I’m back from Washington DC and once again I’m blown away by the March for Life. To witness hundreds of thousands of people all congregated in front of our nation’s capital in defense of the unborn. The spirit of joy and determination emanating from the protestors – especially by the uncountable youth present – moved me to reaffirm two simple truths long asserted by the church: first, that humanity is beautiful and, second, that life is precious. It is one thing to understand and intellectually accept these claims but quite another to have them resound in your heart. To see such an affirmation of the culture of life is refreshing.
However, while the witness to the culture of life made by the March for Life every year is wonderful the pro-life movement faces daily challenges. Unfortunately, not all of these challenges are exterior, either, and we must maintain the integrity of the pro-life movement. Many Americans who protest abortion and self-identify as pro-life have not been consistent in their values; these particular pro-lifers, including many of our “pro-life” politicians have taken a “fight abortion at all costs” attitude in the battle for the unborn and have thrown other, apparently accessory, life-issues like capital punishment, unjust war, and inhumane treatment of prisoners by the wayside. This has not gone unnoticed by our fellow Americans. The pro-choice movement has pointed out again and again the contradiction of calling ourselves “pro-life” and simultaneously supporting unjust wars like Iraq or needless executions and as a result many don’t take us seriously – and why should they? When people claim to be for life, but then arbitrarily choose to save unborn children but ignore the deaths of Iraqi citizens caused by a war proclaimed unjust by two popes how is that any different than saying human value is dependent upon the geographical difference of a few short inches between the womb and the outside world?
Many pro-lifers, including many Catholics, have told me that they will support a candidate who endorses torture, or unjust war or some other intrinsic evil based on the rationale that it is necessary to block Obama and defend unborn children. While Catholic moral teaching allows voters to tolerate a lesser evil in order to block a greater one is the state of our nation so dire that ending abortion is the only issue worthwhile of our defense? When, according to Catholic theology, a human life has infinite value can we really prioritize opposing one particular method of needless killing over all others? Just because we have the option to tolerate a lesser evil does not necessarily mean that we should. In Humanae vitae Bless John Paul II condemns promoting even the most admirable ends if the means are evil – no matter how grave the issue:
Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it
This message is reaffirmed in Veritatis splendor:
But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an “autonomous morality” ) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action . . . “teleologism”, as a method for discovering the moral norm, can thus be called — according to terminology and approaches imported from different currents of thought — “consequentialism” or“proportionalism”. The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the “greater good” or “lesser evil” actually possible in a particular situation.
The concept that we must fight abortion at all costs is erroneous. We need to ask ourselves: at what cost? At the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead in an unjust war? At the cost of countless other human rights violations? Abortion is the gravest evil our country has ever faced, but to support any politician or policy that would sacrifice the human dignity and lives of others in the name of combating abortion is to support a culture compromised. While we can distinguish between life-issues, they have one universal root: the real issue, which is our culture’s disregard for life. Abortion is a symptom, a devastating consequence of our twisted perception of humanity and only by defending every life-issue and having the courage to stand as an advocate for all of the weak, born and unborn, can we expect to effect change. In Evangelium vitae Blessed John Paul II affirms the need to be unconditional in our defense of human life and dignity and support a culture of life. Never did he suggest a need to fight abortion at all costs, but instead calls us to defend all life-issues:
This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.
Only by effecting change in our culture and instilling a respect for all life and the dignity of every human person can we hope to see an end to abortion. If we continue to undermine the culture of life and treat other lives as irrelevant in the light of the supreme evil of abortion then it could easily be another 52 million lives lost before we prevail. Instead, lets stand against all injustice wherever it may be found, find solidarity with our liberal counterparts and together bring an end to all violations of human life and dignity in America.