by Jason and Jessica Wilde
In a hypothetical situation, let’s say I asked a church full of Catholics if they were pro-life. What kinds of answers do you think I would get? I’m betting that an overwhelming majority would enthusiastically answer “Yes!”.
Ok, that’s an easy one. Now, what if I asked the same faithful what pro-life means to them? How many do you think would answer “Being anti-abortion.” with a satisfied look of a question fully answered? How would you answer?
What does it mean to be pro-life?
For most people, this is a single issue statement - one that has become the epitome of all pro-life arguments so much that no one really knows what pro-life really means anymore. To them, it only means fighting for a life that is unborn, and admonishing those who dare to take it.
This position is so ingrained in our society that every election guide I see refers to a candidate simply as ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’, referring to a mother’s ability to choose to have an abortion. Pro-life has become a synonym for ‘anti-abortion’, and while the latter is a condition for the former, it is not the whole story. This definition of pro-life is about as complete as someone who reads Genesis and claims they are Christian. Single-issue ‘pro-lifers’ are pro-choice, because they are choosing which lives are important, while ignoring all of the other teachings about the dignity and sacredness of life, from conception to natural death.
Does life end after the baby is born?
"Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (Catechism Catholic Church 2258)
Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is a cornerstone of the Catholic Church’s teachings, and it is one of the two most important commandments given to us by God. But who is our neighbor? Is it the baby growing in your womb? Is it your actual neighbor who is applying for their green card? Is it the illegal immigrant? Is it the homeless refugee searching for a community to call home? Or is it the orphan starving for love and nourishment?
Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker (Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 1983)
What are the other pro-life issues in the Church’s teachings? A good place to start is in Cathechism of the Catholic Church, under The Fifth Commandment (You shall not kill.) Here we have, broken down into 3 major categories, issues against human life, starting with respect for human life and the familiar ‘big life issues’ (murder, abortion, euthanasia, suicide). But most people stop reading after this point, failing to realize that we have completely forgotten about respect for the dignity of persons (scandal, health, scientific research, death penalty, terrorism, torture, respect for the dead) and peace keeping (anger, hatred, unjust war, genocide (this includes any specific group of people or nation), accumulation of arms, over-armament, injustice, envy, distrust, excess pride, excessive inequalities). Have we forgotten about all of these life issues? Aren’t they all related in a culture of life? It turns out that there is a connection between all three categories, and you can’t really have a pro-life culture unless you address all of these topics. We’ll get to this part later.
But first, I’d like to address some of the less commonly debated life issues.
Help the Immigrant: Both Legal and Illegal
Being pro-life means helping the immigrant, both legal and illegal. This is a very polarizing issue, but we must remember that one of the corporal works of mercy is to harbour the harbourless. And if you need further proof that this is indeed a Catholic issue, here is what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say about immigration:
It's the classic insurance salesman pitch. "Follow me and I'll make sure -this- never happens to you!"
Of course it makes sense - a good politician knows that FEAR is one of the basic innate emotions that generates the strongest response - summarized as "fight or flight" - and in many cases can be irrational or uncontrollable. In this way, an insurance agent is always able to increase their base immediately after a disaster, and a politician is able to change the mind of voters who would otherwise not pay attention or follow a competitor.
How does one use FEAR to gather followers? The most straightforward way of course is to promise that this will never happen again...which is highly unlikely and therefore only captures those who are irrationally afraid or anxious. The second, and more devious approach is to turn FEAR into a contrasting emotion - ANGER. "Of course, this only happened because so-and-so did this-and-that." It is easier to attack than defend, and so the one who attacks first will have the upper hand, and now you have the FEAR of your followers replaced with a healthy dose of ANGER to help you out. Once a leader has ANGER involved, it is a short hop to hatred and division (us vs. them) - and then your support to fight back.
Quoting my favorite fiction philosopher - "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
Now, none of this actually leads to a real solution - one in which we improve our situation and ensure the tragedy doesn't happen again. For this to happen, derivative emotions (feelings) must be invoked. Why? Because while emotions are a physiological response, one which we cannot control, feelings instead are the cognitive response to an emotion. Because they require you to think about your response, these typically produce more well thought out and intelligent results. And, they are harder to involuntarily invoke or manipulate.
Specifically those feelings which are tertiary to FEAR and ANGER - Remorse and Disapproval, followed by Love and Optimism, are those that we should be following in our response to a tragedy.
So I challenge you to ask yourself - has someone used your emotions to support their cause? Are you on the path to the dark side? Or have you been able to shut out the salesman and take the path of a Christian - one in which you feel remorse and disapproval, but are reassured in love and optimism - which leads to a solution in peace?
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.