At some point, we are all in a big hurry to get somewhere. We get annoyed at the traffic and become tempted to blare the horn at the slow driver in the fast lane. Anything that delays our arrival becomes a personal affront. But suddenly we hear sirens and see the flashing lights of an ambulance or the wail of fire trucks. Our immediate reaction is to quickly pull over, say a prayer, and move out of the way. The sirens remind us that there is an emergency that is far more important than our destination. Our annoyance is no longer urgent. Things are put back into their right perspective. In comparison to life and death, everything is secondary. This is so basic, so primal, that it resounds with everybody.
Saving life from death is the most important and most basic work anyone can do. “Basic” means forming an essential foundation or starting point, fundamental. It is common sense that we drop everything for an emergency. You would never hear somebody argue that those who pull over for an ambulance are doing so out of religious duty. It’s more — it’s basic human decency. Yet, there is a disconnect when it comes to abortion. I have often heard the odd claim that fighting abortion comes from religious observance and imposes one’s religion. It does not. That’s just an excuse.
Yes, I have committed my ministry to ending abortion. As I’ve done for many years, I lead Priests for Life and we help Catholic priests (as well as everyone else) to do this most basic work. But neither saving lives nor the importance of saving lives flow from my priesthood nor does it come from the fact that I was ordained. Sure, the priesthood sheds a lot of light on that; there’s a lot of connection between the priesthood and defending life, and I’ve written about that at length. But my duty doesn’t flow from that. It’s more basic than that.
For lay people, the call to defend life is enhanced and strengthened by their baptism. Yet again, such a call does not flow only or even primarily from baptism. Yes, baptism gives a special obligation to recognize and defend the sanctity of life because we know that God united Himself with humanity in the incarnation of Christ and, therefore, the inherent dignity of human life is increased. Any Christian can say he has more of an obligation to understand it. But, still, saving lives is more basic than that.
Even non-believers have an obligation to protect life. Everybody knows the bible teaches us not to steal, but that doesn’t mean atheists are allowed to steal your car. The obligation to respect people’s possessions flows from being human. Human reason allows us to see human rights. We can reason that people have rights and that we can’t live together in harmony unless we respect each other’s possessions. Likewise, we can’t live in society without respecting each other’s lives. It’s basic.
The duty, and the privilege, to save human lives, starting with the youngest children, flows from our humanity. If we are human, we have this obligation. It’s the basic work we do and the most important work. Everything else must stop and defer to its precedence. It is at the foundation of being human.
We are anti-abortion. We are against policies that deprive children of their lives and against the violent act of abortion that takes their lives. This anti-abortion effort takes priority over all else. Like in the example of the ambulance, so also the Lord Jesus, when talking about work done on Sabbath, said “If one of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:11-12
Not only is it lawful to do good, but there is nothing more valuable than saving a human life. This is true to the point that those who lay down their own for the sake of others have the highest degree of love. There will be those who will claim that other social issues are more important. But they are fooling themselves. If somebody is about to be killed, unless you save them, you cannot give them healthcare, education, employment, food, housing, or any of the things that we work to provide and upon which the entire movement of social justice is built.
That is why the US bishops, in their document Living the Gospel of Life, said that support for abortion “renders suspect” the position people take on these other issues, and John Paul II, in Christifideles Laici, called the cry for human rights in these other areas “false and illusory” if one is pro-abortion. It’s common sense. Saving lives is not just the most important work we can do, it has to be first. This is the message we proclaim. This duty to save belongs to everybody- priest layperson, Catholic, Christian, believer, non believer, etc. We all have human obligation. Let’s be courageous and steadfast in this most basic and important task of saving the lives of unborn.
LifeNews.com Note: Father Frank Pavone is the national director for Priests for Life.