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Consistent Ethic Continues to be Misunderstood

Priests for Life strongly promotes the Consistent Ethic of Life properly understood. This website contains abundant information about what that proper understanding is, including speeches of the late Cardinal Bernardin, in which he corrects abuses and misunderstandings of the teaching. We also provide the full text of various documents of the US bishops and the Vatican, in which they clarify both the consistency of our ethic of life, and the urgent priority of the abortion tragedy.

The following is an excerpt of a letter to the editor that appeared in Lay Witness, the magazine of Catholics United for the Faith. It was in response to an article I had previously written for them. I appreciate the editor's clarification, which answers the writer's misunderstanding.

-Fr. Frank


December 2000

The Gospel of Life

Dear Editor,

Fr. Pavone's article (September '00 Lay Witness) extolling Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's "consistent ethic of life" (a new catch phrase for his "seamless garment") disturbed me. We must end abortion, and also pray for the virtues of purity and chastity and foster good morals. But a state has the right to impose the death penalty and, yes, we should pray for the conversion of souls of people receiving such a punishment. Let's also pray for the repose of the soul of Bernardin and stop publishing articles pushing his agendas that have caused so much damage in so many dioceses….

-Claire Stephan

Williamsburg, VA

The "consistent ethic of life, " as Fr. Pavone noted in his article, is a "critically important but widely misunderstood teaching. " Fr. Pavone provided important clarification in this area, showing the interrelatedness of life issues while unequivocally affirming the priority and gravity of abortion and euthanasia among the various issues. He notes that this is the mind of the United States episcopate. This also is the mind of the Holy Father who, in his wonderful encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), not only condemned abortion and euthanasia, but also provided a framework for addressing all life issues rooted in the God-given value and dignity of every human person. The entire encyclical speaks to that point. Here is just one representative excerpt:

"It is therefore a service of love which we are all committed to ensure to our neighbor, that his or her life may be always defended and promoted, especially when it is weak or threatened. It is not only a personal but a social concern which we must all foster: a concern to make unconditional respect for human life the foundation of a renewed society.

"We are asked to love and honor the life of every man and woman and to work with perseverance and courage so that our time, marked by all too many signs of death, may at last witness the establishment of a new culture of life, the fruit of the culture of truth and of love" (no. 77).

For the Church's teaching on particular life issues, call CUF toll free at (800) MY-FAITH (693-2484), or visit our website at 


Priests for Life
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