Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) – Study Guide

Here are some questions to guide you through a study of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). You can find the text here: Gospel of Life.


1. What does the birth of Christ at Christmas reveal?
2. With what does Jesus contrast Himself in His redemptive mission (John 10:10)?
3. Define: penultimate. Why is life on earth a “penultimate” reality?
4. How does one come to read the natural law written on one’s heart?
5. What are some of the new threats to human life, particularly in modern times?
6. Who is hurt most by crimes and attacks against human life?
7. How does the Holy Father describe the grave moral decline taking place today?
8. Define: consistory.
9. What did the Cardinals at the April 1991 consistory ask of Pope John Paul II?
10. Define: inviolable.

Chapter I – The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Cries to Me From the Ground

The Roots of Violence Against Life: #7-9
1. How did death enter the world?
2. What was God’s warning to Cain?
3. Why does God ask, “Where is your brother?”
4. List the capital sins. In this narrative, who committed the first one? Who committed the second?
5. What has the upper had over the Lord’s warning to Cain?
6. What does Romans 12:19 say about revenge?
7. What does 2 Chronicles 7:14 say will also change man’s environment?
8. Define: parricide.

The Eclipse of the Value of Life: #10- 17
9. Define: skepticism; ethics.
10. How are contraception and abortion different evils? How are they alike?
11. How does today’s society face suffering? Why?
12. What does John Paul mean by “Promethean attitude”?
13. To what does John Paul liken today’s issues of demographics and population?
14. How does the media advance a culture of death?

A Perverse Idea of Freedom: #18-20
15. What can motivate decisions against life?
16. Explain the contradiction today in viewing human rights.
17. Define: incipient; autonomy.
18. According to Pope John Paul II, why is every man his brother’s keeper?
19. When does freedom destroy itself?
20. Define: relativism.
21. How does the state decline when relativism is its idol?

The Eclipse of the Sense of God and of Man: #21-24
22. What tragedy describes modern man. Explain the cycle.
23. What distortions occur when the sense of God is lost?
24. Define: hedonism.
25. How are the body and suffering viewed when God is not in the picture?
26. What defines personal dignity?

The Signs of Hope and Invitation to Commitment: #25-28
How was blood viewed in the Old Covenant? In the New Covenant?
28. What does Christ’s blood reveal to man?
29. How is Christ’s blood a powerful source of hope?
30. What are signs of victory in our societies and cultures? Where are they seen with regard to public opinion on war and capital punishment?
31. When is the choice for life at its fullest?

Chapter II – I Came That They May Have Life

With Our Gaze Fixed on Christ, “the Word of Life”: #29-31
1. What is not the Gospel of Life ?
2. According to the Gospel of Life, who is Jesus?
3. In the Old Testament, what does Israel learn about the Gospel of Life?
4. What did freedom from slavery mean to the nation of Israel?
5. What did Israel (and subsequently we as well) learn from the Exodus?
6. What is the Wisdom Literature?

In the Uncertainties of Human Life, Jesus Brings Life’s Meaning to Fulfillment: #32-33
7. In the New Testament, who comes to represent Israel?
8. How does the Church’s mission reflect the ministry of Jesus?
9. How do we see in Jesus’ own life the uncertainty and the value of the human condition.
10. How did Jesus experience poverty, according to St. Paul?

God’s Glory shines on the Face of Man: #34-36
11. Why is life good?
12. What is man’s place in creation?
13. What are man’s spiritual faculties that make him distinct from the rest of creation?
14. What gifts, according to St. Augustine, does God give man?
15. What occurs when we commit ourselves to following Christ?

The Gift of Eternal Life: #37-38
16. How does Evangelium Vitae explain ‘eternal life’?
17. To what is the dignity of life linked?

Reverence and Love for Every Human Life: #39-41
18. Why is God sovereign over our life?
19. What is the positive way to express “You shall not kill”?

Man’s Responsibility for Life: #42-43
20. What task does God entrust to every man, and why is man able to do this?
21. Define: impunity.
22. How does man share in God’s lordship?
23. What does the Second Vatican Council say about having a child?

The Dignity of the Unborn Child: #44-45
24. When is human life most vulnerable?
25. How are children viewed according to the Old Testament?
26. What scripture tells us that, from its beginning, the life of an individual is part of God’s plan?
27. Recount the experience of Elizabeth and John at the Visitation.

Life in Old Age and at Times of Suffering: #46-47
28. Define: anachronistic.
29. What does Joel 2:28 say about old age?
30. What does the mission of Jesus reveal?
31. How does Jesus pass this mission onto His disciples?
32. Why can no one arbitrarily decide whether to live or die?

From the Law of Sinai to the Gift of the Spirit: #48-49
33. What indelibly marks life?
34. How is God’s covenant with His people linked to the perspective of life and its bodily dimension?
35. How do we live in dignity and justice?
36. What is the most authentic meaning of life?

