St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali has invited "people of good will" to take up Pope John Paul II's challenge to create a culture of love and truth that respects human life.
Rigali spoke at a news conference at the Catholic Center, 4445 Lindell Boulevard, Thursday about the pope's encyclical, called "Evangelium Vitae" or "The Gospel of Life." It is the 11th and longest encyclical - a papal pastoral letter of the highest importance - in John Paul's 17-year tenure. Four years in the writing, it was released Thursday in Rome.
The St. Louis archbishop, holding his worn, dog-eared, advance copy, stressed that it was not a one-issue encyclical.
It covers a spectrum of life and death issues, from the arms race to ecology, from economic justice to embryo experimentation, from exploitation of the world resources by rich nations at the expense of poor nations to capital punishment, from abortion to assisted suicide to euthanasia, he said.
Rigali said there was nothing new in it, that it is a compilation of long-held beliefs based on Scripture. It does not soften any church stands, he said.
Last year, Rigali asked for clemency for a Missouri man facing the death penalty, and Thursday he talked about the encyclical's sections on capital punishment. The death penalty may be morally justifiable "when it is not possible otherwise to defend society," Rigali said. However, he quoted the pope as saying that such a case would be very rare today "if not practically non-existent."
Rigali, who worked beside the pope in Rome, said that the pope reflected his times. He is a Pole who resisted the Nazi and Communist regimes with their disregard for human life and their unjust laws. Rigali noted that the pope wrote that there was "no obligation to obey" unjust laws.
"Abortions and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize," Rigali said, quoting the document. …