I must accept the limits of my freedom, or rather, I must live my freedom not out of competition but in a spirit of mutual support. If we open our eyes, we see that this, in turn, is true not only of the child, but that the child in the mother’s womb is simply a very graphic depiction of the essence of human existence in general. Even the adult can only exist with and from another, and is thus continually thrown back on that being-for which is the very thing he would like to shut out.
"Truth and Freedom," in Communio Spring 1996
Reflection - In this passage Ratzinger is actually talking about abortion and its implications. Besides the destruction of a human life, and the implicit overthrowing of the sanctity of human life that abortion signifies in our modern world, he points out this perhaps even deeper implication here.
So often on the pro-abortion-rights side of the debate it is heard that because of the unborn child's lack of viability, its inability to function as an autonomous individual, he or she does not qualify as a fully human person. Underneath that, though, is a view of humanity and dignity that identifies it with autonomy, with freedom from dependence on anyone or anything.
But really, how many of us are actually 'viable' by that standard? If you dropped me in the woods with nothing but the clothes on my back, I'm not sure I'd fare too well. Am I 'viable'? Does my life proceed without any assistance from anyone? And is 'survivoman' who can make his way in the wilderness just fine therefore more worthy of life than me or you?
And of course even survivoman learned his skills from someone else, and all of us rest in a true dependence on a whole web of reality that we did not create and do not maintain in existence. We who are Christians recognize that underneath and all around that web of supporting reality lies our Creator God who holds us all in his care moment by moment.
And so the unborn baby is an icon, if you will, of the deep truth of our humanity. We are all in that state of received life, received existence, being held in life by Another. Each of us is the child in the womb of the world, so to speak.
When we, as a society, say 'no' to that - say that this is inhuman and not worthy of our care and protection, we radically cut ourselves off from the deep truth of our own being.
There are profound implications to all this, and much to ponder. How we view each other, how we treat each other, the way we measure each other--all of this is bound up in this mystery of need and dependence and where our true dignity lies.
Those of us who identify ourselves as pro-life have to be very careful that we be faithful to our ideals in every area of our life - every human being is of inestimable precious value, and this is especially true of the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, the broken, the burdensome. All of us are held in being and life by others and by the Other; let us be vigilant to hold each of our brothers and sisters in our care as well.