On Oct. 21, Clare Hernández published an article entitled “Pro-Life, or Anti-Abortion?” in The University News which posed some excellent arguments about political terminology and pro-life values in Catholic discourse. While Hernández rightly pointed out that Catholic teaching has consistently upheld the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, she argued that, in the U.S., the focus of the pro-life movement must remain on abortion and euthanasia.
When Hernandez concluded her article, she said that “it is ludicrous to me to say that something such as ‘climate justice’ can be discussed with the same gravity as abortion. One is political, the other is immoral.”
It is alarming to me that, despite a massive body of evidence and consensus among the scientific community, issues like climate justice and health care are bureaucratized in the U.S. rather than resolved.
As a practicing Catholic who spent the entirety of my middle and high school years involved in pro-life action groups, attending and even speaking at marches for life, I am not unfamiliar with the horror that is abortion.
On my first Washington D.C. March for Life, I started the trip internally lost and questioning the value of my own life and left a joyful Catholic who has never looked back. Why do I share this? Only to stress that I recognize the genuine value and incredible graces present in the American pro-life movement.
Alongside my avid support for both beginning and end of life issues, I believe that I have a moral obligation to uphold the dignity of every aspect of human life. The entire point of studying the liberal arts is to understand the human person holistically in order to live a virtuous life. The beginning and end of life, while arguably the most significant and vulnerable stages, are a small fraction of one’s time spent on earth.
One pro-abortion argument often brought up involves the quality of life of the child of a poor, abusive or negligent parent; this issue can be rebutted with the witness of abortion survivors and children whose mothers chose life. When a pregnant woman considers the corruption, suffering and brokenness in the world, she may be conflicted about bringing a child into it.
When the possibility of dependable, long-term healthcare for her child and herself is non-existent, is it any wonder that women in financially compromised positions would choose not to carry to term?
While I hope that abortion is ended as soon as possible, I also hope that society prioritizes care for those in most need of support. Catholic Social Teaching promotes a preferential option for the poor, but the privileged are the ones with health care in this country.
Hernández placed the term climate justice in quotation marks, perhaps to call into question its importance or validity. Considering that Pope Francis wrote an entire encyclical written on this topic (Laudato Si’) and that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that “integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man’s relationship with the natural environment,” it seems apparent that Catholics should concern themselves with environmental issues.
The term climate justice itself refers to a growing body of evidence that underprivileged populations throughout the world suffer the effects of pollution, climate change and resource extraction disproportionately to privileged populations. This phenomenon has been documented by sociologists, environmental lawyers and scientists.
Research has found that “in the US economic privilege and power not only insulate the wealthy from the worst effects of ecological degradation but also confer additional protection under the law,” according to the book “Just Sustainabilities.”
Climate justice is focused on preventing the overconsumption of non-renewable resources like coal and oil and irresponsible disposal of hazardous waste. The Church condemns consumerism because it undeniably damages the privileged and the poor alike by corrupting our relationship with the earth’s shared resources.
Perhaps I will be blamed for having an agenda, since my friends will tell you I love nature more than almost anything else on this earth. I would respond that climate justice should remain a priority until preventable diseases and natural disasters stop occurring as a result of environmental damage.
As a nation and a global community, we have a long way to go to achieve any type of justice. While abortion and euthanasia take precedent over other social issues, dismissing other problems only perpetuates the fallacy that the human person is separable rather than integral.
Without care for the entire person, society becomes disordered. Let’s not divide up the human person based on priorities and agendas, but advocate for justice, health and welfare with solidarity and in a spirit of charity.