President Trump calls himself pro-life but that was not always the case. He has changed his political affiliation four times. In 1987, Trump was a Republican but switched to the Reform Party in 1999, and declared himself “very pro-choice.” Trump then became a Democrat from 2001-2008. In 2009, he switched back to the Republican Party. It seems that Mr. Trump flip-flops on any number of issues. Pragmatically speaking, he must call himself “pro-life” today in order to get millions of votes from the religious right.
In remarks at Fordham University in 1983, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin argued that human life is valuable and must be respected from conception to natural death. It must include health care, war, poverty, and anything that’s a threat to human life or well-being. Bernardin used the metaphor of the seamless garment to show that there’s no way to separate one concern from another. For example, Pope Francis in 2019 changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church calling capital punishment “inadmissible.” (See https: www.catholicsun.org/2019/01/11//cardinal-joseph-l-bernardins-consistent-ethic-of-life/).
Most of what I say in this article is based on the thought of Pope Francis who has a very wide and profound understanding of pro-life issues similar to those of Cardinal Bernardin.
For Pope Francis, “everything in the world is connected.” He sees an intimate relationship between “the poor and the fragility of the planet.” (Laudato SI’: On Care For Our Common Home, (Huntington, IN, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, p. 16).
Pope Francis has been the reigning Pope for six years, yet the U.S. bishops have failed as a group to back his wide understanding of pro-life issues, such as global climate change, taking a stand on racism, and living in a sustainable way. In fact, Pope Francis has removed Cardinals Raymond Burke and Justin F. Rigali in the U.S. from the powerful Congregation for Bishops that suggests a list of three priests when a bishop’s chair is open. Pope Francis has replaced them with prelates of his own choosing, such as Archbishop Blasé Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego among others.
For Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, if one is pro-life, one must fight against global climate change, arguably the most important issue facing the planet, an issue that poses a threat to the very future of the human race and planet Earth. For this reason, Pope Francis on Oct. 10, 2020, urged people to “pull investments” from corporations that refuse to protect the environment.
In sharp contrast to Mr. Trump, Pope Francis spoke about three plans of action in regard to the health of the planet: more education about the environment, access to clean water and agricultural practices that are sustainable, and the need to move away from fossil fuels. In Laudato Si’, p. 11, Pope Francis quotes Patriarch Bartholomew, who says “For human beings … to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes to its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands, … these are sins.”
Also, doesn’t Trump put the future of our planet in peril when he allows U.S. companies (like Exxon Mobil) to put five billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year? Though President Obama signed the Paris Agreement in April, 2016, President Trump withdrew from it on June 1, 2017. The main goal of the Paris Agreement was to strengthen the global response to climate change by keeping a global temperature rise from 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Is President Trump pro-life when he downplayed Covid-19, saying that the virus would go away magically, undermined infectious disease experts like Anthony Fauci, spread misinformation about the benefit of hydroxychloroquine, (stating that it could prevent a person from contracting Covid-19), and been more preoccupied about winning the 2020 presidential election, rather than being concerned about the health of millions of Americans?
I end with the words of Bishop John Stowe of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, who said this about President Trump: “For this president to call himself pro-life, and for anybody to back him because of claims of being pro-life, is almost willful ignorance. He is so much anti-life because he is only concerned about himself, and he gives us every, every, every indication of that.”
Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.