Culture of Death in Post-Communist Society

Address by Father Igor Kowalewsky of Moscow

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2003 ( Here is the address of Father Igor Kowalewsky of Moscow on «Culture of Death in Post-Communist Society,» delivered during a recent videoconference of theologian regarding bioethics. The Vatican Congregation for Clergy organized the event.

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Culture of Death in Post-Communist Society
By Igor Kowalewsky

In a certain sense, the first societies in which the culture of death appeared were not in the hedonistic West, but in the Communist East.

While it is true that certain manifestations of a culture of death, such as pornography and drug addiction, were practically nonexistent in Soviet times, a genuine form of a culture of death ruled.

Death was the ready answer not on]y for political opposition but also for an unexpected pregnancy. The essence of a culture of death is a denial of the Creator of Life, of God, and this of course was a silent aspect of the Communist ideology.

Consequently, it was only to be expected that when Communism fell, no life-affirming cultural structures would be in place to resist the noxious influences of the West. The last 15 years have confirmed that the former Soviet nations have scrambled to assume both the good and the bad ideas from the West. Economic lordship makes easy «solutions» like abortion and euthanasia attractive. Likewise, the easy money from pornography and prostitution has tempted many.

The freedom that has been found is, in fact, a superficial freedom to do as one likes, and not that freedom based on truth, which our Holy Father has insisted to be the only sure foundation of a free democratic society.

Yet, the transformation of our society is very much still in progress. It is natural that the first attempts toward political and social maturity should be shaky and uncertain. Laws are still being passed, parties formed, new ideas assimilated.

It is a time to urgently but thoughtfully lay the foundation for genuine freedom. Just as Western models of government cannot exactly fit Eastern peoples, so also effective methods of spreading the Gospel of Life in former Communist nations must be discovered. A sort of «pro-life movement» is urgently needed, of course, but how to start an effective one is another matter.

In this area, even in countries where the Catholic Church is the small minority, she can and must provide a great impetus. The universal Church has to find intellectual, apostolic and spiritual resources that can direct the effort of all men of good will to unite successfully in defense of life.

May Catholic communities and families, even when they are few, shine as models of communities of life and love from which the culture is renewed. May her long experience of forming leaders of culture in schools contribute to this effort. Finally, may the wealth of her teaching be heard in these parts through every means, from mass media to personal conversion.

This is most certainly a task of vast proportions — simultaneously combating the aftereffects of Communism and the seductive poison of individualism. Nevertheless, it is a task that can be confidently engaged with the help of God, the Giver of Life.

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