Catholics and Elections

A leading Vatican official, in a recent interview, warned against using the Catholic Church’s pro-life teaching as a political weapon in the upcoming U.S. elections. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, in an interview with the online news site, Crux, gave the warning in the context of preparing for a virtual meeting of the Pan-American Network for Life and the Right to Life of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference. Archbishop Paglia’s credentials in regard to the Church’s social discourse on pro-life issues are significant. He serves as the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the chancellor of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

The interviewer quotes him as looking beyond politics in the common human struggle to protect and promote life:

“’Today we are all called to discover a new alliance that goes beyond politics,’ he said, describing it as an alliance in which ‘all believers and all men and women of goodwill commit to saving all the lives of all the people who live in this one common home.’”

Safet Zec, Boat Polyptych, 2015-2017, part of a series of panels, at the Jesuit Caravita parish in Rome, displayed collectively as Exodus. The urgency of promoting and protecting life challenges every age, perhaps ours more than others, given our knowledge and capacity to help others.

In warning against the politicization of the Church’s pro-life teachings, the Archbishop emphasized the harm done: “It would do great harm… if some topic of bioethics is extracted from its general context and put toward ideological strategies. It would do great harm” [1]. It is to that general context that the remainder of this blog turns. What does pro-life mean for Catholics in the U.S.A. today? It is easy to see from the subsequent bouquet of doctrinal flowers that there is no exact alignment between any political party and Catholic social teachings. So, rather than Catholic contend against Catholic over the upcoming elections, let the faithful deepen their dialogue with the rest of their fellow Americans over the protection and promotion of life in all its arenas. Strength for the dialogue perhaps could come from meditating on each of the following pro-life teachings.

  • Black Lives Matter because of the dangers they face from endemic violent racism towards people of color: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life” (Pope Francis, General Audience, June 3, 2020).
Safet Zec, Boat Polyptych. detail
  • The human body is sacred and its powers of generation and conception are meant to be used for familial purposes. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2333-2335.)
  • There are no conditions that allow the execution of criminals, no matter how heinous their crimes. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2267; and Saint John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, encyclical, March 25, 1995, #56.)
  • Embryos must be defended in their integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2274.)
  • Protecting the environment protects the future of humanity. It also protects the poor who are most adversely affected by environmental degradation. (See Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, encyclical, May 24, 2015, #25, 49, 91.)
Safet Zec, Alan on the Beach of Bodrum. A common pro-life cause is the care we take of nascent life.
  • Development, proliferation, and the use of weapons of mass destruction are crimes against God and humanity. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2314.)
  • Restoring everyone “excluded” (refugees, homeless) is the work of integral ecology. (See Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, #139.)
Safet Zec, Boat Polyptych.
  • Everyone is entitled to an equitable chance at land, housing, and work of their own. (See Pope Francis, “Address to Participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements,” October 24, 2014.)
  • Wearing masks is our moral duty towards others: “What each of us do always impacts others…if we put on masks, we put them on not just to defend our lives, but also to defend others” (See Archbishop Paglia’s interview.)
Safet Zec, Bread. “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31).

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[1] Vincenzo Paglia, interview with Elise Ann Allen, https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2020/08/vatican-official-says-life-should-never-be-used-as-a-political-weapon/

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Photo credits: Brother Charles and Ciclo pittorico di Safet Zec: Exodus (Ferrara: 2019)

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