Culture of Life
by Christopher Dodson,
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
October 2003

Pope John Paul II has repeatedly urged Catholics, and indeed all Christians and persons of good will, to build a culture of life. Being fallen humans, we often stumble in the process. Identifying the problems helps us refocus, learn from mistakes, and renew our efforts. This Respect Life Month, lets examine some of those stumbling blocks to building a culture of life.

* Acceptance and complacency. With over three decades since Roe v. Wade, some persons have become numb to the slaughter of the unborn.
* Stereotyping. Whenever we label all pro-lifers as “Christians, “conservatives,” or “right wing” and all pro-abortion righters as “pagans,” “liberals” or “leftists” we only contribute to the problem.
* Demanding inclusion. Similarly, whenever we insist that all pro-lifers be like us religiously, politically, or socially, we erect unnecessary barriers.
* Excessive focus on overturning Roe. Roe and its companion cases are a large part of the culture of death. However, merely overturning Roe will not bring about a culture of life any more than Brown v. Board of Education ended racism. Our call is create culture of life, not just a law of life – even if that is an important part. Moreover, our chances of overturning Roe are less likely until after culture has changed.
* Excessive concern for the political and elections. Electing public officials unequivocally committed to the culture of life is necessary, but our efforts cannot stop there. Politics alone cannot create a culture of life. Moreover, elected officials must be continually urged to promote the common good, and not just a single pro-life issue. The common good consists of those elements in society necessary for the protection and fostering of human life and dignity. Unless we promote the common good, there can be no culture of life.
* Party loyalty. If Dante was writing the Divine Comedy today, he would probably have a place in Hell or Purgatory – I will not presume to know which – reserved for public officials and voters that put party loyalty before the culture of life.
* Using the “seamless garment” as an excuse not to prioritize or do anything. The seamless garment concept was meant to illustrate the connected nature of a consistent ethic for life. Some, however, have used as a justification for ignoring a candidate’s pro-abortion position.
* Dismissing the “seamless garment.” Still others derisively reject elements of the seamless garment because of the actions of those who have used it as an excuse, or because they don’t agree with consistent life ethic.
* Using the pro-life movement for political purposes. An example of this is when an unnecessary bill is introduced solely for the purpose of getting a legislator’s vote or an organization’s position on record.
* Avoiding controversy. Too many Catholics do not want to challenge fellow parishioners, neighbors, friends, public officials, the news media, on life issues because it makes people uncomfortable. No one, however, really has a right to be comfortable in their opinions and actions. If someone furthers, knowingly or unknowingly, the culture of death, he or she should be challenged. The pro-life Catholic should keep in mind that the Gospel does not bring comfort in the usual sense. Living the Gospel will be uncomfortable. The comfort that comes from the Holy Spirit is a different kind comfort – one that will help us through the difficult challenge of building a culture of life.