Consistent Life Ethic
St. Francis Parish seeks to be consistently Catholic in this world which is torn by political divisions. The pro-life issues at every stage of human life. See, also, our Justice Advocacy Articles!
A series of six full page Forum articles follows here to highlight the pro-life issues at every stage of human life. Articles mention relevant scripture passages, work being done in our parish to reflect our pro-life commitments, and list some resources (books, websites, etc.) for more information. (In January -March 2017 these articles were published and culminated with a speaker in Lent 2017.)
Overview of Consistent Life Ethic – CLE
1: What is a Consistent Life Ethic?
2: Infants and Children
3: Teens (and preteens)
4: Young Adults
5: Middle-Age Adults
6: Older Adults
Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) –
1. What is a Consistent Life Ethic?
A Background / Overview (in a 6-part series CLE)
As Catholics, we know well the value of the life of the unborn child. We are continuously called and reminded to protect and defend unborn life and advocate for an end to abortion.
And what about after the child is born? Are Catholics called to place the same value on life during the 100 years post-birth as we do during the 40 weeks of gestation? YES! Over the next six weeks, the St. Francis Peace & Justice Committee will be looking at the Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) across a person’s lifespan and highlighting some of the work our own parish is doing to support CLE.
But what is a Consistent Life Ethic?
In 1983, as head of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin championed the early church’s consistent pro-life ethic. He said, “The case for a consistent ethic of life—one which stands for the protection of the right to life and the promotion of the rights which enhance life from womb to tomb … is both a complex and a demanding tradition.”
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops notes: “…the culture of life is much more than signing the partial birth abortion ban, it is about hunger at home and abroad, about war and peace. …THE CONSISTENT LIFE ETHIC is not a tactic, an excuse, or a scorecard, it is an expression of what
Catholics believe and who we are.” See, Catholic Social Ministry Gathering at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/
CLE challenges us to work to protect life whenever it is threatened—by war and violence, poverty, racism, capital punishment, climate change, euthanasia, etc. We must maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting all who are unprotected and vulnerable.
“In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.” – Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2017
“For a free copy of this Consistent Life Ethic bumper sticker, please send your name and postal mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
From James Balmer, on Jan 22, 2017, here are illuminating quotes from Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II. And, a Pope Francis card.
Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) –
2. Infants and Children (in a 6-part series CLE)
This weekend marks the beginning of “9 Days for Life,” an annual period of prayer and action focused on cherishing the gift of every person’s life (visit www.usccb.org for more information).
We especially cherish the life of infants and young children, and we recognize the special challenges they face because they depend completely on adults to protect and care for them. This is a critical time for brain development and physical growth. A child’s life-long well-being is impacted by the presence or absence of:
- A loving caregiver
- Nutritious food
- Medical care
- Preschool and early childhood education
- A clean and healthy environment
- A safe and non-violent neighborhood
During our infancy and childhood, we explore our environment while learning about love (conditional vs. unconditional), trust, and the values and expectations of our family, religion, and culture.
Almost half of American children live in poverty or near-poverty
Crises can have permanent effects on a child, whether it’s a short-term crisis like an illness or a parent’s temporary job loss, or a chronic situation like poverty, lead poisoning, the death or absence of a parent, divorce, abuse/neglect, etc.
But we know that a pro-life approach works! Research and experience in nations around the world have shown how best to support infants and children in our communities. For example:
- Nutrition programs like WIC decrease the rates of prematurity and infant mortality and improve prenatal care. Participating children have better quality diets and score higher on assessments of mental development and reading.
- Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the ACA (Obamacare) have reduced the rate of uninsured poor children in the U.S. from 29% to 8% from 1984-2013.
- The U.K. cut its child poverty rate in half by focusing on three areas: increasing financial support for families, promoting work and ensuring a job lifts a family out of poverty, and investing in children (paid family leave, preschool, etc.). We could do the same in the U.S.
Catholic Social Teaching teaches that people throughout their lifetime are both sacred and social. Organizing our society (economically, politically, legally, and in the application of our laws and policies) with a Consistent Life Ethic affects human dignity and the capacity of all of us to grow in community.
