The Common Good

Keeping the 'Consistent' in 'Consistent Ethic of Life'

Twelve years ago this week, the Catholic Church lost one of her great and humble leaders, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

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Bernardin captured the vision of the second Vatican council: Carry forward tradition, not traditionalism; cling to the faithful first, and the dogma of faith second. He was a rigorous intellectual and philosopher, but, above all else, he was a pastor.

Cardinal Bernardin is probably best remembered for introducing the concept of "the seamless garment of life." In his 1983 speech at Fordham University, Bernardin put forth an inquiry to the audience: How can Catholics address the need for a consistent ethic of life and probe the problems within the church and the wider society for developing such and ethic? He said:

The principle that yields the most stringent, binding and radical conclusion of the Bishops' pastoral letter (The Challenge of Peace) is this: that directly intended attacks on civilian centers are always wrong.

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