John of the Cross teaches that within spirituality and morality there are no exempt areas. Simply put, you cannot be a saint or a highly moral person if you allow yourself a moral exemption or two. Thus, I may not allow myself to split off one moral flaw or sinful habit and see it as unimportant in the light of my positive qualities and the overall good that I do. For John of the Cross, you cannot be a saint and have a moral blind spot, even if it’s a minor one. A bird tethered to a rock, he says, cannot fly irrespective of whether the cord holding it is a cable or a string.
The same is true for our efforts to protect life and foster justice in our world. The protection of life and the promotion of justice are all of one piece. We cannot be an authentic prophet and have a few moral blind spots.
A huge consequence flows from this, namely, we cannot treat issues like abortion, nuclear war, lack of ecological sensitivity, the plight of refugees, racism, sexism, poverty and inequality, poor access to healthcare, unequal access to education, sexual irresponsibility and discrimination against the LGBT community in isolation from each other, as if these were wholly discrete issues. Whether we admit it or not, these areas are all inextricably interconnected. To quote Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: “The success of any one of the issues concerning life requires a concern for the broader attitude in society about the respect for human life.” That’s a strong challenge for all of us, on all sides of the ideological spectrum.
Thus, those of us who are concerned about abortion need to accept that the problem cannot be effectively addressed without at the same time considering issues of poverty, access to healthcare, sexual morality and even capital punishment. The interconnection here is not wholly mystical; it’s real. Abortion is driven more by poverty and lack of adequate support than by any liberal ideology. Hence, the struggle against abortion must also focus on the issues of poverty and support for pregnant women.
In addition, the moral acceptance of killing in one area (capital punishment) helps to sanction its acceptance in another area (abortion). Sexual morality must also be addressed, since abortion is the inevitable by-product of a society within which two people who are not married to each other have sex with each other.
It’s all one piece, and any opposition to abortion that fails adequately to recognise the wider perspective that more fully defines what it is to be pro-life leaves many sincere people unable to support anti-abortion groups.
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