The Gospel of Life and Personhood

19 10 2009


Pope John Paul the Great made the proclamation of the Gospel of life one of the central aspects of his papacy.  It is little wonder that the theme of the 1993 World Youth Day celebrated in Denver, Colorado, in 1993 was: “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

Pope John Paul II was painfully aware of the moral tailspin into which Colorado had led our nation and the world when it legalized the killing of innocent children in the womb and deprived them of their personhood.  He never shied away from proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel of life and taught us that “in the proclamation of this Gospel of life, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking (Rom 12:2).  We must be in the world but not of the world (Jn15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (Jn 16:33).”

As the proponent of the 2010 Personhood Amendment and a fellow Catholic, I feel called to fight a battle that, except for the light of Christ, is filled with discouragement, division, uncertainty, and darkness.  I ask you to join me in the fight against the culture of death by getting personally involved in gathering signatures to put the amendment on the ballot in 2010.

A Personhood Amendment is an ideal approach to carry the Gospel of life to our brothers and sisters for several reasons: it is unambiguously true, it is above all educational as opposed to legalistic, it requires the direct participation of the faithful, it restores the proper relationship between Divine law, the government, and the people, and it directs our hope not to a politician or judges, but to Christ on the cross.

In order to achieve these important goals we need you to reach out to your fellow Catholics and help us collect 76,047 signatures by February of 2010.


Personhood is a concept, which holds that from “the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” (Evangelium Vitae)

Why do we insist on using the word “person” in our fight against the attacks on human dignity?  Why not define when life begins, or what a human being is?  To understand this, we must first understand what the meaning of the word “person” is.

The word “person” has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used.

In a theological context the word “person” refers to the union of the physical and the spiritual, in other words the body and the soul.  In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul the II quotes Cardinal Ratzinger and asks the rhetorical question: how could a human individual not be a human person?  In other words, the Catholic notion that a human individual is also a human person is a self evident truth.

Within the context of an atheistic philosophy, the term “person” is defined by a set of utilitarian qualities: is the human being self aware? Does he or she have the capacity to reason?  Can he or she live independently and develop relationships?  All of these are the complete opposite of what our faith teaches.  Human dignity comes not from our differing abilities and qualities, but from our brotherhood as children of the same Father.

In a legal context, a proper definition of the word “person” is of extreme importance.

The United States Constitution uses the word “person” 49 times, on the other hand it never uses the word “human being” or “human life” or even “human.”  The reason is quite simple; the constitution is primarily concerned with rights, and the way to refer to one who is recognized by law as the subject of rights and duties, is by use of the word “person.”

In the Case of Colorado v. Lage (2009), a man who crashed his car head on to the car of an eight and a half month pregnant woman and child, was able to avoid being charged with killing the child in the womb because the court felt “compelled by the legislature’s definition of a “person,” which only considered a child to be a “person” after birth.  Clearly, the constitutional definition of the word “person” is critical to the defense of preborn children.


Some issues have been raised regarding the practicality of a personhood amendment.  Typical arguments against personhood are: we need to wait to have more supportive justices on the court, the amendment already lost a popular vote once, such efforts divert attention and resources away from more achievable measures, and even if the amendment were to pass, it would have a negative legal effect.

A detailed refutation of each of these arguments is available at the website of Personhood Colorado,; I encourage all of you to consider both sides.  But more eloquent than all of the rational and legal arguments that I can offer are the deeply insightful and inspired words of our beloved John Paul the Great.  The great defender of life wrote, “as I have frequently stated, when freedom is detached from objective truth it becomes impossible to establish personal rights on a firm rational basis; and the ground is laid for society to be at the mercy of the unrestrained will of individuals or the oppressive totalitarianism of public authority.”

These words answer all the arguments against personhood.  They highlight the need to disengage from corrupt and unjust laws – which are no laws at all – and establish a solid foundation for real freedom based in Truth.

