Thursday, January 24, 2013
Pro-Life. What Does it Mean?
On Facebook I recently posted the statement that appears to the left. It came from a good friend and fellow friar, Fr. Tom Washburn, OFM. Interestingly it received no response, either positive or negative. I'm not sure of the reason why. I suspect though that many people looked at it and took exception to one or another item on the list. Liberals looked askance at some things and Conservatives at others.
It is important for all of my readers to remember that politics is never the reason for the statement of my opinions. The Gospel is what guides me. I am a follower of Jesus before being conservative or liberal.
That having been said we can ask, "What does it mean to be Pro-Life?", an important question as so many are preparing for the march in Washington on the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. For me the answer is simple. As a Catholic and above all as a Franciscan it is clear that we are called to have a profound respect for the dignity of every human person. That's what unites the issues on the above list.In forty years we have not succeeded in overturning Roe vs. Wade. We need to ask why. It would be easy to blame those who are not pro-life and point to their stubbornness. But we need to ask also what we might do differently. I have some suggestions.
First of all I think that we need to remember what an old Felician sister told me in Buffalo, NY many years ago, "You can't save an unborn child if you don't help the mother." Many, not all, abortions are the result of women feeling desperate and not seeing any way out. We have legislators who are against abortion but who won't vote to fund pre-natal care and counseling for women who cannot afford such services.
Secondly we all need to admit that in different ways we are guilty of de-humanizing people as the basis for either killing them or dismissing them and justifying acts of injustice against them. Racism and religious prejudice happen because we somehow make the people who are different less than ourselves. By simply calling undocumented immigrants "illegals" we dehumanize them and block the road to any kind of just reform of our immigration policy.
Thirdly, we need to stop hiding behind the belief that some issues are more evil or sinful than others. That is certainly true, but what all of the above listed issues and several others have in common is that they are all justified by dehumanizing the victims. People lament that calling an unborn child a fetus justifies aborting them but have no trouble calling the innocent victims of bombings "collateral damage."
Finally, we need to take another look at the use of the phrase "innocent life". Yes, unborn children are innocent. Serial killers are not. But serial killers, though they have acted inhumanely, are still human beings. They belong off the streets because they are dangerous to the rest of us, but we should not take their lives. That is becoming more clearly the teaching of the Church. Not all cafeteria Catholics are liberals.
Perhaps if we focus on allowing ourselves to be called to a deeper conversion on the issue of the dignity of every human person and every living thing as well and not just on what we are against, there will be change in all of the above areas.