Why Defending Human Dignity Requires a Whole Life Approach, Racial Justice, and Secure Voting Rights

Justin Giboney, an attorney and political strategist in Atlanta, GA, is the co-founder and president of the AND Campaign. In the debut episode of the Whole Life Podcast, a new podcast from Millennial and Democrats for Life of America, he discusses the AND Campaign and its Whole Life Project, efforts to advance racial justice, the importance of democracy and voting rights, how religious and secular political activists can work together to protect human dignity, and more with co-hosts Kristen Day and Robert Christian. He also discusses his new book, Compassion (&) Conviction.

Day and Christian cover the latest news affecting the whole life movement, answer the question of the month (How can you remain a Democrat when you are pro-life?), and discuss the upcoming elections.

It can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and below. You can support the show here: https://support.democratsforlife.org/product/2EFF09A/whole-life-rising


Our Moral Obligations Are Not Bound by Borders

Meghan Clark writes:

Our moral obligation to our neighbor, as explicated in Chapter 2, provides the lens through which the encyclical’s passages on international economics, private property and the universal destination of goods should be examined. While they are fiery in tone and uncompromising in judgment, the economic passages in Fratelli Tutti mostly restate the longstanding Catholic moral tradition and apply it to today’s context.

Reminding us that this goes back to the very beginning, Francis quotes fourth-century St. John Chrysostom: “Not to share our wealth with the poor is to rob them and take away their livelihood. The riches we possess are not our own, but theirs as well.” The universal destination of goods — this belief that the goods of creation are destined for humankind as a whole — helps us imagine what it means to be one human family and who we are called to be.

Positive obligations toward my neighbor should govern questions of economic justice. And when one’s neighbor is in need, meeting basic needs trumps any questions of their moral character. The universal destination of goods is primary. The right to individual private property is secondary, and always in service of the common good.

Fratelli Tutti helpfully argues with precise clarity that positive moral obligations of the universal destination of goods are not bound by borders and are operative on levels of the global economic apparatus.

In particular, Francis identifies both positive and negative moral obligations of nations, stating, “If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity,” then “it matters little whether my neighbor was born in my country or elsewhere.” Every nation has responsibilities to the one human family; and this responsibility can be met either by offering “a generous welcome to those in urgent need, or work to improve living conditions in their native lands by refusing to exploit those countries or to drain them of natural resources, backing corrupt systems that hinder the dignified development of their peoples” (Paragraph 125).

Taking to heart Fratelli Tutti, and especially its economic and political moral obligations, would drastically change the calculation for what is asked of Americans — as individuals, communities and as one nation — with respect to those migrants journeying to seek asylum. We are not only asked to provide welcome, but also both to avoid participating in their oppression and positively support their development.

Our responsibilities are not bound by borders but by our common humanity. Repeatedly, the encyclical calls for listening at the margins, developing policies from the bottom up, and building a radically different social, civil and political global community.


Pope States Support for Same-Sex Civil Unions

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes:

Gay couples deserve legal protections for their relationships, Pope Francis said in a new documentary. Also in the film, which premiered in Rome on Oct. 21, less than two weeks before the U.S. presidential election, the pope condemns the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, which he calls “cruelty of the highest form.”

The filmmaker, Evgeny Afineevsky, asked Pope Francis during an interview for the documentary about the place of L.G.B.T. Catholics in the church. Francis reemphasized his belief that L.G.B.T. people should be made to feel welcome in the church.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” the pope said. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”

But Francis said for the first time as pope that gay couples deserve legal recognition for their relationships.

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he said. “That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

You can read his full report here.


Pope Francis: Individualism Does Not Increase Our Freedom

Highlights from Pope Francis in chapter 3 of Fratelli Tutti:

