‘Life’ should never be used as a political weapon

by Elise Ann Allen

Aug 28, 2020

ROME – As US presidential elections heat up and “life issues” are expected to figure prominently in the campaign, the Vatican’s top official in the area has cautioned against turning the pro-life cause into an ideological weapon, saying making the protection of life a political football risks doing “great harm.”

“Life is a great gift that comes from God … No one achieves life on their own. We all receive it, and we receive it not to keep it, but to multiply it like those talents in the Gospel,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican’s Academy for Life, told Crux in an interview.

It is because the life of each unique individual – from its natural beginning to its natural end – is a gift, he said, “that the human person is never a means but always an end. Period.”

Because of this, he said, Christian churches in the U.S. ought to feel “a universal responsibility” toward life, and called for greater engagement on the life issue “in all its dimensions …That is, a perspective of global bioethics, one that engages all the major topics that touch on life, of the individual and of the human family.”

“It would do great harm,” he said, “if some topic of bioethics is extracted from its general context and put toward ideological strategies. It would do great harm.”

“Today we are all called to discover a new alliance that goes beyond politics,” he said, describing it as an alliance in which “all believers and all men and women of goodwill commit to saving all the lives of all the peoples who live in this one common home.”

“This is why I believe that to instrumentalize some topic for political ends or for laziness [in one’s own] horizon” is harmful, he said, voicing hope that the whole of Christianity, not just in the United States, “finds in men and of goodwill an alliance so that the lives of all, particularly the weakest, are defended from the beginning to the end, from the mother’s womb until the moment of death.”

Paglia is among the speakers featured at this weekend’s second virtual “Encounter” of the Pan-American Network for Life and the Right to Life of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM). This edition of the digital gathering will focus on John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, meaning, “The Gospel of Life.”

Slated to take place Aug. 29 from 9-10:30 a.m. local time in Colombia, the event is a follow up to an initial virtual meeting held in June, after the Pan-American Network’s establishment in 2018 to track the prolife work undertaken by national bishops’ conferences and lay movements active on the continent.

Additional speakers will include American Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican department for Laity, Family and Life, as well as Father Sérgio Grigoleto, executive secretary of Latin American Bishops Conference, among others.

Due to the coronavirus, there will be no in-person gathering, but the discussion and speeches will be broadcast live from CELAM’s fan-page and Facebook account, and from its YouTube channel.

In his comments to Crux, Paglia stressed that the Catholic Church’s insistence on the respect and value of human life is indicative of the belief that human beings are the center of God’s creation, rather than things, including scientific progress or the economy.

“In this sense, everything that doesn’t respect the human person…is a sin against the Gospel of life,” he said, insisting that Christians pay closer attention to issues surrounding the beginning and end of life, which he said have “unfortunately been forgotten.”

“It’s a great responsibility for Christians to find again, both in Biblical tradition and in the long tradition of the Church, that patrimony of human knowledge which led Paul VI to say in 1964, in his speech to the United Nations, that the Church is an expert in humanity.”

Pointing to the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus, Paglia said he believes the pandemic was “a sort of slap” that awoke a society too confident in its technological prowess, and too little aware of people’s dependence on one another.

“We went to the moon, we are going to Mars, but it took that invisible molecule to bring us all to our knees, both people and institutions,” he said, adding that the sense of fragility has been a reminder “of the interconnectedness of us all. No one is an island.”

“What each of us do always impacts others,” he said. “If we put on masks, we put them on not just to defend our lives, but also to defend others.”

Paglia said the pandemic also offers an opportunity to focus on models of development that are more inclusive and attentive to inequalities, as opposed to “a development that is economically sick.”

“We are all in the same storm, but not all in the same boat, and the most fragile are overwhelmed,” he said.

When it comes to life issues, Paglia voiced belief that a sense of solidarity and respect for vulnerable lives can also be the solution to turning life issues into ideology.

“For the first time we are living together with four generations,” he said, adding that to promote a “Gospel of life” means fostering dialogue among the generations and to support one another as humanity navigates the complex task of learning to guide technology and the market, rather than being guided by them.

“It’s an enormous task,” he said, and urged Christians to engage in “an attentive dialogue in every sense, the humanist and the technological.”