‘Annus Horribilis’

Our city, and indeed the nation, is reeling from the assassinations of two New York City police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. These two officers of the law, both married, with the 40-year-old Ramos having two sons and Liu being recently married, were gunned down for no reason other than the fact that they were police officers. If any other group were targeted in this fashion, whether they be male, female, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, homosexual, transgendered, or any other variety of human beings, these brutal murders would be considered hate crimes.

And, yes, this attack on these men took place for one reason: because they wore the blue, because they were NYPD and the madman who took their lives wanted to kill cops. He wanted to foment hate in the hearts of those who were already angry over the tragic deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The motto of many of the misguided protesters over the past few months has been “Black lives matter!” So, too, do “Blue lives,” the lives of the women and men who serve as police.

All lives matter. That’s the biggest issue that has weighed down the year 2014. People have forgotten this simple fact. All lives matter, from conception to natural death. Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and, whether we agree or disagree with them, they are worthy of our respect. Every human being possesses an intrinsic dignity. Time and time again in 2014, we have witnessed the tragic results of what can occur when we devalue human life.

Reflecting on the events of this past year is enough to cause a sane person to despair. From Ferguson to Staten Island, one thing is clear – a lack of respect for human life. From the problems in the HHS mandate and the Hobby Lobby decision to the at-times seemingly divided Extraordinary Synod on the Family (at least in some of the reporting concerning the Synod), a harsh tone seemed to be underlying the discussions, and at times, even at the Vatican and certainly in the U.S. government, it could seem that the divisions outweighed the unity. Most assuredly, the insane campaign of destruction by the Islamic State throughout the world shows the complete and utter lack of respect for every human life. This year, 2014, can be seen as an “annus horribilis” (a “horrible year”).

We can look to the popes who have been in the news this past year to offer us some hope. In April, we rejoiced in the canonizations of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II. John XXIII was a man of peace, who courageously called for the Second Vatican Council and issued his encyclical, Pacem in Terris.

John Paul II knew the horrors of friends being killed in the Holocaust and the suffering caused by Nazism and Communism and he recognized that, at the root of all the problems, is a misunderstanding about the meaning of life and a misuse of the human body.

Benedict XVI, our pontiff emeritus, affords us the example of the man who knows what he should be about; in his case, his task is prayer. In these twilight years of his life, he shows his humility. Would that some of our more vociferous public commentators learn from the pope of humility, Benedict.

If the world needed hope, it need but look to Pope Francis, an example of man who is truly alive, one who loves and strives to be mercy in the midst of mankind’s misery. Look to the good that this gentle good shepherd has done in the past year just by being kind.

Finally, we recall the recently declared Blessed Paul VI, the prophetic pope, who in 1968’s Humanae Vitae declared that a contraceptive mentality will lead to an abortive mentality, and that this abortive mentality will lead to a devaluation of human life in all its stages.

Respect life; respect each other. See every human life as a precious gift. If we don’t, we’ll continue on this path of destruction. Let this lesson – so tragically learned in 2014 – be our guide for a better and brighter 2015.