Yesterday Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation in the papal document “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad).
Here’s a portion many Christians are referencing: “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.”
He continued, “We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.”
Some see this as a rebuke to those prioritizing abortion over other social issues like poverty, but as a pro-life advocate I find the Pope’s words very encouraging. The problems he references are not in competition with one another, and although there are differences between taking a life through abortion or euthanasia and the suffering of humanity, the plight of the poor, victimized and marganilized is not one we can ever ignore. I would argue as he does, that the lives of the destitute are equally sacred to God.
I am thankful that my foster care family saw this reality and brought my birth family food and clothing on a regular basis fulfilling the biblical command to help the needy, which is referenced in scripture over 300 times. They heard Christ saying, “I thirst” not only in my life, and the lives of my siblings, but in the life of my birth mother, a hispanic mentally ill woman who some would consider beyond hope.
The injustices of our day, such as discrimination both casual and conscious, income inequalities in America and abroad, and the plight of refugees seeking asylum break the heart of God. No doubt, abortion and euthanasia does the same. I love how the Pontiff put it back in 2015: “The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature. At stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters.”