Friday, January 25, 2008

Being a Faithful Catholic in America: Part II – A Consistent Life Ethic

[This is part II of a series I began here.]

In my last post I briefly discussed our universal call to holiness and the idea that all of us are called by our God to honestly try to become saints. This call to holiness and any desire we might have to answer that call should not stem merely from some command of an authoritative Church. Rather we should be motivated to strive for holiness by our love for our God. Jesus indicated this to us when he sums up the whole Old Testament with His two commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Mark 12:30-31)

This idea of loving the Other, be it God or neighbor, lies at the heart of all Catholic teachings on the political issues at hand. Be it abortion, embryonic stem cells, immigration, marriage, torture, war, etc., the Church’s understanding of these issues flow out of love. To help educate us on the universal implications of this love the Church teaches a consistent life ethic, which the U.S. Bishops describe in this way:

“Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, each person’s life and dignity must be respected, whether that person is an innocent unborn child in a mother’s womb, whether that person worked in the World Trade Center or a market in Baghdad, or even whether that person is a convicted criminal on death row. We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it protects and respects the life and dignity of the human person.” (USCCB, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, p. 13)

This means that in all that we do as individuals and in our institutions (families, businesses, communities, countries, etc.) we must always uphold and fight for the dignity of every human being involved. Jesus emphasizes the dignity of every person by associating all with him:

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matt 25:34-40)

Because we are all one body in Christ, because of our love for Christ, because of our universal call to holiness, we have the holy duty of upholding the dignity of all persons in all that we do. This makes things difficult for those of us who are trying to determine which candidate to vote for because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans uphold this consistent ethic of life. Stereotypically each party pushes their agenda on certain life issues, but both are also notoriously bad on other life issues. For example, one party claims to be pro-life but also pushes the death penalty and torture, while the other claims to stand for the poor while advocating pro-choice policies.

As we continue to investigate and consider the intrinsically evil acts which the bishops warn us about, we must strive to move beyond whatever preconceived notions we have developed after following the political leanings of our party of choice. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are living up to the call of holiness. Therefore, in educating ourselves about these issues we must move beyond these somewhat shallow political teachings and listen to the voice of Truth, Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church. Let us continue to keep in mind Jesus’ consistent ethic of life and examine our consciences and our thoughts.

Part III: Racism]

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