On Jan. 19, Washington, D.C. and states throughout the nation will host the 44th annual March for Life. As in years past there will be great media coverage about this annual event when many thousands of Catholics will march to protest abortion.
Less attention is paid to other life issues, although every day of the year thousands of people throughout the country actively promote the consistent ethic of dignity and life rooted in the Gospel message to protect the lives of all vulnerable people.
Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has stressed that all life is a gift. In Evangelii Gaudium (53) he emphasizes how all issues involving human life are interdependent and that the commandment “thou shall not kill” applies to our culture’s “economy of exclusion” which leads to the death of human beings.
The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin who propagated the “seamless garment” or ethic of issues impacting human life said, “A consistent ethic does not say everyone in the Church must do all things, but it does say that as individuals and groups pursue one issue, whether it is opposing abortion or capital punishment, the way we oppose one threat should be related to support for a systemic vision of life.”
Today, Earth herself, which supports human life, is also under assault. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis invokes a comprehensive vision and language stemming from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin “seamless garment.” Francis speaks of an “integral ecology” which explores the interrelationships of human life, creation and social issues.
“How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” If we neglect any issue that deprives human beings of life our moral society will fall apart.
Our attitude toward the unborn is inseparable from our attitude toward the pregnant woman without health care, the migrant at the border who left the land of his or her birth rather than join in gang activity, the prisoner on death row, the victim of trafficking, the teenager whose life is cut short because of the ease of access to firearms, the hungry child, the communities living under bombs and in war, and all who are vulnerable.
They are all in actual danger of death. All these issues, in one way or another, are about the sanctity of human life. As people who protest against those who take the human life of an embryo, we also protest whatever is opposed to dignity and life at any age of development and for all times. We cannot remain complacent about anything that will diminish the life of any individual as it diminishes the life of us all.
In responding to the manner in which the president ended DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Pope Francis stated to reporters, “If he is a good pro-life believer, he must understand that family is the cradle of life and one must defend its unity.” Separating children from their parents “isn’t something that bears fruit for either the youngsters or their families.”
Any March for Life should be about more than abortion. The measure for being pro-life is not only attending the March for Life each year but what we do each day to systematically and consistently oppose anything that will destroy or diminish the life of any human being and the planet on which we all depend for survival.
Patrick Carolan is a Catholic activist, the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network (FAN), and author of the Franciscan Activist. Eli McCarthy is the director of justice and peace for the conference of Major Superiors of Men. Sister Maryann Mueller, CSSF is a FAN board member and coordinator of justice and peace for the Felician Sisters.