Last week saw the downfall and bloody end to the life of an African tyrant. Images of this man who is thought to have committed many and atrocius crimes against human beings, all of whom are our "neighbors", were splashed all over our tv screens and the internet.
With the ubiquitous cell phone which can take photos and movies wherever and of whatever without much time to consider their appropriateness we are offered a front row seat to even the most dangerous of situations from far away minutes or seconds after they happen. But do we need to know and to see everything? How do we assess the impact good or bad upon us with the availability of so much information of such wide variety? And how are our lives, our dignity, our humanity affected by the wholesale imbibing of the images we are offered via our phones through the internet, television and in other ways.
October is Respect Life month. The Church asks us to focus during this period every year on the gift of human life and the ways in which we can proclaim its sacredness, defend and preserve life. Respect is the tribute love pays to the good. When we truly love human life then we proclaim its goodness in word or action, recognizing the image of God the Creator also in those who have greatly obscured this Image in themselves, even through lives of great evil and sinfulness.
"Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims." (CCC 1930)
"You shall not molest or oppress"... "you shall not wrong" any human being. The Church speaks for God when she teaches the love that respects the sacredness of every human life, from conception until natural death, in all its stages and conditions.
Respect for every human life simply flows from our own sense of dignity as each created by and in the image of God. And this respect never conflicts with the demands of justice for those who have greatly wronged or violated the human dignity of their neighbors. And respect for human life also guides our use of images, teaching us to shun anything that turns a person into an object for lust, or curiosity or exploitation.