God is Love
Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for
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On Christmas Day of 2005, Pope
Benedict XVI issued his first encyclical letter, “God is Love.” The letter
clarifies the Christian meaning of the word “love,” stressing that it is not a
mere sentiment, but rather has a content and a specific shape, found in Jesus
Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. Love, furthermore, constitutes a concrete
program of action on the part of the whole Church, and is as essential to the
Church as are the Word and Sacraments.
What implications does a
teaching like this encyclical have for the pro-life movement?
The encyclical implies that
the pro-life movement is at the heart of the response that the Christian and the
whole Church make to God himself. The Pope points out that “to say that we
love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor” (n. 16). The
pro-life movement is all about love for our neighbor in the womb. This love,
furthermore, is self-sacrificing. The encyclical notes, “Love now becomes
concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the
intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes
renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice” (n. 6).
In the best sense of the word,
every pregnancy is a “crisis pregnancy,” that is, a moment in which we must
choose to grow, with all the pain which that entails. The mother with child must
be “stretched” physically, psychologically, and spiritually. The encyclical
says, “Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also
pass through the path of renunciation” (n. 5). The child changes the mother
forever, and in giving herself to her child she finds her more mature self.
Our pro-life commitment is
also Eucharistic, because union with Christ means union with all our brothers
and sisters, including the unborn. The Pope states: “Union with Christ is
also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just
for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or
who will become, his own” (n. 14). Notice that the Pope refers to union not
only with “those who have become” the Lord’s, but with all “who will become
his own.” This includes the unborn, who share the same humanity that we and
The Pope also points out that
while their roles are distinct, the Church must work alongside the State in
bringing about a just society. The Church “cannot and must not remain on the
sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational
argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice,
which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper” (n. 28).
In short, “God is Love”
reinforces “The Gospel of Life,” because “the Gospel of God s love for man,
the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and
indivisible Gospel” (EV, n. 2).