Every human life is equally sacred and inviolable, including that of unborn children, Pope Francis said in a lengthy text released in the Vatican Monday.
“Our defense of the innocent unborn,” Francis said in his new apostolic exhortation on holiness, titled Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), “needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development.”
Nonetheless, a passionate commitment to the pro-life cause doesn’t mean that other issues are lacking in value, the pontiff said, urging people to engage in causes where they feel called to make a difference and not to criticize others who pursue other worthy issues.
It is a “harmful ideological error” to question the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist, he said.
All human lives matter and are equally sacred, he said, including “the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable, infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”
“We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty,” he said.
In previous addresses, the pope has often denounced abortion, calling it a “scourge” and an “attack on life.”
“The degree of progress of a civilization is measured by its ability to protect life, especially in its most fragile stages,” he said to the Science and Life Association in 2015, while insisting that “a just society recognizes the primacy of the right to life from conception to natural death.”
In this regard, the pope’s words fall in line with consistent Church teaching on the topic.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes abortion as an “abominable crime” and prescribes the penalty of excommunication to those who engage in this “crime against human life.”
In writing on the subject, Saint John Paul II noted that “among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.”
“The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved,” he said. “The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.”
The unborn child “is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb,” he added. “And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.”
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