“[Jesus] called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.’” –Matthew 18:3-5
Take some silent time to reflect on this passage. Why is Jesus calling us to become like children? Am I living a Consistent Life Ethic?
Recall your feelings as you looked at a child – the first smile of recognition, learning to walk – the celebration of little steps and the encouragement during the many falls. When the child is 3 or 5 or 7 and struggles with siblings, or school, or learning to read – does s/he receive the same encouragement?
“Thinking of your child as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress. Thinking of your child as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment.” —M. Rosenberg
Our parish community supports families with infants & young children
We Support Local Charitable Organizations, such as:
- Catholic Charities
- Hope Clinic
- Friends in Deed
- Habitat for Humanity
- RAAH (Religious Action for Affordable Housing)
- Faith in Flint
We Take Action:
- St. Francis Preschool offers quality early childhood ed.
- Our Food Drives fill the shelves at local food pantries
- Our Advent Giving Tree helps all children enjoy Christmas
- Our volunteers help staff the IHN Alpha House, sheltering homeless families
- Our M.O.M.S. group provides social, spiritual, and learning opportunities for parents of young children
- Our Sustainable Garden, Electronics Recycling, and Rummage Sale help us reduce, reuse, and recycle to protect the earth for our children
· We advocate for public transportation, affordable housing, and other ways to support struggling families
Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) –
3. Pre-Teens & Teens (in a 6-part series CLE)
In addition to the basic needs of children we discussed last week, adolescents face special challenges requiring a pro-life approach:
- Peer pressure
- Bullying, including cyber bullying
- Dating, including relationship violence
- Experimenting with alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
- Poverty (18% of American adolescents live in poverty, with rural adolescents most likely to be poor)
- Gang involvement
- The school-to-prison pipeline and sentencing teens as adults in the criminal justice system
- Running away from a terrible home situation and being exploited by adults or even trafficked
There’s a reason we may sometimes find teen behavior inexplicable. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, research has changed long-held assumptions about how the brain matures. We now know that, in key ways, the teen brain doesn’t look like an adult brain until the early 20s. Changes taking place beneath the surface help explain why, for many young people, this can be a hazardous age:
- Death by injury for those age 15-19 are about 6 times higher than for those age 10-14
- Crime rates are highest among young males
- Rates of alcohol abuse are high relative to other ages, and alcohol (and other drugs) affect the teen brain differently
Adolescents are growing both physically and mentally, moving away from depending on adults and turning to their peers for support and guidance. They use technology to meet and interact with friends; 92% of teens report going online daily.
Peers are really important at this age, helping teens develop social skills and try new activities. But friends aren’t always good influences—they may isolate, tease, or bully; they may promote attitudes and behaviors that parents don’t like; they may apply peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors (sexually activity, using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, etc.).
We know that a pro-life approach works! Adolescents do best when they have supportive adults in their lives (parents, mentors), with good listening skills to help them navigate this challenging time. They also benefit from supportive programs like those offered locally by the Neutral Zone, YMCA, and Ozone House, among others. Encouraging changes recently are:
- Teens are finishing high school at a higher rate, almost 90%
- Teen pregnancy rates have fallen in every state and across ethnic and racial groups
- States are changing their juvenile justice approach back to rehabilitating young people, rather than treating them as adults (which has been shown to increase recidivism and violence) and using restorative justice more often in schools and courts
Parental involvement helps teens avoid risks like smoking, drinking, drug use, sexual activity, violence, and suicide attempts. For many families, simply eating dinner together can be an important way to maintain a connection. Helpful information is available on websites like the Office of Adolescent Health (www.hhs.gov/ash/oah) and Stop Bullying (www.stopbullying.gov).
After three days they found him in the temple…and his mother said to him, “… Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. –Luke 2:46, 48-52
Imagine the panic of Mary and Joseph when they discovered Jesus “missing”, their apprehension as they searched, their joy upon finding him, their disquiet at his answer.
