A Moral Challenge for Pope Francis

By Ray McGovern

Pope Francis could use his visit to the U.S. this week to make unmistakably clear that the Catholic Church’s teaching on the “sanctity of life” applies to more than just the first nine months of gestation.

If he does so, he would face formidable opposition. The bishops appointed by Francis’s two predecessors had to swear allegiance to anti-abortion principles while showing less commitment to saving lives from war. The phalanx of right-wing bishops that Francis inherited were eager to be used, twice, to help elect President George W. Bush because he said he opposed abortion.

These bishops then aped the silence of the German bishops who could not find their voice when Adolf Hitler began what the post-war Nuremberg Tribunal defined as a “war of aggression.” Bush’s unprovoked attack on Iraq fit that definition to a T — complete with what Nuremberg called the “accumulated evil” that inevitably results from such a war. Think lies, racism, kidnapping, secret prisons, torture, millions of refugees.

One can only hope that someone has told Francis that he would not have to start at Square One to rescue “the sanctity of life” from those who would confine it to abortion. The Pope needs no jackhammer to break through abortion-hardened concrete. Readily available are the writings of the justice-oriented Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, whose most important contribution before he succumbed to cancer in 1996 was a simple formula he proposed — the “seamless garment” — to link the Church’s “consistent ethic of life” to a whole range of moral and social issues.

Bernadin raised consciousness about the sanctity and reverence due all human life from conception to death. “The more one embraces this concept, the more sensitive one becomes to the value of human life itself at all stages,” wrote…

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