It seems that with every passing month, it is more apparent that there is a need in the public square for the expression of the values of our faith. Abortions — many performed with government subsidy — continue at a rate of 1.2 million per year in our country; the gap between rich and poor continues to increase with middle-class jobs disappearing at an alarming rate; $323 billion has been spent thus far on the war on terrorism; the number of Americans without health insurance nears the 50 million mark; universities such as Harvard have embarked on programs of paying women so their eggs may be harvested to use in human-cloning procedures; Princeton employs as a distinguished professor of its bioethics department a man who argues that human beings have no greater rights than animals based upon their membership in the human species; and immigrants, who are encouraged to enter the country by employers and consumers expecting quality goods and services at ever-lower prices, are identified as criminals. How do these realities square with our identity as Catholic Christians? What are we to do?
Jesus taught that we are to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as self. We are fortunate the teachings and traditions of our church give ample guidance for making these teachings a reality in the context of the social, economic and political realities of our day. Catholic social and moral teaching is light in a dark world. In a very real way, understanding and applying the consistent ethic of life as a measure of the representatives we elect, the media we accept, the businesses we patronize and the investments we make helps us to keep the light of Christ present in our world.
The consistent ethic of life insists that each human being is given the respect that he or she is due solely because of membership in the human family, from the moment of conception until natural death. Pursuit of peace, economic justice, criminal justice, encourages that every human being is treated with dignity between the time of birth and death. There is a tension that sometimes exists among advocates for each of the issues of the consistent ethic of life — a healthy tension when it achieves balance and solidarity and a destructive tension when advocates compete to declare the moral supremacy of a particular issue.
Our church teaches that there is an absolute right to life regardless if the human person is an unwanted embryo, an elderly human with advanced Alzheimer’s disease or a newborn with profound disabilities. When there is insistence that the dignity of every human being is fully recognized, public policies and corporate practices will accommodate the expectant family; the high health-care costs at the end of life; and the investment required to ensure a safe and sustainable environment. The sexual exploitation of women in media and reality will no longer be tolerated. Our soldiers will again be able to make clear judgments on what is required in the treatment of the person deemed enemy.
The teachings of our church are not narrow and restrictive but life-giving and appreciative of God’s abundant gifts. A foundational conviction of our faith is that the world and human life have meaning. Our American culture would lead us to believe that the only meaning of life is the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain by a majority of people. Our faith tells us, Jesus taught us, we can live lives that reflect God’s enduring love, secure that all of our needs can be met when we recognize Christ in one another.
Armantrout is diocesan life-issues coordinator.