  • Human beings are so made that they cannot live, develop and find fulfillment except “in the sincere gift of self to others”. Nor can they fully know themselves apart from an encounter with other persons: “I communicate effectively with myself only insofar as I communicate with others”. No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others, without having real faces to love. This is part of the mystery of authentic human existence. “Life exists where there is bonding, communion, fraternity; and life is stronger than death when it is built on true relationships and bonds of fidelity. On the contrary, there is no life when we claim to be self-sufficient and live as islands: in these attitudes, death prevails”. (87)
  • Without charity, we may perhaps possess only apparent virtues, incapable of sustaining life in common. Thus, Saint Thomas Aquinas could say – quoting Saint Augustine – that the temperance of a greedy person is in no way virtuous. Saint Bonaventure, for his part, explained that the other virtues, without charity, strictly speaking do not fulfill the commandments “the way God wants them to be fulfilled”. (91)
  • Our affection for others makes us freely desire to seek their good. All this originates in a sense of esteem, an appreciation of the value of the other. This is ultimately the idea behind the word “charity”: those who are loved are “dear” to me; “they are considered of great value”. (93)
  • Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all. (94)
  • Love also impels us towards universal communion. No one can mature or find fulfillment by withdrawing from others. By its very nature, love calls for growth in openness and the ability to accept others as part of a continuing adventure that makes every periphery converge in a greater sense of mutual belonging. As Jesus told us: “You are all brothers” (95)
  • Individualism does not make us more free, more equal, more fraternal. The mere sum of individual interests is not capable of generating a better world for the whole human family. Nor can it save us from the many ills that are now increasingly globalized. Radical individualism is a virus that is extremely difficult to eliminate, for it is clever. (105)
  • Social friendship and universal fraternity necessarily call for an acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere. (106)
  • Every human being has the right to live with dignity and to develop integrally; this fundamental right cannot be denied by any country. People have this right even if they are unproductive, or were born with or developed limitations. This does not detract from their great dignity as human persons, a dignity based not on circumstances but on the intrinsic worth of their being. Unless this basic principle is upheld, there will be no future either for fraternity or for the survival of humanity. (107)
  • Yet the same rule clearly does not apply to a disabled person, to someone born in dire poverty, to those lacking a good education and with little access to adequate health care. If a society is governed primarily by the criteria of market freedom and efficiency, there is no place for such persons, and fraternity will remain just another vague ideal. (109)
  • The human person, with his or her inalienable rights, is by nature open to relationship. Implanted deep within us is the call to transcend ourselves through an encounter with others. (111)
  • Nor can we fail to mention that seeking and pursuing the good of others and of the entire human family also implies helping individuals and societies to mature in the moral values that foster integral human development. (112)
  • Let us return to promoting the good, for ourselves and for the whole human family, and thus advance together towards an authentic and integral growth. Every society needs to ensure that values are passed on; otherwise, what is handed down are selfishness, violence, corruption in its various forms, indifference and, ultimately, a life closed to transcendence and entrenched in individual interests. (113)
  • The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity. Differences of colour, religion, talent, place of birth or residence, and so many others, cannot be used to justify the privileges of some over the rights of all. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development. (118)
  • In the first Christian centuries, a number of thinkers developed a universal vision in their reflections on the common destination of created goods. This led them to realize that if one person lacks what is necessary to live with dignity, it is because another person is detaining it. Saint John Chrysostom summarizes it in this way: “Not to share our wealth with the poor is to rob them and take away their livelihood. The riches we possess are not our own, but theirs as well”. In the words of Saint Gregory the Great, “When we provide the needy with their basic needs, we are giving them what belongs to them, not to us”. (119)
  • The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods. (120)
  • As it is unacceptable that some have fewer rights by virtue of being women, it is likewise unacceptable that the mere place of one’s birth or residence should result in his or her possessing fewer opportunities for a developed and dignified life. (121)
  • Development must not aim at the amassing of wealth by a few, but must ensure “human rights – personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples”. The right of some to free enterprise or market freedom cannot supersede the rights of peoples and the dignity of the poor, or, for that matter, respect for the natural environment, for “if we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all”. (122)
  • If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbour was born in my country or elsewhere. My own country also shares responsibility for his or her development, although it can fulfill that responsibility in a variety of ways. It can offer a generous welcome to those in urgent need, or work to improve living conditions in their native lands by refusing to exploit those countries or to drain them of natural resources, backing corrupt systems that hinder the dignified development of their peoples. (125)
  • On the other hand, if we accept the great principle that there are rights born of our inalienable human dignity, we can rise to the challenge of envisaging a new humanity. We can aspire to a world that provides land, housing and work for all. (127)

Pope Francis: Our Only Course is to Imitate the Good Samaritan

Pope Francis leads a Mass marking the World Day of Peace in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, January 1, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Highlights from Pope Francis in chapter 2 of Fratelli Tutti:

