October 15, 2015

The Right to Life is NOT single issue politics. Life is a lens through which we view every issue

By Deacon Keith Fournier *

As we enter into the presidential campaign season in the United States of America, politically charged rhetoric is being used to confuse and confound Catholic Christian voters.  Nowhere is this clearer than in the efforts to call voters concerned about the Right to Life “single issue voters”. Sadly, some Catholic politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi, are leading the charge.

Congresswoman Pelosi rejects the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Natural Moral Law concerning the fundamental Right to Life. She has been repeatedly corrected by bishops. Yet, she persists in a flagrant disregard for the teaching of the Catholic Church. She also intentionally misleads people concerning the clear teaching of the Catholic Church.

Her infidelity to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church is harming collaboration with other Christians. I have been involved in building principled alliances with Christians of other communities for decades. I can attest to the confusion among many of our Christian friends.

They have respect for the Catholic Church, often because of its unchangeable teaching concerning the Right to Life. So, they simply do not understand how Nancy Pelosi and some other Catholic politicians can hold some of their political positions on matters concerning the protection of human life and still claim to be faithful Catholics.

It is imperative that Catholic Christians think and act properly concerning this foundational truth; all human persons are created in the Image of God. Because of that they have an inherent dignity - at every age and stage of their lives. This truth is what informs our respect for every human life whether that life is found in the first home of the womb, a wheelchair, a jail cell, a hospital room, a hospice, a senior center, a soup kitchen or on a refugee boat.

The Right to Life position is not about an issue at all. Nor are those who hold it “single issue voters”. The Pro-Life position is a worldview, a lens through which we should view every political, cultural, social and economic issue. It should inform every aspect of our participation in society, especially the exercise of our citizenship. As we approach this election season, it must also inform the way we vote.

The Right to Life is the foundation for every human right. The language often used in the political discussion surrounding legal abortion reveals an Orwellian newspeak which is polluting our public discourse. Phrases such as "abortion rights” should never be used and must be completely rejected. Abortions do not have rights, only human persons have rights.

Every procured abortion is the taking of innocent human life and is always and everywhere intrinsically immoral. Without the right to life there are no other rights and the infrastructure of rights is thrown into jeopardy. Human rights are goods of human persons. When there is no human person to exercise them, all the rhetoric extolling them is nothing but empty air and sloganeering. 

We must stand in solidarity with those who have no voice. In the Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis wrote that, “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care, with particular love and concern, are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.

“Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.

“Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual.

“Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or 'modernizations'. It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life." (Par. 213, 214)

The Pro-Life position is a solidarity position. The child in the womb is our neighbor. It is always and everywhere wrong to take the life of an innocent neighbor. When there is no recognition of a preeminent right to life, there quickly follows an erosion of the infrastructure of all human rights. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum; they are goods of the human person.

Our failure to recognize that our first neighbors in the womb have a right to be born and live a full life in our community undermines our claim to be a compassionate society. All the talk about compassion for the poor rings hollow when we fail to hear the cry of the ones whom Teresa of Calcutta rightly called the “poorest of the poor”.

We are responsible for one another. We are our brother and sister’s keeper. Created in the Image of God, men and women are called into relationship and are, by both grace and nature, social beings. We will never find the fullness of human freedom and flourishing outside of relationships, with God and with one another.

The child in the womb is our first neighbor. Medical science confirms what our conscience long told us. We now routinely operate upon him or her in the womb. We send 3D and 4D ultrasound photos of him or her as they grow in that first home of the whole human race. These children are members of our human family. It is always and everywhere wrong to kill an innocent neighbor.

The fundamental human right to life also helps to inform much in our criminal justice system. For example, in our criminal law, we prosecute someone who intentionally takes the life of a woman with child in a vehicular homicide for two criminal offenses. The irony is immediately obvious.

Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper and its implications. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right. No politician or political candidate who advocates for legalized abortion, or for euthanasia, passive or active, should ever receive the support of Catholic Christians.

Deacon Keith A. Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A member of the clergy, a Roman Catholic Deacon, he is also constitutional/ human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties. He has long been active at the intersection of faith, values and culture and currently serves as Special Counsel to Liberty Counsel. Deacon Fournier is also a Senior Contributing Writer for THE STREAM

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.