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Chapter 29. Fifth Commandment: Promote the Culture of Life • 389

As the archbishop of New York City, Cardinal John O’Connor pointed

out in his endorsement of her cause for sainthood that she “anticipated

the teachings of John Paul II” in her uncompromising devotion both to the

Church and to the cause of social justice. The Cardinal said he consid-

ered her a model for everyone, “but especially for women who have had

or are considering abortion.”

Dorothy Day’s life was dedicated to seeking holiness, defending

life, and promoting social justice and peace. In valuing human life,

she came to reject the violence of abortion and to abhor war and

crushing poverty. Her story seems most suitable for our reflection on the

Fifth Commandment.


Human life is sacred because from its beginning it

involves the creative action of God and it remains for

ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its

sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its begin-

ning until its end: no one can under any circumstance

claim for himself the right directly to destroy an inno-

cent human being.

—CCC, no. 2258; citing

The Gift of Life


Donum Vitae

), no. 5

God’s creative action is present to every human life and is thus the source

of its sacred value. Each human life remains in a relationship with God,

who is the final goal of every man and woman.

The Fifth Commandment calls us to foster the physical, spiritual,

emotional, and social well-being of self and others. For that reason, it

forbids murder, abortion, euthanasia, and any life-threatening acts. We

are called to create the culture of life and work against the culture of

death. This presents us with three challenges.