This past year has seen continuing and increasing threats to the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable among us: the continuing humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border; the continued use of the death penalty in more than half the United States; Canadian laws that are encouraging the poor and vulnerable to seek euthanasia; and a lack of solidarity with unborn children and their mothers in a post-Roe world. Too often those without resources or power, those with disabilities, and those facing injustice go unheard and uncared for. They are most at risk in what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture.”
Societies can be measured by how they care for their weakest and most vulnerable members. Respect for human life and dignity, as well as solidarity with the vulnerable, stand at the center of Catholic social teaching. Those principles call for a consistent ethic of life that protects and promotes the lives and dignity of each and every person, especially those in need, and regardless of age or stage in life, ability, immigration status, race, religion, gender, or any other factor.
In the face of these challenges, the Initiative brought together a remarkable group of leaders to explore what is needed to build a culture of life and love in the United States and elsewhere, and to ask whether a renewed emphasis on the consistent ethic of life—and the ethic of solidarity that goes with it—can help draw us together to resist the hostility and division that too often characterize our public life. We asked what the consistent ethic of life means in 2023 across a range of issues of life and death where the vulnerable suffer, and how those committed to defending the life and dignity of the most vulnerable can take steps to build an authentic culture of solidarity in 2023’s cultural and political context.
The participants addressed questions from viewers and questions along these lines:
What does the consistent ethic of life call for today? What are the responsibilities of consistent-ethic Catholics in this moment, and how can they work with those who disagree?
How do abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and immigration failures disproportionally threaten the lives of those who are poor, lack power, and face racial, ethnic, and economic injustice? How do issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and ability affect which issues get attention and how they are dealt with?
What policies are needed to support the vulnerable? How can Catholics work effectively with allies to advance these policies in our current political context as the new U.S. Congress comes into session? With those who do not share our Catholic views or are skeptical of our work?
What effect has the Dobbs decision and its aftermath had on policymaking around child and family poverty, health care, adoption, child care, hunger, and housing? What are the responsibilities of pro-life Catholics now?
What lessons does Canada’s experience with medical assistance in dying hold for us here in the United States?
What directions do Pope Francis’ words and actions offer those who embrace a consistent ethic of life?
Kim Daniels, director of the Initiative and member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, moderated the conversation.
View a list of articles, podcasts, and other resources for this dialogue.