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The Right to Life: Part 2 – The First Principle

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Following is the second in a six-part series by  Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde  on forming our consciences as Catholics prior to the November presidential election.

We who are Catholics “of a certain age” identify the hymn “Whatsoever You Do” with a reminder of how we encounter Jesus in those who are poor and needy in our midst.

Those who are vulnerable in our midst include those who are homeless and hungry, those who are elderly and ill, and those who are challenged by physical, intellectual or emotional disabilities.

We also remember that the most vulnerable in our world are those who have been given the gift of life, but who still remain completely dependent upon another - the unborn children living in their mothers' wombs.

Every society will be judged on the basis of how it treats those who are most vulnerable, and as we seek to form our consciences in anticipation of the 2016 presidential election, we need to consider as a first principle the right to life and how we protect the gift of life at every stage of its development.

In expressing a commitment to defending the gift of life, we remember that what our Church teaches is not a belief that is exclusively Catholic, but our teaching reflects what we know to be true according to human reason and logic.

So, for example, the rational person understands that if we do not defend life at its beginning at conception, then there is no life for us to develop and protect thereafter. Life is the first right.

We live today in a culture where one of our greatest values appears to be a commitment not to offend others - and it is true that patience, respect and compassion are all virtues that contribute to the formation of a person's good character.

We also know that from the very beginning of our country's history, we have placed great value on the gift of human freedom. However, for a number of years now, it has become common for some in politics to use the expression “pro-choice” to lure many into believing that we should not interfere with others' freedom to make decisions even when those choices are contrary to what is objectively true and right.

Because we are made in God's image, each one of us has deep within our hearts a knowledge of what is right and wrong.

Moreover, God gives us the gift of freedom to choose what is true and good, and therefore it is never right for anyone to choose directly or indirectly what is intrinsically evil, especially when that choice destroys the gift of life.

No one ever has a “right” to exercise the gift of freedom to deprive an innocent person, especially an unborn child, of his or her right to life.

As we form our consciences in this and every election, our first consideration is always where a candidate stands on the first principle: the right to life.

For more voter education resources please see the website for the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Bishop's public policy agency at  vacatholic.org .

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016