In 1983, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the late archbishop of Chicago, during a speech on every human being’s right to life, illustrated the coherence of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life from womb to tomb. This teaching includes rejection of abortion and the upholding of the right to life from conception until natural death, and therefore, rejection of the death penalty, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. It also supports acceptance of immigrants searching for protection, food, water, shelter, health care.
Bernardin referenced the seamless garment (John 19;23) of Our Lord to illustrate the full teaching of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of human life. It’s meant to underscore that a “consistent ethic of life” requires attention to a spectrum o
f issues, including not just obvious offenses against life such as abortion and euthanasia, but just war, capital punishment, human trafficking, the plight of the poor, workers’ rights, and so on.” (Todd Agliaoro, “Unraveling the Seamless Garment”, America, 2019)
I remember a parishioner who confronted me after my homily on a Catholic’s support of the right to life. I had included immigrants seeking asylum here in the U.S. The man was annoyed that I had put immigrants’ right to life on equal footing with that of an unborn child. I guess once helpless infants grow up they tend to lose their preciousness.
A priest friend of mine had spent many years in the poorest part of Bolivia, a land-locked country still heavily indigenous. One day in the course of a conversation, he fixed his eyes on me and said: “I think that one day there will be a great surge of poor people at our border crying ‘Pan! Pan! Pan!’ It will be a huge movement of mothers, fathers and children crying “Give us Bread!” Migrants today
seek not a better life but the basics of life.
Our Church teaches that all human life is sacred. In fact, we believe that Our Lord died for every human being and if we want to follow him we must value every human being with the heart of Christ, even if doing so makes you politically incorrect.