During a recent Vatican conference centered on the challenges women face throughout the world, Pope Francis used the words of Pope Benedict to affirm the link between the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and those regarding social ethics.
The international conference, titled “Women and the Post-2015 Development Agenda – the Challenges of Sustainable Development Goals,” took place in Rome May 22-24.
As Vatican Radio reported, the forum was sponsored by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, and the World Women’s Alliance for Life and Family, and saw 100 delegates from around the world take part in discussions related to the 17 objectives proposed by the United Nations for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace said the new goals that will be approved in September will have a great impact on women in terms of their social roles. He added that the voices of Catholic women must be heard prior to the UN’s adoption of the goals.
“Many women and men wish to contribute to this Agenda, as they work to defend and promote life, and to combat the poverty, the forms of enslavement and the many injustices which women of all ages, and throughout the world, too often experience,” the Pope affirmed, according to the Vatican press office.
Pope Francis explained that women face many challenges in some parts of the world, including workplace discrimination, violence in relationships, death in childbirth, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.
“At times they are even denied the right to life simply for being female,” he added.
Pope Francis continued:
Issues relating to life are intrinsically connected to social questions. When we defend the right to life, we do so in order that each life – from conception to its natural end – may be a dignified life, one free from the scourge of hunger and poverty, of violence and persecution. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, highlighted how the Church “forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that 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).
In her address to the conference, Olimpia Tarsia of the World Women’s Alliance for Life and Family expressed sadness that major issues such as the defense of marriage between one man and one woman and the protection of life from conception to natural death have not been included in the 17 objectives proposed by the UN for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of pro-life organization Priests for Life, told Breitbart News of the importance of the Pope’s affirmation of the link between the Church’s pro-life and social teachings.
“The link between pro-life and social justice is like the link between the stars and stripes on the flag: it is intrinsic,” Pavone said. “The Church has recognized this link in many ways, most notably in Pope Saint John Paul’s encyclical The Gospel of Life, in the Compendium of the Social Teachings of the Church, and in the document Pope Francis quoted from, that is, Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate.”
“Showing this link actually strengthens the Church’s pro-life teaching, and this is a pattern of Pope Francis’ teaching, namely, to link the pro-life teachings to the broader and deeper foundations of the Gospel and Church teaching,” he continued. “That teaching not only declares that there is a link between pro-life and social justice, but specifies how they are linked: the right to life is precisely the heart and foundation of social justice.”
Pavone explained that Pope Saint John Paul II often emphasized what he wrote in Christifideles Laici (1988):
Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination (n. 38).
However, those Catholics who are true to the pro-life teachings of the Church that condemn abortion and encourage adoption often find they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum from others who minimize those issues, preferring to focus instead on the Church’s social justice teachings.
“The link [between the pro-life and social teachings] is not a problem for the pro-life movement or the Church,” said Pavone. “It proves more of a problem for ‘social justice liberals’ both in the Church and the political realm. There are too many voices who forget the children in the womb as they advocate for social justice, nonviolence, and equality.”
Asked if Pope Francis’ statement affirming the link between the two Church teachings is another that could be manipulated by the Left, Pavone responded, “Indeed, the words of Pope Francis can and will be twisted by some of those same people to try to downplay the abortion issue, but his words actually challenge them in the other direction.”
“If justice and equality mean anything, then they apply to everyone, including ‘unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us’ (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 213),” he said.