  • We need to acknowledge that we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak. Let us admit that, for all the progress we have made, we are still “illiterate” when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. We have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly. (64)
  • In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the Good Samaritan….The parable shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good. At the same time, it warns us about the attitude of those who think only of themselves and fail to shoulder the inevitable responsibilities of life as it is. (67)
  • It speaks to us of an essential and often forgotten aspect of our common humanity: we were created for a fulfillment that can only be found in love. We cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast. Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering. That is the meaning of dignity. (68)
  • Saint John Chrysostom expressed this pointedly when he challenged his Christian hearers: “Do you wish to honour the body of the Saviour? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honour it in church with silk vestments while outside it is naked and numb with cold”. (74)
  • There is a certain interplay between those who manipulate and cheat society, and those who, while claiming to be detached and impartial critics, live off that system and its benefits. There is a sad hypocrisy when the impunity of crime, the use of institutions for personal or corporate gain, and other evils apparently impossible to eradicate, are accompanied by a relentless criticism of everything, a constant sowing of suspicion that results in distrust and confusion. The complaint that “everything is broken” is answered by the claim that “it can’t be fixed”, or “what can I do?” This feeds into disillusionment and despair, and hardly encourages a spirit of solidarity and generosity. Plunging people into despair closes a perfectly perverse circle: such is the agenda of the invisible dictatorship of hidden interests that have gained mastery over both resources and the possibility of thinking and expressing opinions. (75)
  • Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies. Today we have a great opportunity to express our innate sense of fraternity, to be Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment. Like the chance traveler in the parable, we need only have a pure and simple desire to be a people, a community, constant and tireless in the effort to include, integrate and lift up the fallen. (77)
  • Difficulties that seem overwhelming are opportunities for growth, not excuses for a glum resignation that can lead only to acquiescence. Yet let us not do this alone, as individuals. The Samaritan discovered an innkeeper who would care for the man; we too are called to unite as a family that is stronger than the sum of small individual members. For “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”. Let us renounce the pettiness and resentment of useless in-fighting and constant confrontation. Let us stop feeling sorry for ourselves and acknowledge our crimes, our apathy, our lies. Reparation and reconciliation will give us new life and set us all free from fear. (78)
  • The Samaritan who stopped along the way departed without expecting any recognition or gratitude. His effort to assist another person gave him great satisfaction in life and before his God, and thus became a duty. All of us have a responsibility for the wounded, those of our own people and all the peoples of the earth. Let us care for the needs of every man and woman, young and old, with the same fraternal spirit of care and closeness that marked the Good Samaritan. (79)
  • So this encounter of mercy between a Samaritan and a Jew is highly provocative; it leaves no room for ideological manipulation and challenges us to expand our frontiers. It gives a universal dimension to our call to love, one that transcends all prejudices, all historical and cultural barriers, all petty interests. (83)
  • For Christians, the words of Jesus have an even deeper meaning. They compel us to recognize Christ himself in each of our abandoned or excluded brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:40.45). Faith has untold power to inspire and sustain our respect for others, for believers come to know that God loves every man and woman with infinite love and “thereby confers infinite dignity” upon all humanity. We likewise believe that Christ shed his blood for each of us and that no one is beyond the scope of his universal love. If we go to the ultimate source of that love which is the very life of the triune God, we encounter in the community of the three divine Persons the origin and perfect model of all life in society. Theology continues to be enriched by its reflection on this great truth. (85)

The Future of Anti-Racism and the Catholic Church


via the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life:

The killing of George Floyd sparked a renewed racial justice reckoning in our nation. The national response to police violence against Black Americans has affected our country and communities in a way previously unseen in a generation. These recent events have led our communities to examine more closely the impact that injustice and racism have on an individual, structural, and institutional level. As a result, more young Catholics have begun to engage in difficult conversations about the history and present reality of racism in the U.S. Catholic Church.

This Salt and Light Gathering for young adults under 40 brought together a panel of young Black Catholic leaders to engage challenging questions about the spiritual and practical actions needed to work towards a culture of anti-racism, which values the equal dignity of every human life. The panel discussed the history of racism within the U.S. Catholic Church, how racial injustice exists in our communities today, the role of white privilege, and practical ways that Church leaders and young Catholics can work towards a more anti-racist and racially just Church.

Kim Daniels, associate director of the Initiative, introduced the online conversation. Jonathan Lewis, assistant secretary for the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, moderate the discussion, which featured:

—Ogechi Akalegbere is a Nigerian-American who is the host, executive editor, and content creator for the podcast Tell Me, If You Can. She also works as the Christian service coordinator at Connelly School of the Holy Child.

—Fr. Robert Boxie is the chaplain at Howard University and the priest-in- residence at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington, DC. He had been the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, Maryland, since July 2017.

