On the Sanctity of Life
One of the hallmarks of Old Catholicism is to meet the world where it presently is and to engage the world on matters of great concern to the community, but to do so lovingly and without causing division to the Body of Christ. Because of such, if there is any teaching concerning any moral issue, it must be looked at critically, with the underlying thought -- how to advance the Gospel considering the world's view on many social issues? While preaching the Gospel at times should be discomforting to some – never singling out who should be the ones uncomfortable – our efforts should lead to Christ who came so that we may have life, abundant life. January 22 has been declared Sanctity of Human Life Day, a day set aside to reflect on the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, the ruling that makes abortion a legal right. But sanctity for human life is broader than Roe v. Wade.
As a bishop of the Church, it is my duty to teach that the Church has always promoted the sanctity of life. After all, Jesus Christ came so that all may have life in abundance. "God sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him." (1 John 4:7-10). While Jesus did preach morality, look at what he considered to be moral – the healing of the sick, promoting economic justice, setting people free from religious oppression, serving our neighbors. He echoed the prophets whose writings were filled with the need to do justice by God’s People
The ancient thought of justice was to bring balance to the world. To promote the sanctity of human life – it is more than working toward the elimination of the practice of abortion. I have often said to my congregations: if our preaching to a woman who is considering an abortion results in her not having one, will the Church collectively or you personally, assist with the upbringing of that child if the mother cannot afford to do so? If the parents of the unborn child live in poverty, will the Christian work toward the alleviation of poverty, a state in life that can stifle human life? Given the violence we have seen reported on our televisions daily – mass shootings, etc., will we change our gun laws limiting who can buy them so that innocent persons are not killed, which also ends human life? Will we urge our elected officials to implement a just war doctrine so that war becomes the last option? Will we allow Muslim refugees to enter our country for humanitarian reasons, because their lives are in danger? What do we do about the trafficking of children for slave labor or for selling them into prostitution? What of the immigrants who come to our country and are exploited because they may not have the documents needed to be in this country? And how are we to help the terminally ill whose pain can only be cured when they are within the arms of God?
There are of course many other questions, and my questions are not meant to be more than just questions, at least not at first blush. But when we as Christians speak about the sanctify of human life, we must look at the whole, broad aspect of this question. Working to overturn Roe v. Wade may be a laudable effort for some, but if placed in the context of bringing balance to the world, how does one do justice if the child is born into a world that by no means sees the sanctity of life as paramount, given the present circumstances of the world we live in? We have to be more than pharisaic -- heaping rules and laws without real regard for the persons impacted by those rules and laws. We have to be the ones who are viewed as illogical – working to end the very things that keep God's people from living life to the fullest, as God intended. St. Hilary of Poitiers wrote in his sermon on the Trinity: "You have conferred on me this gift of speech, and it can yield no greater return than to be at your service." To be in service to God is to be at service to God's people. For us as Catholic Christians, to be at service to God's people is to help in establishing more fully the Kingdom of God. It is through the Kingdom of God that "God the Father gives life and keeps it in being." (St Athanasius, Discourse Against the Pagans). Working to expand the Kingdom of God, doing justice in this world, is preserving the sanctity of human life.