Although it is seldom framed in these terms by those whose voices tend to be the loudest on both sides of the issue, the question of abortion is one which, maybe more than any other, is the meeting point for all seven of the key themes of Catholic Social Teaching as elaborated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Those who focus merely on the debate about when either life or personhood begins are missing the multifaceted truth, goodness, and beauty inherent in a Catholic vision of this most central of “beginning of life” issues.
For a clear summary of the seven themes highlighted by the bishops, one can review what is said at the USCCB website, and so there is no need to pedantically go through each of the seven areas in relation to the question of abortion. Certainly, it is easy to see that themes like “Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable,” and other similar themes are seamless aspects of the pro-life argument, but I want to focus on one theme where the link is not as obvious – but at least as important.
Pope Francis has spilled a considerable amount of ink on the topic of the environment. In Laudato Sí, the Holy Father’s second encyclical, a great emphasis is placed on what he calls “integral ecology” or an ecology that “clearly respects its human and social dimensions,” and “which does not exclude human beings.”
All too often the rhetoric of those who are concerned with the environment leads to a place where human beings, especially those who are yet to be either conceived or born, are seen as pollution. For many, the answer to the complex question of what is wrong with the environment can be spoken of in the most simple of terms: there are too many people.
The present Bishop of Rome, following his two most recent predecessors, frames the question of the environment within the context of the full range of Catholic Social Teaching themes, and thus places the question of the unborn within the same discussion. For Francis, the culture of relativism that has infected the West is a deadly force against both the earth and those in the womb. The same “use and throw away” logic that has brought such devastating results to our world “is the same relativistic logic which justifies…eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted.”
The seventh theme of Catholic Social Justice on the USCCB website is “Care for God’s Creation,” and in their recent document on abortion (“Protecting the Least Among Us”) the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States (whose president is our own former president, Fr. Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J.) picks up this theme when they state that, “Human beings are an integral part of this gift of Mother Earth, and the exploitation of one leads to the exploitation of the other.”
Both the Jesuits as a whole as well as their most famous living member can sometimes have their actions, words, and motives appropriated by those who are the enemies of the Lord, His Gospel, and His Church, but it would be difficult to twist the following quote from “Protecting the Least Among Us”:
“In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes “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 solve problems by eliminating a human life.”
Anyone who claims to be such a “progressive” and who argues that there is any justification in the destruction of life in the womb is anything but an advocate of true and integral ecology. And worse, is an enemy of the Good News proclaimed by Francis and his Jesuit brothers, and therefore an enemy of the Incarnate Logos of God, the One after Whom the Society of Jesus takes its name.