Panic, apprehension, joy, disquiet – among the many feelings in raising a teen; in living a life. Ponder your own experiences. “Talk over” in prayer with Mary and Joseph challenges during your own teen years, or with teens in your life. Open your heart to the Spirit who guides each of us, including our teens, to continue to grow in “wisdom and age and favor before God and man”. We need only to listen, ponder, and respond – to the Spirit and to the needs of our teens!
“Thinking of your teen as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress. Thinking of your teen as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment.” —M. Rosenberg
Our parish community supports families with Adolescents
We Offer Pre-Teens and Teens Opportunities for Education, Socialization, and a Chance to Grow in their Faith:
- Francis School offers a high-quality middle school
- Our Middle School Youth Group offers fun events and a chance to make new friends
- Our High School Youth Group helps teens make sense of their lives and offers fun social events
- Our Youth Band & Choir allows adolescents to share their musical talents
- The parish offers a wide variety of opportunities throughout the year for teens to engage in service projects
Teens were the most stressed-out age group in the U.S. in APA’s 2013 Stress in America survey
Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) –
4. Young Adults (in a 6-part series CLE)
Healthy, skilled, productive young adults are critical for the country’s workforce, global competitiveness, public safety, and national security. We must take a pro-life approach to:
• Ensuring equitable access to educational, vocational, and other resources (housing, banking, etc.) by addressing racism, classism, civil rights
• Treating substance abuse and mental illness
• Helping young people navigate a new dating world dominated by technology, as well as age-old problems like relationship violence
• Sending our young people to war
• Ensuring living-wage jobs with benefits, to support independence and starting a family
• Helping “dreamers” who were brought here as children and want to contribute to the U.S.
• Diverting young adults from prison when possible, or helping them to successfully re-enter society
Young adults today live in a very different world from their parents and grandparents. Their social lives are heavily influenced by technology, which can be isolating and dehumanizing. They are often burdened by debt—68% of those who graduated college in 2015 had student loan debt, with an average amount of $30,100.
Young people struggle to find good-paying jobs that allow them to be independent. Almost half of 20-24 year olds live with their parents, and the median age for marriage increased from 22 to 28 between 1965 and 2013.
The jobs their parents had are either gone or require more education, and 9 of the top 10 occupations with the most openings fall into wage categories of “very low” and “low.” Some of the fastest growing jobs are in personal care (home health aides), retail, and food-preparation.
We know that a pro-life approach works! Young adults are more educated and more diverse than ever before, and young women have more career opportunities. Young adults are engaged in their communities, including taking a “gap year” to volunteer between high school and college.
• The ACA (“Obamacare”) gives young people access to healthcare by letting them stay on a parent’s health insurance until age 26, requiring states to provide Medicaid until age 26 for those aging out of foster care, and requiring coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment
• Over 500,000 “Dreamers” have received deferred action permits, allowing them to delay immigration proceedings while they work, attend school, or serve in the military—so our country benefits from their contributions
• A recent study of the 10-year old Kalamazoo Promise shows a significant increase in college graduation rates for Promise-eligible students and about $4.60 in benefits for every $1 invested
• For young adults aging out of foster care, programs that provide support that would otherwise come from a parent (like financial help, mentoring, and help with employment readiness) have improved their lives
Scripture is silent on this portion of Jesus’ life, except to tell us, “It happened…that Jesus came from Nazareth…and was baptized in the Jordan by John… and a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son….’” Mark 1:9-11
Our experiences, however, of searching for a job, dreaming about our future, and leaving home provide material for a prayerful encounter with Jesus or his mother during this period of their lives. What were Jesus’ prayers and thoughts during his journey to the Jordan? Did he feel as uncertain as I do as I search for I-don’t-know-what? What were Mary’s feelings as she watched Jesus set out on this journey? Did she share my apprehension as I watch my child?
