How does a nation define itself? What makes a country great? There are the tangible things: A prosperous economy, modern infrastructure and a high standard of living, a powerful military, political and diplomatic strength. Then there are institutional aspects as well: democracy, individual rights and protections, equality under the law, the fair treatment of its people. Beauty, too: architecture, preserved history, preserved nature, art, music, food.
Then there's a country's ethics, morality and spiritual nature. Is it a moral society? Does it recognize God? Does it adhere to the precept that there is a higher, moral authority by whom natural rights are granted, more powerful than man?
America is the greatest country ever conceived. Despite its problems, people by the millions still flock here, legally and illegally, in order to live here. Despite this, and all that America has stood for in its short history, and all it has accomplished to rid the Earth of repression and free hundreds of millions of captive people, its greatness will always be diminished, for what good is it to provide a country with economic aid, humble a dictator or provide disaster relief when the same country allows millions of its weakest, most defenseless to be killed without blinking, without shame or embarrassment.
One man was not afraid to tell us so, within feet of its leader at the time. Never afraid of the powerful, like an Old Testament prophet confronting a king with God's word, the greatness of a saint once told America so eloquently:
Your best, richest blessing is found in the human person in each man, woman and child . . . in every . . . son and daughter. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. The best traditions of your love presume the respect for those who cannot defend themselves.
If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life.
All the great causes that are yours today have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person.
- Pope John Paul II, Denver, 1993
If only Bill took his words to heart and not for show.
The most important figure of the 20th century, Saint John Paul The Great, knew no boundaries. He saw people as God's children and implored nations to treat all of God's children with protection, especially those who could not protect themselves, the unborn. His words are more relevant today than ever.
We live in a world, now, that speaks in narcissistic hyperbole about transformations: our lives, our communities, our country. But we leave undisturbed the one thing that needs transforming — our treatment of the unborn. It's a big, thick moral stain none of our egotistical leaders want to deal with (except, in the extreme cases, to encourage more of it). Yet this man truly transformed a world and invigorated his universal flock, not to elevate himself, but to elevate God and His children. That meant telling leaders to their face, in public, you're not as just, you're not the gift you think you are, and what good you have done is for naught while you allow the slaughter of the unborn. Defending rights is hollow if you do not defend the right to Life. As the prayer says, Lord, help me understand the good I have left undone.
That's why he is known as Great. It's also why greatness eludes America and its leaders.