The Chicago Catholic Campaign for Human Development (Chicago CCHD)’s 2010 Justice Day held on October 2 focused on Pope Benedict XVI encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Having been asked to lead a discussion on it, I once again endeavored to read it. My efforts were rewarded, because the Pope’s letter discusses the very heart of what I have been writing about in this series: the Right to Life is the foundation of and the thread that unites all other issues.
Respect For Life Is the Foundation
Referring to Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae, two encyclicals dealing directly with the issue of abortion, Benedict XVI quotes Evangelium Vitae in his letter:
The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.” (Section 15)
True respect for life in our actions–and in the actions of those we vote for–is the key to a strong society and world.
The pope also writes that “respect for life…cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples” (Section 28). This is because “openness to life is at the centre of true development.” It is the link that connects these issues together.
When we lose sensitivity toward accepting new life, other forms of acceptance wither away–such as love of those with disabilities, acceptance of the poor and the immigrant, and tolerance for those with different opinions.
By rejecting unborn children, these politicians are, inadvertently, hardening their hearts on other issues they claim to hold dear. They are making it harder for themselves to show true empathy and compassion for anyone by rejecting the smallest of God’s family.
Human Ecology Linked to Environmental Ecology
The pope very wisely observes the link between respect for human life and respect for the environment:
If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. (Section 51)
In other words, if we do not teach people to respect themselves, how can we expect them to respect plants? Yet this is precisely what pro-abortion environmentalists urge us to do. The pope makes it clear that this is impossible and backwards.
The Significance of Family
Pope Benedict also stresses the importance of traditional families, noting that,
It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society. (Section 44)
To protect our society and even our economy, we must promote traditional families of one mother, one father, and as many children as God blesses them with.
Use Your Vote to Show Respect for Life
Although the pope’s encyclical is not meant to be a political document showing Americans how to vote in elections, it gives us wise insights into how we should consider policies. Policies that deny the right to life but claim to help the environment, economy, or family are putting the cart before the horse. We must teach people to respect life, and the rest will begin to improve itself.