Remember, each of us is a beloved son or daughter of the Father. And today’s gospel reminds us that our light, shining before others, lets others glorify our heavenly Father.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God…Give our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
Our parish community supports Young Adults
- The Young Adult Ministry provides opportunities for education, socialization, and a chance to grow in faith
- Women’s Faith & Fellowship is for Catholic women in all stages of life to grow through prayer, fellowship, and study
- Men’s Ministry is for all men, from every stage of life, to learn, share, and grow in faith through prayer, talks, and fellowship
- The parish offers a wide variety of opportunities throughout the year for teens to engage in service projects
In the past, wages rose along with worker productivity. Today’s minimum wage would be over $21/hr if it had kept up with increased worker productivity.
Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) –
5. Middle-Aged Adults (in a 6-part series CLE)
As young adults get older and begin the next phase of life, they need a pro-life approach to the challenges they face, such as:
- Getting married (and staying married)
- Raising children
- Special needs of aging parents
- Balance between career and relationships
- Reassessing career goals and beginning to plan retirement, long term care issues
- Integrating back into the community following divorce, major illness/death in family, relocation, job loss, incarceration
- Remaining healthy
- Finding affordable housing (less than 30% of gross income)
- Protecting civil rights, and otherwise participating in society
- Caring for the environment (moving away from a “throw away” society)
- Investing and spending money ethically
- Tending to my relationship with God
American family life is changing. Families are smaller today and more diverse—two-parent households are declining as divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation are on the rise. And the role of mothers has changed, in both the workplace and in the home. More moms are in the labor force and many have become the primary breadwinners in their families.
The work world has changed in other ways as well. Over the past 30 years, the share of American workers in a union has fallen to 11%. About 80% of workers are stressed, with low pay as the top reason for 4 years (recently tied with long commutes).
The U.S. performs well in terms of material living conditions and educational attainment compared to other OECD (Organization for Cooperation and Development) countries. Full-time workers in America have less time off, however, and life expectancy is below the OECD average. The U.S. also has the 2nd highest rate of deaths due to assault.
We know that a pro-life approach works! Depending on one’s economic and family situation, these years can be ones of enjoyment and gratitude—job/career on solid footing, reasonably good health, time to foster new interests, time to spend with a spouse and family. Yet this also can be a time of concern and disappointment—the career that didn’t work out, failing health, the children who plan to have no children, the aging parents who are facing financial trouble due to illness and few resources.
- Affordable housing creates diverse communities, and research finds that decent, affordable housing has a positive impact on overall community health, economic investment, and education
- Research shows the benefits of family leave policies. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have state paid parental leave, but the U.S. is one of only 4 countries with no national policy to support workers who need time to care for their families
- According to Gallup polls, Americans now express near-record-high concern about global warming and want to do something to address it
- With socially responsible investing, investors consider a range of corporate (environmental, social, and corporate governance factors) when investing in companies
As a middle-aged person pondering today’s Gospel [Matt 5:17-37], I am moved to look more deeply into my heart and observe its workings and how the mind influences it. What is the real spirit of the law Jesus teaches?
How do I process anger? What do I tell myself about the stimulus of my anger? Am I open to true reconciliation with another? Am I slave of an addiction (alcohol, food, shopping, pornography) – unwilling to see my attachment and unwilling to “cut it off and throw it away”?
Serious stuff! In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is challenging me (whatever my age) to look more deeply within and see what obstacles stand in my way to freely love and serve the Lord and others.
“The rich man cannot enter the kingdom of joy not because he wants to be bad but because he chooses to be blind.” Anthony de Mello
When GDP is examined by hourly productivity rate, U.S. workers put in the most hours but are not as productive as other OECD countries with more time off
OUR PARISH COMMUNITY SUPPORTS MIDDLE-AGED ADULTS
• Women’s Faith & Fellowship is for Catholic women in all stages of life to grow through prayer, fellowship, and study
• Men’s Ministry is for all men, from every stage of life, to learn, share, and grow in faith through prayer, talks, and fellowship
• Many ways to promote a maturing spirituality – the beatitude movie series, meditation, spiritual direction
• The parish offers a wide variety of opportunities throughout the year to engage in service projects
Consistent Life Ethic (CLE) –
6. Older Adults (in a 6-part series CLE)
As people age and become more vulnerable again, what is our pro-life approach to:
- Accessing healthcare, especially to manage chronic illness
- Ensuring that older workers can retire, and the role of a retiree in society
- Living on a fixed income
- Being a grandparent, including those who are grandparents-as-parents
- Accessing affordable and safe housing, including assisted living
- Accessing quality, affordable care for older adults who need supervision during the day, or for those who need in-home caregivers
- Planning for end of life
Older adults are a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population. In 2014, Americans age 65+ were 14.5% of the total population, which is expected to grow to nearly 24% by 2061.
