Protecting the least among us: The unborn
The March for Life, the annual gathering of pro-life activists, clergy and civic leaders, will take place in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. In our pro-life commitment, America is allied with the sentiments expressed in the statements by the Society of Jesus of the United States, “Standing for the Unborn,” which was published in America on May 26, 2003, and “Protecting the Least Among Us,” published on Jan. 18, 2018. As is our annual custom, we republish excerpts from these texts here as an expression of our solidarity with the women and men who will march this month in the nation’s capital.
As we Jesuits survey our culture, we cannot help but see abortion as part of the massive injustices in our society....Since the January 22, 1973, Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, more than 55 million American lives have been ended by abortion. Among all the justice issues we as a society should view with grave concern, abortion is a key social evil. We approach this topic as pastors, scholars, social activists, and educators. There is no part of our ministry that is untouched by the devastating consequences of abortion and there is, therefore, no environment in which we find ourselves that does not have some role to play in addressing this complex issue.
As we Jesuits survey our culture, we cannot help but see abortion as part of the massive injustices in our society.
Pope Francis writes, “No one must say they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas…. None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and social justice” (Evangelii Gaudium, 201). In the same way, the Society of Jesus today asks its members and collaborators to find ever new and creative ways to bring the protection of the unborn and solidarity with mothers in difficult situations into whatever mission they serve.
As we continue to engage on the topic of abortion, we wish to proceed in a way that rests on the following insights:
First, the foundation of the Catholic moral tradition is the dignity of the human person. The second key insight of Catholic moral life is that we are social beings and that solidarity matters. The social acceptance of abortion is a profound moral failure on both counts. It undermines the claim that every life is infused with God-given dignity, and it often pretends such decisions can be relegated to individual choice without having negative consequences on society as a whole. Sacred Scripture, the witness of early Christianity, Catholic social teaching, and the magisterium consistently teach that we cannot in good conscience ignore this tragedy.
Second, Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit history offer unique lenses through which to view the topic of abortion that should deepen our resolve to work in this area. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are motivated from beginning to end by the laboring presence of God in creation and redemption. We are invited to co-labor, not because we are perfect, but because we are loved, and in recognizing God’s love for us we cannot but act on it. Jesuits throughout history have lived out this insight to transform the world, and we are asked to do the same today.
Third, beyond the actual content of “what” we say in making a case against abortion, it is critical to pay attention to “how” our defense of the unborn takes place. As St. Paul reminds us, we must “speak the truth with love” (Ephesians 4:15). Success will not come through force of will; it will only come by changing hearts. Therefore, we must always keep watch over our own hearts and ensure they are filled with the love and hope needed for this holy work.
Our Jesuit brother and our Holy Father, Pope Francis, highlights our concern: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this” (Evangelii Gaudium, 213). May we always listen to the lives of the most vulnerable in our society and use our voice on their behalf.