Cecil the lion is dead and so are millions of unborn children. These facts have no direct correlation, but thoughtful reading of Pope Francis’ letter on care for all of God’s creation provides insights about the value of life that applies to lions, children and all living things.
You will recall that Cecil, a popular lion living in an animal sanctuary in Zimbabwe, Africa, was allegedly lured out of the sanctuary in early July and killed by a big-game hunter from Minnesota. People worldwide have expressed outrage because lions are rapidly disappearing off the face of the earth and the way in which Cecil’s life ended was deemed unethical.
About the same time the media embarked on a feeding frenzy with the lion story, abortion opponents released their first sensational, undercover video depicting a Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies. The first and subsequent videos generated as much controversy over the dubious behavior of “citizen journalists” who lied about their identities and surreptitiously recorded their interviews as over the reprehensible actions of Planned Parenthood.
As the videotape story slowly picked up steam, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) sponsored a bill to prohibit funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged support for the bill, but the measure failed to receive enough votes.
Those sympathetic with the videotape campaign now complain that Cecil the lion’s death generated far more coverage in mainstream media than the exposé on Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, the reviled hunter has become, ironically, the hunted.
We encourage proponents of both big stories to set aside time to read Pope Francis’ teaching letter (encyclical) that explores, in part, how people in today’s world view and value life.
“At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others (90).” The Holy Father notes that we cannot experience a deep and real communion with the rest of nature “if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings (91).”
Planned Parenthood claims such compassion. The largest abortion network in the U.S. said on its website that it doesn’t profit from “tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research…. Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. … We do this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.”
The statement doesn’t use the word abortion, even though Planned Parenthood performs over a third of all abortions. Nor does Planned Parenthood state that the donated tissue comes from unborn children. Could it be that Planned Parenthood doesn’t use the word “abortion” because it purposefully tries to hide behind euphemisms in order to present a more palatable public profile?
We’re not letting Cecil the lion advocates off the hook, either, for their vilification of the big game hunter. One sign on his clinic door read “rot in hell,” something any good Christian would never utter. All this attention on a lion overshadows voices advocating for human victims of violence and oppression.
Proponents of abortion (and the sale of fetal parts) and of the hunt make the same argument: it is legal. What is missing is the bigger question: is it ethical?
Pope Francis observes: “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?
We encourage readers to reflect on these thoughts. Read “Laudato Si.”