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Vatican Archbishop to Bring Pope Francis’ Take on Being Pro-life to the United States

Pope Francis delivers his homely as he celebrates a Mass for the solemnity of St. Mary at the beginning of the new year, in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Abortion has been the primary topic of the pro-life conversation for decades, but when Francis became the head of the church in 2013, he began promoting a broader interpretation of what being a pro-life Catholic actually means.

The consistent life ethic, a concept born in the early 1970s and sometimes called the “seamless garment philosophy,” suggests that Catholics committed to protecting human life must do so consistently wherever life is threatened — standing up for migrants, prisoners on death row and indigenous peoples struggling due to climate change — with the same passion with which they defend the unborn.

Paglia explained that this holistic view could provide Americans an alternative to their entrenched positions on life issues. “Us believers are all against abortion of course, but to be credible we must state that we are against the killing of children, against the death penalty, against war, against abandonment and the discarding of the elderly,” he said.

For the archbishop, it’s a question of consistency and credibility. “You cannot defend a foot without defending the entire body. You can’t defend a part without defending the whole. This is Pope Francis’ perspective,” he said.

“If we only look one way, you incur the risk of becoming crosseyed,” Paglia said. “Instead, we must broaden our view to see the entire horizon.”

While the archbishop lamented how being pro-life has been shrunk to “a single prospective,” he dismissed the possibility that the Vatican would get involved in ongoing legal and political developments concerning human life in the United States.

“The academy does not follow the developments at the (U.S. Supreme) Court and the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade and pro-choice legislation in the United States,” Paglia said.

Asked about the proposal by some U.S. bishops to ban Catholic pro-choice politicians, including President Joe Biden, from receiving the Eucharist, Paglia said there is not much more to add. “The pope has already provided a very clear answer and there is no need to add anything else,” he said, referring to Francis’ claim that he has never denied Communion to anyone at Mass.

“I have more important things to think about,” Paglia said.

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While John Paul II and other previous popes have expanded the church’s commitment to the seamless garment, the Pontifical Academy for Life has weathered backlash since Francis overhauled its membership in 2016 to reflect his own broad pro-life vision. Recently the academy has stood in favor of COVID-19 vaccines, addressed the challenges posed by the development of AI and spoken on behalf of the poorest.