The great defender of life asks us to “focus on the formation of consciences and the recovery of the necessary link between freedom and truth.”  In other words, focus on education, focus on the principle.

The Personhood Amendment is first and foremost aimed at a cultural transformation which will form consciences “with regard to the incomparable and inviolable worth of every human life.”  In that light, the pessimistic arguments against the personhood amendment are transformed into the very reasons why we must participate in it.  The darker our culture, the greater in need of the bright light of Truth.

Although personhood is about principle, it also has a solid legal basis.  While some lawyers disagree with the practicality of personhood amendments, prestigious Catholic law firms such as the Thomas Moore Law Center, and renown Catholic legal scholars such as Notre Dame Professor Emeritus of Law Charles Rice strongly support personhood efforts describing them as “prudent, timely, and positive.”  Professor Rice explains that personhood amendments are “an affirmation of the federalism embodied in the general structure of the United States Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.”

Pro-lifers should know that the state personhood amendment approach to prohibiting abortion has never been tried, and has thus, never failed.  Isn’t it worth a shot?

Yet for all the legal strategizing, personhood is fundamentally about principle, a Catholic and universal principle that all human beings must have the rights of person from the very first moment of his or her existence.  Unless we establish this principle, no amount of legal strategies will ever set our hearts straight; and unless our hearts are changed the law will be devoid of meaning.


“But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Approaching a complete stranger in a public venue and talking to him about abortion is one of the most uncomfortable things you can ask a person to do.  Even door to door salesmen are treated better than pro-life missionaries.  Yet, as Christians, we know that our calling is to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ, who was rejected and despised but was faithful even unto death!

John Paul the Great asked us “to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.”  Taking a petition and engaging everyone regardless of their appearance or station in life is almost an act of faith.  While gathering petitions at the Colorado State Fair I learned the value of approaching every person regardless of their appearance.  Many people who wore large crucifixes “had no time,” or would “do it another day.”  Yet young men and women with tattoos and immodest clothing would stop and talk about abortion, and often, they would sign our petition.

Having an active presence in the legislature to represent Catholic moral beliefs is important, but it is no substitute for the personal evangelical calling of every Catholic.  Changing laws does not necessarily change hearts, personal example and personal sacrifice does.

The Colorado Personhood Amendment is in keeping with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which holds that functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible.  Individual Catholics, Catholic families, and Catholic parishes should not leave to larger organizations what can be done by them.  The initiative process affords individuals the power to shape their own constitution, this is both a privilege and a responsibility.  Subsidiarity encourages personal responsibility and consequently a concurrent personal transformation.

In my own experience, the act of gathering signatures has been one of the most transformative in my life.  By making myself the advocate for the voiceless preborn child, and on occasion, accepting the rejection of friend and foe alike, I have grown closer to Christ, experiencing that redemptive suffering which makes us grow in our love for God.

The battle against the culture of death is a difficult one.  “To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity.”  These words are John Paul the Great’s.  His life was an example of living the Gospel of Life.  It is our calling as Catholics to follow Christ’s example as faithfully as our beloved popes.  I believe the Colorado Personhood Amendment offers us as Catholics an unrivaled opportunity to do so.

As Mother Teresa said, let us strive to be faithful, not to be successful, for the way of the faithful Christian turns defeat into victory, and death into life.

“Death with life contended: combat strangely ended!  Life’s own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.”




One response

19 11 2011
Leonard Wolff

Believe Ephesians 6:12. We are Battling demons of pride, envy, lust, covetousnes, anger, sloth and gluttony. They are over 6,000 years old, with lots of practice in deceiving mankind. America has problems that only God can fix, and Mary will heal America when we pray enough Holy Rosaries and Chaplets with our children. There are over 100 Million Prayer Websites on the internet. Find your favorites, and let everyone find their favorites. Over 7 Million Rosary Prayer Webites. Is that enough for you??? “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 123:8 Believe the Bible of St. Jerome, the Latin Vulgate.

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