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The Consistent Ethic of Life


Life Issues Formation Program What is the consistent ethic of life? Theologian Kenneth Overberg, SJ explains it this way: A comprehensive ethical system that links ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Consistent Ethic of Life

The Consistent Ethic of Life
  • Life Issues Formation Program

What is the consistent ethic of life?
  • Theologian Kenneth Overberg, SJ explains it this
  • A comprehensive ethical system that links
    together many different issues by focusing
    attention on the basic value of life
  • It rules out contradictory moral positions on
    issues involving human life we cannot be
    against abortion but in favor of the death
    penalty, we cannot work against poverty but
    support euthanasia

What is the consistent ethic of life?
  • It is not sufficient to be pro-life on some
    issues we must be pro-life on all issues
  • If we are consistent, we must speak and act
    concerning abortion and euthanasia but also
    concerning welfare and immigration, sexism and
    racism, cloning and health-care reform, trade
    agreements and sweatshops, the buying and selling
    of women for prostitution, genocide and many
    other issues.

Formulation of a Consistent Ethic of Life
  • The idea of a consistent ethic of life was first
    articulated by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of
    Chicago in the 1980s.
  • Bernardin was serving as chair of the Pro-Life
    Committee of the United States Conference of
    Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Bernardin
  • Lets consider some highlights of Bernardins
    Gannon lecture at Fordham University
  • A Consistent Ethic of Life
  • An American-Catholic Dialogue

Cardinal Bernardin
  • At the time of this lecture, the US Bishops had
    recently issued the pastoral letter The Challenge
    of Peace Gods Promise and Our Response on war
    and nuclear weapons
  • In this pastoral letter the same ethical
    principle that underlies the wrongness of
    abortion -- namely, that the directly intended
    taking of innocent human life is wrong -- was
    applied to the case of war

Cardinal Bernardin
  • the connection drawn between Catholic teaching
    on war and Catholic teaching on abortion. Both,
    of course, must be seen in light of an attitude
    of respect for life. The more explicit
    connection is based on the principle which
    prohibits the directly intended taking of
    innocent human life. The principle is at the
    heart of Catholic teaching on abortion. the same
    principle yields the most stringent, binding, and
    radical conclusion of the pastoral letter that
    directly intended attacks on civilian centers are
    always wrong.

Cardinal Bernardin
  • The use of this principle exemplifies the
    meaning of a consistent ethic of life. The
    principle which structures both cases, war and
    abortion, needs to be upheld in both places. It
    cannot be successfully sustained on one count and
    simultaneously eroded in a similar situation.
  • The terminology seemless garment is used to
    express the idea that respecting life is an
    attitude that we must have across the board.
  • And Bernardin talked about yet other life issues
    in his lecture

Cardinal Bernardin
  • Asking these questions along the spectrum of
    life from womb to tomb creates the need for a
    consistent ethic of life. For the spectrum of
    life issues cuts across the issues of genetics,
    abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare and
    the care of the terminally ill.

Cardinal Bernardin
  • We US Bishops have also opposed the death
    penalty because we do not think its use
    cultivates an attitude of respect for life in
    society. The purpose of proposing a consistent
    ethic of life is to argue that success on any one
    of the issues threatening life requires a concern
    for the broader attitude in society about respect
    for human life.

Cardinal Bernardin
  • Bernardin also established a connection between
    the right to life and quality of life issues
  • If one contends, as we do, that the right of
    every fetus to be born should be protected by
    civil law and supported by civil consensus, then
    our moral, political and economic
    responsibilities do not stop at the moment of
    birth. Those who defend the right to life of the
    weakest among us must be equally visible in
    support of the quality of life of the powerless
    among us the old and the young, the hungry and
    the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the
    unemployed worker. Such a quality of life
    posture translates

Cardinal Bernardin
  • into specific political and economic positions on
    tax policy, employment generation, welfare
    policy, nutrition and feeding programs, and
    health care. Consistency means that we cannot
    have it both ways. We cannot urge a
    compassionate society and vigorous public policy
    to protect the rights of the unborn and then
    argue that compassion and significant public
    programs on behalf of the needy undermine the
    moral fiber of the society or are beyond the
    proper scope of governmental responsibility.

Beyond Cardinal Bernardin
  • A consistent ethic of life is not limited to
    Cardinal Bernardin.
  • It has been endorsed by the bishops of the United

US Bishops on a Consistent Ethic of Life
  • Adopting a consistent ethic of life, the
    Catholic Church promotes a broad spectrum of
    issues seeking to protect human life and promote
    human dignity from the inception of life to its
    final moment. Opposition to abortion and
    euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those
    who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice.
    Any politics of human life must work to resist
    the violence of war and the scandal of capital
    punishment. Any politics of human dignity must
    seriously address issues of racism, poverty,
    hunger, employment, education, housing and health
    care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly
    involve themselves as advocates for the weak and
    marginalized in all these areas. Living the
    Gospel of Life A Challenge to American Catholics
    A Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the
    United States, no. 23.

Beyond Cardinal Bernardin
  • A consistent ethic of life has also been adopted
    internationally, by the Catholic Bishops of New
    Zealand (see readings)

Bishops of New Zealand
  • Note the range of issues included in their
    statement on a consistent ethic of life
  • Protection of the environment
  • Discrimination
  • Poverty (the number one killer in the world!)
  • The arms race
  • War as a means of settling disputes
  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Death penalty

John Paul II and Evangelium Vitae
  • While Evangelium Vitae does not use the phrase
    consistent ethic of life, the content of the
    encyclical affirms it.
  • ---theologian Kenneth Overberg, SJ

Evangelium Vitae
  • Although extended attention is given to abortion
    and euthanasia, a wide spectrum of life issues
    are also mentioned.
  • Other threats are the result of situations of
    violence, hatred and conflicting interests, which
    lead people to attack others through murder, war,
    slaughter, and genocide. (no. 10)

Evangelium Vitae
  • And how can we fail to consider the violence
    against life done to millions of human beings,
    especially children, who are forced into poverty,
    malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust
    distribution of resources between peoples and
    between social classes? And what of the violence
    inherent not only in wars as such but in the
    scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many
    armed conflicts which stain our world with blood?
    What of the spreading of death caused by
    reckless tampering with the worlds ecological
    balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by
    the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity
    whichinvolve grave risks to life? It is
    impossible to catalogue completely the vast array
    of threats to human life, so many are the forms,
    whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear
    today! (no. 10)

Evangelium Vitae
  • Also discussed are
  • Assisted reproductive technologies which involve
    the death/destruction of embryos
  • Experimentation on embryos
  • Contraception and sterilization as responses to
    expanding populations
  • Death penalty

The bottom line
  • To recognize the broad scope
  • of the Churchs concern with
  • life issues.

Our Project
  • Through the remainder of this course we will
    study various issues which form part of the
    Churchs consistent ethic of life.

  • Pictures in this power point were obtained from
    the following sources
  • Cardinal Bernardin
  • USCCB logo
  • New Zealand Bishops Conference
  • John Paul II