Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, walks on the campus of Holy Apostles College and Seminary on Oct. 11, the first day of a three-day visit during which he delivered a bioethics lecture. To his right is faculty member Father Dominic Anaeto, who, like the Cardinal, is from Nigeria. (Photo by Deacon James Papillo)
CROMWELL – Cardinal Francis Arinze revitalized a bioethics lecture series at Holy Apostles College and Seminary on Oct. 12 with a call for the defense of human life and an overview of the threats against it.
In a sweeping catechesis, Cardinal Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, underscored the Church’s duty to defend the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human life.
The college’s John Paul II Bioethics Center is reinstating the lecture series after a hiatus of several years. Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, and Msgr. David Q. Liptak, one of the Cromwell center’s founders, who also is the executive editor of The Catholic Transcript, also spoke.
Cardinal Arinze, lecturing in the recently dedicated chapel on the campus, said that the sanctity and preciousness of each human is not merely a religious teaching; he described the Hippocratic Oath, written centuries before Christ, as "proof that the major dictates of the Ten Commandments can be known by human reason, without the aid of Revelation."
While the Church, in documents from the Second Vatican Council, regards abortion and infanticide as "unspeakable crimes," the Cardinal said that abortion also "stands condemned on the grounds of natural reason, justice and respect for the life of every human being." The secularist who accuses the Christian of imposing religious views on the subject "is himself actually trying to impose his secularist views on the whole of society," he added.
To the women who argue that no one can tell them what to do with their bodies, he said, "The safeguarding of human life has precedence over the exercise of individual freedom. … I have the right to drive a car, but not to the extent of ignoring the right of pedestrians to be left alive," he said.
The Cardinal, a native of Nigeria, criticized those politicians and others in public life who say, "I am personally not in favor of abortion, but I shall not impose my views on others."
He suggested saying, "I am personally not in favor of shooting all of you in Parliament … but since some people want to shoot you all, I shall not impose my views on them …," he said, drawing laughter.
He said the myth of the population explosion must be punctured as well, to foster pro-life social and political action.
"As Pope Paul VI said, if the bread at the table is not enough, you don’t solve the problem by killing some of your guests, but by producing more bread," the Cardinal said.
He cautioned that there is a dangerous tendency to label such crimes as abortion, euthanasia and suicide as rights. "When people thus get on the slippery slope … man gets overconcerned with technology, programming, controlling, dominating and manipulating birth and death."
He illustrated: "To kill a dog is regarded as wickedness but to kill an unborn child is called ‘free choice,’ if not birth control or preservation of quality of life."
In introducing Cardinal Arinze, Dr. Haas said there is little doubt "that we have been thrown into a biotech age." He stressed the urgency of the Church’s continued efforts in the bioethics field, and said Catholics should be proud to be part of an institution that embraces science and grapples with bioethical issues.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center, which he heads, was established in 1972, a year before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Msgr. Liptak provided a brief history of the John Paul II Bioethics Center, which he cofounded in 1982 with the late Father Francis J. Lescoe, Ph.D., and the late Leo Thomas Duffy, M.D., in order to articulate authentic Catholic teaching with respect to bioethical issues.
Msgr. Liptak is the director of the center. The associate director is Rev. Deacon Thomas J. Davis.
Bishop Michael R. Cote of Norwich, chancellor of the college; Very Rev. Douglas L. Mosey, president-rector; and Bishop Peter Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford; joined priests, sisters, seminarians, other students and others in standing while applauding Cardinal Arinze’s talk.