help us.