Should We Focus Just on Abortion?

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  11/7/2005
 

The Church is one body with many parts. The eye is not the hand, and those who focus on establishing soup kitchens are not the same as those who save babies at abortion mills. Each individual and group has a specific vocation and has a right (indeed, a duty) to focus on it.

So why belabor the obvious?

Because for some, it’s not so obvious. Many of us who focus on abortion are told that we can’t give a pro-life talk unless we mention all the life issues, or can’t hold a pro-life event if it’s going to focus just on abortion.

Excuse me, but why not?

Obviously, there are many life issues, and we are all called to see the connection between them. But seeing that connection, we are still free to focus. To have an event or preach a homily today on abortion means we also have the freedom to have an event or preach a homily next week that focuses on world peace.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin is often invoked for his firm articulation of the consistent ethic of life. Yet he, too, made it clear that it is perfectly legitimate to focus on a particular issue. On one occasion he asked, "Does this mean that everyone must do everything? No! There are limits of time energy and competency. There is a shape to every individual vocation. People must specialize, groups must focus their energies. The consistent ethic does not deny this. But it does say something to the Church: It calls us to a wider witness to life than we sometimes manifest in our separate activities" (Address at Seattle University, March 2, 1986).

When the US Bishops write about the consistent ethic of life, they say the following:

“Among important issues involving the dignity of human life with which the Church is concerned, abortion necessarily plays a central role. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, no. 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice.

”This focus and the Church's commitment to a consistent ethic of life complement one another. A consistent ethic of life, which explains the Church's teaching at the level of moral principle—far from diminishing concern for abortion and euthanasia or equating all issues touching on the dignity of human life—recognizes instead the distinctive character of each issue while giving each its proper place within a coherent moral vision”  (USCCB, Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, 2001).

We are all called to be concerned about every life issue, and to say so. But it is the Church as a Body that is called to carry out the many works of justice, with each part of the body doing its appointed task rather than being made to feel it must do the task of everyone else.