Efforts to combat social injustice cannot forget that the right to life is foundational, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said at a Hispanic pro-life gathering last week.
Pro-life questions are not just one issue among many, the archbishop said, criticizing the effects of a “seamless garment” approach advocated by some Catholics, or what is sometimes called “a consistent ethic of life.” These views mislead people in practice, he said, and result in “a mistaken idea that all issues are morally equivalent.”
“So in everything we need to be clear that the root violence in our society is the violence against those who are not yet born and those who are at the end of their lives,” the archbishop said.
“If the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of — then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone’s human rights.”
Archbishop Gomez spoke Jan. 30 at the Hispanic Pro-Life Congress at a Catholic high school in Santa Ana, Calif.
“The fundamental injustice in our society is the killing of innocent unborn life through abortion and the killing of the sick and defenseless through euthanasia and assisted suicide,” he said.
“Abortion and euthanasia raise basic questions of human rights and social justice in our society. Questions of what kind of society we are and what kind of people we want to be.”
The archbishop recognized many problems in society.
“Never before has there been so much talk about human freedom and dignity and self-realization. And yet we find ourselves more and more indifferent to the cruelty and injustice that we see all around us,” he lamented.
These injustices include “grave crimes against human life” like widespread abortion, human embryo experimentation, and “the ‘quiet’ euthanasia of the old and sick.”
These also include racial discrimination, unemployment and homelessness, and environmental pollution. The archbishop noted the problems of violence, drugs, “scandalous” prison conditions, the death penalty, and deportations and injustices in the immigration system.
“I am not trying to say that all of these issues are ‘equal.’ They are not. And we always need to be clear about that,” he said.
However, while not all equal, the issues are all important, he continued. “In the face of the suffering and human need in the world, we cannot compartmentalize our compassion or draw lines between those we will care about and those we will not.”
The archbishop said the pro-life movement’s vision is “spiritual, not political.” This means it does not make sense for pro-life efforts to be separate from social justice efforts.
“The cause of life is greater than the limitations of our political categories. We want a new culture, not a new political coalition.”
For Archbishop Gomez, the pro-life movement’s future is in culture, not politics.
“If we really believed that God is our Father and that every person is a child of God made in his image — the world could be changed overnight,” he said. “God is our Father and he sees only his children. And when one of God’s children is suffering or in danger, he calls the rest of us to love and compassion.”
The archbishop advocated work towards “a new Christian humanism, a new vision of society and human destiny that is rooted in the Gospel.”
“The Gospel of Life is the core of God’s beautiful plan of love for creation and for every human life that he revealed in Jesus Christ.”
He cited the words of Pope Francis as a summary: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”
“In Jesus, God has shown his own face as a human person — a person who began his human life in the womb and grew up in a loving family,” the archbishop continued. “Jesus taught us the truth that every human life has precious value and meaning in God’s creation.”
“From Jesus, we learn that life begins long before we are born. Every life begins as a thought of love in the mind of God. So every life is precious and every life is sacred — the child in a mother’s womb, the person who has disabilities, the one who is old or sick, the homeless, the prisoner, the immigrant and refugee.”
This view has consequences for our actions, the archbishop told the pro-life gathering.
“To drive that point home, Jesus told us that we will be judged by the love we show to those who most challenge our comfort and way of life — the homeless, the immigrant, the sick, the prisoner.”
Archbishop Gomez said the pro-life movement is not a protest movement. Rather, its message affirms life.
“We don’t to dwell on the ugliness and violence of the culture of death, we want to hold up the beauty and peace of the Kingdom of life,” he said.
“That means we need to build friendships and be in dialogue with those who disagree with us. We can’t negotiate about good and evil. That’s not what I mean about dialogue. But we do need to work with and to talk to people who may not share our full vision of a culture of life — or at least people who don’t share our vision yet.”
He encouraged optimism that truth, lived with joy, will lead to conversions and new ways of thinking.
He stressed the need to fulfill a “mission of mercy” and to build “a community of conscience.”
“We need to reach out in love to the woman who is pregnant and who is feeling lost and alone. To the refugee and the immigrant; to the prisoner, the homeless, the sick and the disabled. To the elderly and those who suffering and crying for help,” he continued.
“Wherever dignity is denied, wherever people are in slavery — that’s where we need to be as a Catholic community, and as believers in Jesus Christ.”