The New Frontier
The Pontifical Academy for Human Life, an academic society dedicated to the promotion of a culture of life, was founded 25 years ago during the papacy of John Paul II. On the 25th anniversary of its creation, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the members of the Academy, reminding them of the Church's mission as a Christian community.
His letter begins with a reference to St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, which spells out God's vision for the human family: we are being built into one community with Christ Jesus as its cornerstone. All of our pro-life activity arises from this vision. We cannot focus narrowly on policy objectives, however worthy they may seem, or legislative victories and defeats, for our true purpose is to support human flourishing as members of a single human family. Our common origin must drive us to seek the common good in this life, in preparation for the life to come.
Pope Francis quotes his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who called us to reflect on the duties to which we are called by our commitment to building a worldwide Christian community: the protection of the rights of the whole human family. The pope emeritus encouraged us to remember that our responsibilities are not limited to protecting the lives of others, but that we must also work in support of those who face “lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care.”
In the United States at this time, opposition to abortion is strongly associated with one political party, while many other causes included in the US bishops' vision for comprehensive pro-life action (e.g., support for the rights of immigrants and refugees, death penalty alternatives, access to healthcare, action against climate change, and opposition to torture) are more strongly associated with another. In their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship the bishops acknowledge the difficulties of voting in a climate where committed Catholics may feel politically homeless.
Perhaps, though, feeling somewhat adrift in this life can remind us that our true home is elsewhere. In our obedient responses to trials and uncertainties, and in our willingness to lay down tribal allegiances, we are growing together to become a temple of the Lord, a fitting dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. “The strengthening of fraternity,” Pope Francis writes in his conclusion, “generated in the human family by the worship of God in spirit and truth, is the new frontier of Christianity.”
Image of St. Peter’s Basilica from Wikimedia Commons