The Gospel of Life is Brought to Fulfillment on the Tree of the Cross: #50-51
37. What event symbolizes the massive conflict between good and evil?
38. When is Christ’s glory made manifest?
39. To what does Jesus’ “giving up” of the spirit allude?
40. When do we find the meaning and destiny of our existence?

Chapter III – You Shall Not Kill

Gospel and Commandment: #52-57
1. What does God require of man in giving him life?
2. Why is human life sacred?
3. What does the precept “You shall not kill” encourage?
4. What is the Didache?
5. Explain the context in which the death penalty resides.
6. How should the death penalty be applied?
7. What parallel is drawn between the life of an aggressor and the life of the weak/defenseless?
8. Why has the Magisterium spoken out more frequently regarding life?
9. What does Pope John Paul II say definitively about the direct killing of an innocent human being?
10. By what authority does he do so?
11. Who is in union with him in this statement?
12. What is this doctrine based upon? Where is it reaffirmed?
13. Define: authentic.
14. On what are authentic social relationships founded?

The Unspeakable Crime of Abortion: # 58-63
15. How does Vatican II define abortion and infanticide?
16. What has caused abortion to be more accepted?
17. Define: procured abortion.
18. Besides the mother, name the other persons who can be involved in an abortion decision. How are they also responsible?
19. How is the state responsible for abortion?
20. What is the ‘network of complicity’? How does it promote abortion?
21. Why does the Church state that life begins at conception?
22. What must be guaranteed a human person from the moment of conception?
23. Do the scriptures directly address abortion? Why does the Church condemn it?
24.Where in Christian is abortion opposed?
25. Where in the modern Papal Magisterium is the Church’s doctrine reaffirmed?
26. What is excommunication? What is its purpose?
27. Define: Latae sententiae.
28. Who is excommunicated when an abortion takes place?
29. To what else is the morality of abortion applied?
30. What procedures on an embryo are considered licit? When does an crime against an embryo’s dignity occur?
31. Is it moral to create an embryo in order to use its biological material to help others?
32. When are prenatal diagnostic techniques acceptable practice?
33. Define: eugenic.
34. What gives authentic value to life for those with disabilities?

The Tragedy of Euthanasia: #64-67
35. What is missing in today’s experience of death? Why?
36. How is death viewed at different times across the lifespan?
37. What tempts modern society toward euthanasia?
38. How is the culture of death advancing in prosperous societies? Why?
39. Define: euthanasia.
40. From what must euthanasia be distinguished?
41. What is ‘aggressive medical treatment’?
42. When can it be refused?
43. What is palliative care?
44. When are painkillers and sedatives licit? Must they be used? Can they be refused?
45. To what is the evil of euthanasia compared morally?
46. What does suicide contradict? What does it reject?
47. How is ‘assisted-suicide’ described?
48. To what does true compassion lead?
49. How is euthanasia most perverse?
50. How does God exercise power over life and death? What happens when man usurps this power?

Civil Law and the Moral Law: #68-74
51. To what is a proportionalist approach likened? What does it embody?
52. What is the concern, at times, to making laws against abortion and euthanasia? Is this a just concern?
53. What is the more radical view in a modern and pluralistic society?
54. What does the democratic culture of our time believe?
55. What is the weakness of democracy?
56. What diametrically opposed tendencies does Pope John Paul II lay out regarding the rights of an individual and the individual as a public representative?
57. What is at the root of these tendencies?
58. How does the issue of respect for life reveal the contradictions found in relativism?
59. How is democracy idolized? How is it sustained or taken down?
60. What is the solution to the instability of democracy?
61. What is the obligatory reference point for civil law?
62. What is the real purpose of civil law? What must it ensure?
63. What does St. Thomas Aquinas say regarding human law and right reason? How does he describe human law that is contrary to reason?
64. What is the right response to laws that permit euthanasia and abortion?
65. How can elected officials vote, in a licit fashion, on laws governing procured abortion.
66. What are the rights of the morally upright regarding cooperation with unjust laws? What might the consequences be for these individuals?
67. What are the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions?
68. Why is it a human right to refuse to take part in committing an injustice?
69. Where is the authentic meaning and purpose of human freedom found?
70. What should those who have recourse to conscientious objection be protected from and guaranteed?

