Pope Benedict XVI’s impending resignation, announced this morning, has opened the usual spate of questions prior to a conclave, as well as new ones about the status of a living Pope emeritus. Among some pro-lifers there is lots of buzz about whether the new pontiff will be pro-life, as was John Paul II. It’s an earnest question with beautiful intention, but it misses an essential truth about Catholic DNA.
“Pro-life” is not a plank in a conservative party platform within the Church, as it is in secular politics. There are several encyclicals from several popes spelling out the two-thousand year teaching of the Church. Some of these encyclicals, such as Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, Donum Vitae, Dignitas Personae, and Casti Connubii, establish for the faithful the constant teaching and witness of the Church.
The new Pope does not begin from scratch, but from where all of his predecessors have taken the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
To be Catholic is to be pro-life.
Of course, many are either ignorant of, or reject the teaching of the Church. Nevertheless, the tenets of the faith are binding on popes and laity alike. To be Catholic is to be pro-life.
Rumors, questions, concerns will all swirl in the weeks ahead. Two things are certain:
First, no matter what happens Jesus will continue to keep His promise to the Apostles at the Ascension: “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Second, Jesus will continue to keep another promise to the Apostles: “I will send you my Holy Spirit, and He will lead you to all truth.”
Thus, for the Church and the pro-life community there is a good future. We lift up Pope Benedict in our prayers, thanking God for his papacy and for a gentle and peaceful retirement. As we pray, our prayers should be less for a pro-life pope than for a laity that will abandon their deepening enslavement to secularism and return to the liberating witness of the Church.
No amount of encyclicals will matter if they don’t.