Giulio Grecchi, Tucson, Voice of the Poor, Western Region Representative reflects on the Vincentian Commiment to life and dignity of every person.
Giulio Grecchi underlines that we need to be involved with the political issues related to Catholic Social teaching, which defends and protects the life and dignity of every human person.
For the Church, there is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person. Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate that “The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics.” Then, he continues “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'” (no. 15).
The Church proposes a “consistent ethic of life”, coming from its scriptural tradition that all human beings, without any exception, are made in the image and likeness of God and that, without any exception, Jesus Christ died for all of us. Therefore, each human person is sacred from conception to natural death and the life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition.
As Catholics and Vincentians, we embrace and support the full body of Catholic Social teaching. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul focuses on addressing poverty and its root-causes, but we respect and admire other Catholic groups that work on other critical concerns, such as those seeking to protect the unborn by assisting pregnant women in difficulty, or those trying to end death penalty, torture and wars, or those dealing with other issues.
No one group can do everything. To be effective, Catholic social work had to become specialized, But, we are all part of the Body of Christ and we are all working in a common effort of building the “kingdom of God”.
While we fully embrace the teaching of the Church regarding the “consistent ethic of life”, we realize that there are Catholics and non-Catholics, who do not. Some look at the social teaching of the Church as a menu, from which they can pick what is more convenient, or what seems closer to their intellectual preferences. Also, many social and political groups claim exemptions from one or more of these principles, often for utilitarian purposes, or for political, or economic advantage. This is not the Vincentian way. Let’s be clear about that!
Personally, I like the metaphor of the “seamless garment”, used by late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, as a cloak of moral issues woven together as seamlessly as Jesus’ tunic, bringing unity to Catholic teaching and indicating that all of life is sacred, from womb to tomb. – Think of the unborn and the dying, the murderer on death row, the undocumented immigrant, the soldier in Afghanistan and the family in Iraq, the undernourished child and the pensioner who cannot afford a doctor. “When human life is considered ‘cheap’ or easily expendable in one area,” Bernardin said, “eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy.” Life is sacred!
Our responsibility, as Christians, is not to rip Christ’s garments apart, but to keep it whole.