Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in the United States today and celebrate his birthday at the White House tomorrow. (They won’t say if they’re having a birthday cake for him!) The 81-year-old pontiff is widely recognized as a brilliant theologian and a gentle yet strong spiritual leader. In his address to his Brothers and Sisters in the United States a few days ago he said: “I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.” I know of no organization that speaks out more strongly in defense of human life than the Catholic Church and it is expected that Benedict may have things to say about abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality. Abortion and euthanasia are obviously deadly, and homosexual acts are both sterile and hazardous to health.

I read in Christian Newswire on April 11 that the Pope knows first hand what happens when a society refuses to defend the most defenseless of its citizens. “As a boy of fourteen, Joseph Ratzinger [now Benedict XVI] had a cousin who had been born with Down’s Syndrome, only a bit younger than himself. In 1941, German state “therapists” came to the boy’s house and probably informed the parents of the government regulation that prohibited mentally handicapped children from remaining in their parents’ home. In spite of the family’s pleas, the representatives of the Nazi state took the child away. The Ratzinger family never saw him again. Later the family learned that he had ‘died,’ most likely murdered, for being merely ‘undesirable,’ a blemish in the race, and a drain on the productivity of the nation. This was Joseph Ratzinger’s first experience of a murderous philosophy that asserts that some people are disposable.”

This hitherto unpublished information about the Pope is from a new book, Benedict of Bavaria (Circle Press, 2008) by Brennan Pursell, Ph.D. The author, who is fluent in German, reputedly was able to gather information, available only in German, from “intimate sources,” who had known Cardinal Ratzinger for years.

We in the United States have no right to life unless it is given to us by God. According to our Declaration of Independence we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, … among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If not given by God (thou shalt not kill, love one another, etc.) our right to life rests in the hands of whomever is in power. Hitler killed the “useless eaters” and the “undesirables,” the old and the infirm. Homosexuality was seen as a psychological pathology or deviance and since it was the practice of Nazi Germany to kill off such deviants in their euthanasia program homosexuals were sent to the gas chambers.

The Catholic church teaches that the right to life is the first of all human rights. There are those in our current secular society, with its materialism and utilitarianism, who have no thought of the dignity of life or of eternal life because they have no God. If they can get away with killing their neighbor in this world, they have no need to worry about an afterlife. They have what is essentially a “me first” attitude.

There are those who care little about genocide in Africa because they figure there are too many people in the world anyway–and we certainly don’t need people who are going to be a burden.

There are those who use ultrasound as a search-and-destroy technique to examine the pregnant woman so that they can abort the unborn baby if it seems to be abnormal. They call this “preventing birth defects!”

There are those like Peter Singer, now at Princeton, called by the New York Times “the world’s most controversial ethicist.” He has been praised as courageous for arguing that severely disabled infants should, in some cases, be euthanized.

On the other hand, there are those who think of life as a gift, to be given, and taken, by God. This is an entirely different worldview. It is what Pope John Paul II called the “culture of life,” and what Benedict XVI comes to promote. It has been said that you can judge a civilization by how it cares for the poor and the helpless.

Who is more innocent and defenseless than the babe in the womb? I present some thoughts on disability, imperfection, and “uselessness”…………….A CHILD IS BORN

Can a mother forget her baby? Or a woman the child within her womb? Yet even if these forget, yes, even if these forget, I will never forget My own.–-Isaiah 49