—Gerald Smith, Jr. is the principal at St. Thomas More Catholic Academy in Washington, DC, where he previously taught 4th-8th grade science. He formerly taught at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland.

—Shannen Dee Williams is the Albert Lepage Assistant Professor of History at Villanova University. She is the author of a forthcoming book with the working title Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle.


Highlights from Chapter 1 of Fratelli Tutti: We Can Only Be Saved Together

  • Ancient conflicts thought long buried are breaking out anew, while instances of a myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism are on the rise. In some countries, a concept of popular and national unity influenced by various ideologies is creating new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense under the guise of defending national interests. (11)
  • We are more alone than ever in an increasingly massified world that promotes individual interests and weakens the communitarian dimension of life. (12)
  • The best way to dominate and gain control over people is to spread despair and discouragement, even under the guise of defending certain values. Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Their share of the truth and their values are rejected and, as a result, the life of society is impoverished and subjected to the hubris of the powerful. Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation. (15)
  • We are growing ever more distant from one another, while the slow and demanding march towards an increasingly united and just world is suffering a new and dramatic setback. (16)
  • we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home. Such care does not interest those economic powers that demand quick profits. Often the voices raised in defense of the environment are silenced or ridiculed, using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests. (17)
  • Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. (18)
  • We fail to realize that, by isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without the closeness and concern of family members, we disfigure and impoverish the family itself. We also end up depriving young people of a necessary connection to their roots and a wisdom that the young cannot achieve on their own. (19)
  • This way of discarding others can take a variety of forms, such as an obsession with reducing labor costs with no concern for its grave consequences, since the unemployment that it directly generates leads to the expansion of poverty. In addition, a readiness to discard others finds expression in vicious attitudes that we thought long past, such as racism, which retreats underground only to keep reemerging. Instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think. (20)
  • Some economic rules have proved effective for growth, but not for integral human development. Wealth has increased, but together with inequality, with the result that “new forms of poverty are emerging”. The claim that the modern world has reduced poverty is made by measuring poverty with criteria from the past that do not correspond to present-day realities. (21)
  • Similarly, the organization of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men. We say one thing with words, but our decisions and reality tell another story. (23)
  • War, terrorist attacks, racial or religious persecution, and many other affronts to human dignity are judged differently, depending on how convenient it proves for certain, primarily economic, interests. What is true as long as it is convenient for someone in power stops being true once it becomes inconvenient. (25)
  • new walls are erected for self-preservation, the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only “my” world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only “them”. (27)
  • The loneliness, fear and insecurity experienced by those who feel abandoned by the system creates a fertile terrain for various “mafias”. These flourish because they claim to be defenders of the forgotten, often by providing various forms of assistance even as they pursue their criminal interests. There also exists a typically “mafioso” pedagogy that, by appealing to a false communitarian mystique, creates bonds of dependency and fealty from which it is very difficult to break free. (28)
  • What reigns instead is a cool, comfortable and globalized indifference, born of deep disillusionment concealed behind a deceptive illusion: thinking that we are all-powerful, while failing to realize that we are all in the same boat. (30)
  • True, a worldwide tragedy like the Covid-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together. (32)
  • The world was relentlessly moving towards an economy that, thanks to technological progress, sought to reduce “human costs”; there were those who would have had us believe that freedom of the market was sufficient to keep everything secure. Yet the brutal and unforeseen blow of this uncontrolled pandemic forced us to recover our concern for human beings, for everyone, rather than for the benefit of a few. (33)
  • If only this immense sorrow may not prove useless, but enable us to take a step forward towards a new style of life. If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human family can experience a rebirth, with all its faces, all its hands and all its voices, beyond the walls that we have erected. (35)
  • Unless we recover the shared passion to create a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources, the global illusion that misled us will collapse and leave many in the grip of anguish and emptiness. (36)
  • Migrants are not seen as entitled like others to participate in the life of society, and it is forgotten that they possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person…No one will ever openly deny that they are human beings, yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of our faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love. (39)
  • Digital communication wants to bring everything out into the open; people’s lives are combed over, laid bare and bandied about, often anonymously. Respect for others disintegrates, and even as we dismiss, ignore or keep others distant, we can shamelessly peer into every detail of their lives. (42)
  • The recent pandemic enabled us to recognize and appreciate once more all those around us who, in the midst of fear, responded by putting their lives on the line. We began to realize that our lives are interwoven with and sustained by ordinary people valiantly shaping the decisive events of our shared history: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caretakers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests and religious… They understood that no one is saved alone. (54)