By Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Special to The Texas Catholic
Human life is that most precious and sacred gift of God. It is a direct expression of love which exists perfectly in God.
From the very beginning of the Bible, the special creation of the human person is emphasized. In the account of creation, all other areas of the created world are brought into being by a mere act of God’s will.
“Let there be light and there was light, let the dry land appear and it appeared, let the waters teem with fish and so it was.” It is only the creation of the human person of which it is said, “Let us make man and woman in our image and likeness”. Only the human person is created in the image and likeness of God distinguishing us from every other part of creation.
The human person is sacred and deserving of respect for this reason. The value of the human person is not derived from class, social structure, government decree or economic worth but because each and every human person is a direct and willful creation of God and is given an eternal destiny.
The human person is created to live forever sharing in the life of the Trinity. Body and soul, human life at all its stages, from conception in the womb until natural death, is deserving of respect.
The fifth commandment prohibits unjust attacks or harm to the human person. Willfully harming the body or soul of the human person is a violation of the fifth commandment and is condemned throughout the Sacred Scripture.
From Cain slaying his brother Abel to Jesus teaching that scandal kills the soul of another, we are admonished to respect our neighbor. St. John reminds us that the man who says he loves God but hates his neighbor is a liar because our neighbor is created in the image and likeness of God.
The unjust taking of innocent life is the sin of murder. Likewise, directly causing bodily harm, hatred of our neighbor or failing to render aid to our neighbor all show a lack of respect owed to our brothers and sisters in the family of God.
The Catholic Catechism teaches that situations do arise when legitimate authority, the state or even and individual must use force against another to protect innocent life from an unjust aggressor. In this case, physical harm is rendered another not out of hatred but to protect an innocent citizen, loved one or family member.
Causing spiritual death or harm to another also violates the teaching of the fifth commandment. If by our actions, bad example or words we lead another to fall away from God or to sin, we cause spiritual harm to our neighbor.
If it is wrong to unjustly take the innocent physical life of our neighbor, how much more serious is it to lead them away from the source of everlasting life.
Pope Francis reminds us constantly of the danger of viewing the human person as a disposable commodity. This comes from forgetting the important truth that God is the creator of the human person and for that reason is deserving of our love and respect.
The Most Rev. J. Douglas Deshotel is an auxiliary bishop, vicar general and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Dallas.