Societies vary in how they treat and respect their older people. In contrast to many traditional cultures, modern American families usually don’t have multiple generations living together. Our “culture of youth” and emphasis on independence, individualism, and self-reliance can make life hard as people age and inevitably lose some of these traits.
Then there’s the value Americans place on one’s paid work. Despite perhaps being an active volunteer, those who no longer work for pay often report feeling like they have lost their value in society. And retirement often means losing social relationships that were based in one’s work life.
According to the Population Reference Bureau:
- Older adults are working longer. In 2014, 22% of men and about 15% of women age 65+ were still working.
- Older adults in many parts of the country (especially the rural Midwest) are “aging in place,” while the young people have moved away.
- 70% of older adults own their own homes
- Demand for elder care is increasing, in part due to a rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease (which is projected to nearly triple to 14 million by 2050)
- There are wide economic disparities across population subgroups—18% of Latinos and 19% of African Americans aged 65+ lived in poverty in 2014, more than twice the rate of whites (8%)
- More than 27% of women ages 65-74 lived alone in 2014, as did 42% of women ages 75-84, and to 56% of women age 85+
We know that a pro-life approach works! We need to understand people’s changing strengths and weaknesses as they age, and respect their deeper understanding of relationships and their lived experiences, so we can value the wisdom and insights they have gained over a lifetime.
The poverty rate for Americans ages 65+ has fallen from nearly 30% in 1966 to 10% today, in large part because of programs like Social Security and Medicare
Education levels are increasing—among people age 65+ in 1965, only 5% had a bachelor’s degree or more; by 2014, this had risen to 25%
The ACA (“Obamacare”) is eliminating the Medicare “donut hole” and providing more seniors with prescription drug coverage
Programs like Meals on Wheels, Lifeline, and new long-term managed care programs help vulnerable adults remain safely in their homes, reduce healthcare costs, coordinate care, and support greater independence
Policymakers can improve the outlook for senior of the future by reducing current gaps in education, employment, and earnings among younger workers
Eighteen years beyond retirement – the words of Jesus to Peter after the resurrection resonate: “But when you grow old…someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” [John 21:18]
Give up my home? Go to assisted living? Turn over my finances? I used to be so active…. Then I recall, “Jesus fulfills his mission not only by what he does, but by what is done to him…by his passion.”** I realize that so much of my life has been ‘passion’ – things that have happened to me – some painful, sorrowful, heart-breaking; yet so many joyful, tender, happy moments – filling me with gratitude… .
“I am inclined to protest against this and to want all to be action, originated by me. But the truth is that my passion is a much greater part of my life than my action…not to embrace my passion with love is self-rejection.” –Henri Nouwen **
Older adults in America vote and are more active in the community than younger people
Our parish community supports Older Adults
- The Seniors group meets monthly for fellowship, fun, food, activities, and prayer
- The Homebound Ministry brings Eucharist to those unable to join us at Sunday Mass (including those in rehab or care facilities)
- Anointing of the Sick on the third Thurs. of the month, during the Holy Hour (after 9:15 am Mass)
- Many ways to promote a maturing spirituality—the beatitude movie series, meditation, spiritual direction, small groups.
Homebound Ministry brings the Eucharist to parishioners and other Catholics who are unable to get to Sunday Mass. Is God calling you to bring Christ in the Eucharist to those unable to join us for Sunday Mass? Candidates must have received all the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation).
|The indwelling of Jesus through the Eucharist makes us truly His body in the here and now. The Second Vatican Council calls it “the source and summit of the Christian life” and “the foretaste of the heavenly banquet”.|