“Promote” Life: #75-77
71. What are the ‘negative moral precepts’?
72. What do they declare?
73. When are they valid? What do they make clear?
74. What are the consequences of violating these precepts?
75. What is the positive function of the negative moral precepts? What do they begin for those who follow them?
76. What is the point of departure on the journey to true freedom?
77. To what does it lead us?
78. How is the law of reciprocity lived out in a culture of life?
79. How does the gift of the Holy Spirit impact this law of reciprocity?
80. Why does the Spirit become the new law?
81.  How does this new law connect the negative precept ‘You shall not kill’ to the example of Jesus?
82. Where does the commandment ‘You shall not kill’ resound in each person?
83. How is it recognized by everyone?
84. What is the service of love we are committed to ensure to our neighbor?
85. What foundation is necessary in order to renew society?
86. Why are we asked to love and honor the life of every man and woman?
Chapter IV – You Did It To Me

For a New Culture of Human Life: #78-79
87. What is the Church’s vocation?
88. To what is evangelization linked?
89. How should we present ourselves to others?
90. What law guides our journey as a people of life? Who is its source? Who is its model?

Proclaiming the Gospel of Life: #80-82
91. According to Gregory of Nyssa, what happens to men when adopted by God?
92. What is the core of the Gospel of Life?
93. What are the consequences of this Gospel?
94. Define: sacred.
95. Define: anthropology.
96. What does Pope John Paul II say to bishops regarding the Gospel of Life?

Celebrating the Gospel of Life: #83-86
97. What is a contemplative outlook for a “people of life”?
98. What does this contemplative outlook do to the redeemed?
99. What does it mean to celebrate the Gospel of Life?
100. In imitation of the Psalmist, how should we pray each day?
101. In what way, above and beyond personal and community prayer, are we to welcome, savour and share the Gospel of Life?
102. What does Pope John Paul desire each culture do to celebrate the Gospel of Life?
103. What did the Cardinals suggest be celebrated each year in each country? What would be the purpose of such a day? What areas should be given particular attention?
104. Above all, when is the Gospel of Life to be celebrated? How? What will be the effect of doing so?
105. How is heroism described in living a Gospel of Life?

Serving the Gospel of Life: #87-91
106. How should express personal charity to promote and support human life?
107. What is the root of our service, according to the Letter of James?
108. What attitude must inspire our service of charity?
109. To who should we show special favor?
110. Where must charity be profoundly consistent? Why?
111. For whom in particular must programs of support be implemented?
112. What is the aim of education in promoting life? How should this be carried out?
113. Discuss care for those in conditions of hardship. How should hospitals, clinics and convalescent homes respond?
114. What is the responsibility of health-care personnel in the service of life?
115. What does the Hippocratic Oath require?
116. Describe ‘conscientious objection’ with regard to procured abortion and euthanasia.
117. What does Pope John Paul II about volunteer workers?
118. What does this encyclical say about the role and work of social activity, politics and civil leaders?
119. What must be the driving force of all social policies?
12o. What is an appropriate response to the issue of population growth? What is permissible? What is forbidden?

The Family as the “Sanctuary of Life”: #92-94
121. What is the role of the family in the culture of life?
122. How does the family fulfill its mission to proclaim the Gospel of Life?
123. How do some cultures regard the elderly? How should they be treated and cared for?

Bringing About a Transformation of the Culture: #95-100
124. What is urgently needed to bring about a transformation of the culture?
125. What will be “new” about the culture of life?
126. How is this transformation linked to the Gospel?
127. Where does renewal need to happen first? Why?
128. How should the Christian communities examine their own culture of life?
129. What is the foundational step in transforming the culture?
130. After the formation of conscience, what must be recovered?
131. What does education serve in the culture of life?
132. What should we teach to young people regarding sexuality?
133. What leads to contempt for new life?
134. What does it mean to train married couples in responsible procreation?
135. What new life-style must the culture adopt?
136. What is the role of Catholic intellectuals in building a new culture of life?
137. What is the responsibility of the mass media in the culture?
138. What is the role of women in the new culture?
139. How does the experience of motherhood shape thought towards others?
140. What does Pope John Paul II say to women who have had an abortion?
141. What is the prayer called for on behalf of life? What is its purpose and end?

The Gospel of Life is for the Whole of Human Society: #101
142. Why is the Gospel of Life not for believers alone?
143. On what pillar does every society stand?
144. What precludes true democracy?

Conclusion: #102-105
145. Why, at the end of this encyclical, do we look again to Jesus?
146. Why is the Virgin Mother so closely associated with the Gospel of Life?

The Motherhood of Mary and of the Church: #103-104
147. Define: portent.
148. What does the Book of Revelation tell us about Mary and the Church?
149. How does the Church live her spiritual motherhood?

Life Menaced by the Forces of Evil: #104
150. How does the scripture show Satan’s attack on life?
151. Who, therefore, shows the Church what is at the center of the struggle between good and evil?
152. What truly is the rejection of human life?
153. What does the Church learn from the life of the Virgin Mother?
154. Who is “the Lamb that was slain” and what does He show us?
155. To whom do we look as we make our way in confidence to “a new heaven and a new earth”?

1 Response to Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) – Study Guide

  1. Pingback: Evangelium Vitae Study Guide – Chapter 4 |

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