Sitting down to consider the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I first feel the weight of incredible sadness, mourning — once again as I do each January 22nd — the loss of so many people, and all the joy and love they would have brought to this world. (Brother Matt writes about this in a way that touches my heart, and if you haven’t already read his reflection on this, I invite you to do so. Allow yourself time to sit with it and grieve, too.)
Reflecting on that sadness and loss, those gaps left not just in our country but all around the world, my mind wanders next to the vastness of the issue. With all that will be said and written about the legal, political, and even theological aspects of this issue this week, what messages will stick? Will any hearts and minds change? How can we approach this issue with grace?
Perhaps subconsciously, I grab a favorite reference from my bookshelf: On Heaven and Earth. Co-authored by then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, this book is the product of their friendship and frequent interfaith conversations and was first published in 2010. While the table of contents sounds heavy — On God, On the Devil, On Prayer, On Death, On Poverty, On the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Other Conflicts, the list goes on — their big-picture point of view is approachable. I purchased On Heaven and Earth originally because, back in March 2013, it was the first English translation I could find of anything the newly elected pope had written. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate it as a tool to help me focus (or refocus) on the core of an issue.
So, how does then-Cardinal Bergoglio approach the issue of abortion in this dialogue, speaking to a leader of another faith and knowing his audience for the book may include people of all faiths and none at all?
“The moral problem with abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code of the person is present at the moment of conception. There is already a human being. I separate the issue of abortion from any religious concept. It is a scientific problem. To not allow further progress in the development of a being that already has the entire genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first human right. Abortion is killing something that cannot defend himself.”
He focuses here on what unites us — the core, human right of the unborn — and responds with truth and love.
I pray I will take this example to heart in more of my own conversations, particularly when discussing tough topics, and that the example of Pope Francis’ compassion and wisdom will inspire a constructive dialogue about abortion in our country and all around the world.