Consistent Life Ethic Means Listening to Saints, Not Politicians

Consistent Life Ethic Means Listening to Saints, Not Politicians February 19, 2018

Charlie Camosy interviews Jessica Keating of the Office of Human Dignity and Life Initiatives in the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame:

The story of how you came to the pro-life movement is an interesting one. Can you share a bit of it?

I really stumbled into the pro-life movement. I received Confirmation after college and to be honest, I don’t think I could’ve articulated my reasons at the time. I was deeply compelled by the Church’s Catholic Social Teaching tradition, but at the time I only saw it as a strategy for political activism, and as embarrassing as it is to admit, I used it as a weapon to chide those I felt weren’t living up to its demands, even as I continued to defend a woman’s absolute right to elective abortion.

It wasn’t that I thought abortion was a good thing, but I really believed that a more just society required access to abortion. It really wasn’t until I encountered the writings of Dorothy Day that I saw someone in whom the Church’s sacramental life informed a way of living that involved concrete practices. For the first time, I think I understood that the Church’s social teaching isn’t really understood apart from a life of contemplation, prayer, and the sacraments. Dorothy Day was an uncompromising radical, she was a political lightning rod, she was flawed and vulnerable, she practiced the works of mercy.

I really believe that if we want to preserve the language of a consistent ethic of life, the first place we need to look is not to politicians, but to saints. Saints like Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Damien of Molokai, and Maximillian Kolbe because it’s in them that we see the infinitely particular ways that the Gospel of Life is lived throughout history, because theirs is a way of living that is attuned to that which is most deeply human. In a way, the saints are the ultimate realists because they see the world as it is.

They see themselves as they really are: Sinners who are loved and have experienced God’s mercy and love. They aren’t blinded by self-aggrandizing pride or utopian visions, and it’s precisely this realism that allows the saints to give themselves over in service to life.

Witness to the goodness and sanctity of life is not overtly or obviously political, but of course it is political! It takes up the particular stand that where the lives of the most vulnerable are concerned the greatest acts of tenderness are required.

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