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10/3/2013 11:13:00 AM
Focus on love, not fight
Catholic News Service photo
A pregnant woman waits outside clinic near Mexico City.
Catholic News Service photo
A pregnant woman waits outside clinic near Mexico City.

The Holy Father has challenged us to make sure Catholics are disciples of Jesus, not culture warriors.

These past few weeks, secular media frustrated us with headlines making it seem the pope was putting pro-life teachings on the back shelf. What Pope Francis really did was to remind us that love and compassion are the natural paths for the follower of the gospel, even in the face of evil. The pope was right when he said we have become too focused on fighting.

The 20th century theologian Richard Niebuhr, in his influential book Christ and Culture, described different ways Christians can operate. We in the pro-life movement have often taken on what Niebuhr called a “Christ Against Culture” stance, seeing ourselves as a righteous and self-contained remnant opposing an increasingly pagan-like world.

Pope Francis wisely seems to be directing us toward Niebuhr’s “Christ Transforming Culture” camp. From there, we certainly do not give in to culture’s mistakes, but we do trust that God can transform the world in the present moment. We can cooperate with God by loving and being full of mercy.   

Pope Francis offered an excellent example of a fuller pro-life ministry when he phoned a 35-year-old Italian woman who was in anguish over her unplanned pregnancy. A chat of a few minutes with the successor of St. Peter had her rubbing her pregnant belly and announcing that, if it’s a boy, he will be called Francis. The pope has promised to baptize the child.

Here in Portland, we have good local examples of pro-life ministry based on love as well as advocacy. Precious Children of Portland, known for holding vigil outside Planned Parenthood, has also given money, rides and supplies to young women who decided against abortion. Birthright, 1st Way, Madonna’s Center and the Father Taaffe homes provide support for pregnant women and mothers. These groups deserve support.

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