I have eight children. *(I know, right?)
I regularly devote my attention to them one at a time, but it would be incorrect to say that in giving my oldest attention, I do not love my youngest with the same degree of love. I must, however, also make sure that I balance my time and give to each of my children the affection they need from me. My attention to one does not signify anything other than my love for that child, but as a father, I must show love to them all.
Similarly, as a Catholic, I believe that all human life is created in the image of God, and thereby imbued with dignity. When I focus my attention on the injustice directed toward the immigrant, I am not taking away from the dignity of the unborn. When I focus on the dignity of the unborn, I am not denying the injustice of the death penalty as it is implemented in the U.S. Each of these issues deserves moments of focused attention.
Today is the National March for Life. Much good can be said for giving public witness to the dignity of the unborn and calling for an end to abortion. When I worked for the Diocese of Tulsa as the director of the Respect Life office, I organized several yearly events to draw attention to the issue of abortion – highlighting the dignity of the unborn. And yet, we must be careful to fully embrace the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person, in all its iterations. This doesn’t mean we have to highlight every issue at every event, but it is inconsistent to visibly support the dignity of the unborn while denying the dignity of the immigrant, the poor, and the prisoner.
Thankfully, we are seeing a renewed interest in the whole life approach.
This was recently highlighted in a CRUXnow article:
In the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, Matt Cato has been the director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for eight years. He described all of his efforts as working for social justice.
Soon after he started in the position, Cato learned about the long-simmering divide, which he said he never realized existed. Prior to joining the archdiocese, he and his wife headed their parish social justice ministry and for years they melded respect life concerns with justice and peace work.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t occasionally get pushback from one side or the other. He writes a monthly column on social concerns for the archdiocese. He described how one month he’ll be praised for a position he espoused by some readers and then criticized the next by the same readers on another issue. He said he makes clear to the critics that the stances taken come directly from Catholic social teaching.
“It’s just Catholic. It’s just the way it is,” he told CNS. “I’m hoping more and more people understand this.”
The consistent life ethic is the focus of the Pittsburgh-based Rehumanize International. Executive Director Aimee Murphy, who is Catholic, helped found the organization after graduating from college in 2011 to fill a “niche” and address the many human actions that destroy human dignity.
“Our number one passion is violence against humans,” said Murphy, who was a leader in the pro-life group at her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University.
“We wanted an organization that could address not only the life of a child in the womb but also the life of the child behind enemy lines or the life of an inmate in prison or the life of a refugee, the life of any human being in any circumstance,” she explained.
While Rehumanize International is nonpartisan and nonsecular, Murphy acknowledged that its work is strongly influenced by Catholic social teaching and that those values also are shared by many other faiths. In the broadest sense, she said, the work focuses on human rights.
“Among young people, this human rights paradigm is catching on,” Murphy said.
The organization has developed educational material on unjust wars and military conflicts, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, human trafficking, poverty, sexual assault, embryonic stem-cell research, capital punishment and torture. There’s even the current “Nukes Are Not Pro-Life” campaign.