Consistency and authenticity.

When I look at the new evangelization, and try to determine the most important things people want to see from the Catholic Church and people of faith in general, I keep coming back to consistency and authenticity.

When we share our love of Our Lord, Our Lady, and how the Gospels have changed our life, those engaged in conversation with us are going to be paying close attention to see if our beliefs are consistent and if we are authentic in those beliefs.

And young people specifically seem to be able to spot a lack of these two qualities from a mile away. As they look around the secular world and become disenchanted by a culture plagued by inconsistency and unauthentic individuals, groups, and movements, these young people are searching for something meaningful, something real, something that will change their lives.

I believe Catholicism is that treasure they’re looking for, but before I can effectively share that belief with others, I need to work hard on myself to ensure that I’m living an authentic life consistent with my beliefs. I need to make sure that the beliefs I have carry through all circumstances that may come up. Otherwise, my message will rightfully fall on deaf ears.

Love people, even when they’re acting unlovable. Help others and give to those in need, even when it causes discomfort or difficulty. And support the dignity of life throughout life, from standing up for the helpless unborn baby in its mother’s womb, to advocating for the elderly person classified as a burden by the world, to fighting for the person condemned for a crime considered by the world to be so heinous as to render the person unredeemable.

Or, as it is often tossed around in bumper sticker form, being “Pro-life from womb to tomb.”

In conversations about the Church’s pro-life beliefs, the lack of consistency is a topic that detractors often bring up.

“You say you’re pro-life, that you believe only God has the right to determine when a life should end, but you’re Church sees the death penalty as permissible. How does that make sense?”

While I became familiar with the typical Catholic response for this question (primarily noting the difference between an innocent human in its mother’s womb and a person found guilty of a crime and then sentenced to a punishment), I also leaned quite heavily on St. John Paul II’s teaching based in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae. It was summed up in the previous version of paragraph 2267: “Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’”

To those outside of the Church, however, it appeared that our pro-life beliefs were inconsistent and they could tell, based on my easily apparent discomfort with this inconsistency, that I wasn’t being authentic in defending the Church’s stance.

I’m quite hopeful, however, that the recent update to the Catechism made by Pope Francis will aid my conversations, as he has pushed our Church deeper into a consistent “pro-life for life” teaching.

Paragraph 2267 of the Catechism now reads: “Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

The Pope made headlines on August 2 when he announced the change, to a mostly positive response from both the secular and Catholic world. And while quite a bit of ink has been spilled on the news of the revision, not many have explored the way that this change helps the pro-life movement by ensuring the two aforementioned qualities needed to have a successful new evangelization: consistency and authenticity.

I can without a doubt say that this update to the Catechism, and maybe even more so the way this revision was covered in the popular media, will help my pro-life evangelization with those who don’t share the Church’s stance on protecting life. Not only because it ends the inevitable questions about the seeming lack of consistency in the Church’s pro-life message, but also because it allows me to give my witness in an authentic manner as a person who desperately wants to share the importance of the dignity of all people no matter their circumstances.


Tommy Tighe is a Catholic husband and father of five boys. You can find out more about him at CatholicHipster.com.

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