A recent commentary by John Gehring in the National Catholic Reporter concerning the term "Pro-Life" and what it means got me thinking about how abused this term has become. His commentary starts with the irony filled reception of a pro-life award by former President George W. Bush. Granted, Bush did place an emphasis on "Pro-Life" pet issues, like embryonic stem cell research, federal funding for abortions, and so on. But he also presided over one of the most despicable policies of any administration: the use of torture. Not to mention his record as Governor of Texas on state sponsored executions. So, if someone like Bush wins awards for this, what exactly is "Pro-Life"?
It seems the "Pro-Life" crew want to focus only on abortion, and any deviation from the narrow goal of overturning Roe v Wade is simply socialism, also known in certain circles as "Bad" Catholicism. Here's two ways the term is currently used: "Pro-Life" is used as a sieve to separate the Democrats from the Republicans. Since the RNC adopted the anti-abortion platform, the term has practically become trademarked by the party. Any expansion into social welfare or human rights issues will not be tolerated. What's even more disturbing though is the use of the term and it's narrow interpretation as a tool to weed out the "bad catholics" from the "good catholics", which nowadays means the same thing as democrat and republican. (in case there's any confusion, "bad catholics" have been found by the "good catholics" to be of the democratic persuasion) Unfortunately, what this has resulted in is a politicized church divided along political party lines. No more noble Catholic Social Justice teaching, just divisive rhetoric lobbed from one camp to the next. In the meantime, we disregard our responsibility as christians to uphold the most basic tenant of our faith: our belief in the inherent dignity of the human person.
This narrow focus on the meaning of "Pro-Life" has morphed into its own form of fundamentalism, and empowers those who adopt it to behave in the most uncharitable and unchristian ways. Additionally, to use this strict interpretation of the term as one's divining rod for those who are false to the "True" faith is grotesque and in conflict with the very teachings of the faith they so vehemently defend.
To be truly pro-life is to be for life, from its conception to its natural death. It is neither bound by political parties or religions. It is the view that we are not alone in this world, and that we will fall or rise depending upon how well we take care of each other and our environment.
This view just also happens to sum up our Gospel principles as well.