Exactly 15 years ago this fall, America’s bishops issued a pastoral letter called Living the Gospel of Life. Even today, with the passage of time, this remains no ordinary Church text. I believed then, and I believe now, that it’s the best document ever issued by the U.S. bishops on the priorities of Catholic engagement in our nation’s public life. In writing it, the bishops sought to apply Pope John Paul II’s great encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) to the American situation. The heart of their statement, paragraph No. 23, stresses that:
“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life.