Common Sense Is Not So Common

Posted on May 30, 2023 By

by Josephine Garnem

As Matthew quotes Jesus, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You…have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!” (Matthew 23: 23-24, New American Bible)

How do I explain something as fundamental as 1 + 1 = 2? How is it that, despite our evolved consciousness and knowledge, we still struggle to recognize and uphold the inherent dignity and value of every human being from conception to old age and beyond? Why do we continue to overlook the interconnectedness of life issues in shaping our society? We cannot speak of being pro-life if we neglect the effects of unmet social needs, poverty, forced migration due to conflict, both man-made and natural disasters, resource disparities favoring the privileged few, and the need for comprehensive systems, policies, and services that reduce the demand for abortions. We must prioritize dialogue, peace, quality end-of-life care, second chances, rehabilitation, and alternatives to the death penalty. We must confront systemic racism, violence, injustice, nuclear weapons building, environmental injustice, political corruption, and polarization, all of which are often fueled by religious institutions, self-righteous politicians, and religious leaders.

Far too often, we find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle of ignoring the root causes of the issues we claim to be concerned about. Instead of addressing these causes, we resort to punitive responses that stigmatize, dehumanize, punish, and marginalize individuals. We must question what we truly understand as the meaning of human life.

When I first moved to the United States and found a community in a nearby Catholic church, I was filled with joy and admiration for the immense effort and resources put into planning the first March for Life event I attended. The sight of nearly the entire student body from the Catholic schools my children attended, the strong encouragement and support from school and church leadership, and the participation of people from diverse backgrounds—Catholics and Christians of all colors, genders, denominations, and ages—made me believe that I was surrounded by individuals willing to march for a cause that promotes the dignity of life.

However, a few incidents shook me to the core and continue to trouble me. When advocacy groups organized marches against various forms of violence—urging for sensible and ethical gun reform legislation, particularly after tragic events like the Virginia Tech shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Sutherland Springs church shooting, and many others—I never received a letter, email, or heard a sermon or any encouragement from our priests or schools to participate.

Gun violence in America claimed the lives of over 45,000 people in 2020. Approximately 117,000 people are shot annually and 19,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded each year. Gun violence is undeniably a pro-life issue. Yet, the familiar crowds from the March for Life events were conspicuously absent. Fewer Catholic and Christian leaders showed up, and even fewer politicians who claimed to support the pro-life cause were present.


Josephine Garnem

Josephine Garnem

When the dignity of human life is at risk and we are called to account for our actions, such as in the face of systemic racism, disproportionate incarceration of young black and brown men, inequities in services, and police brutality, the pro-life crowd thins even further. The consistency of the pro-life stance appears to become biased and selective. It seems as though the message being conveyed is “not all lives matter” in the same way.

I pause to wonder why I don’t see the same pro-life crowds at events like the Poor People’s Campaign march to Washington. These marches address issues that speak to the inherent dignity of every human being. We must interweave the fabric of pro-life values with issues such as raising the minimum wage, ensuring fair wages for a better quality of life, breaking the cycle of poverty, providing access to healthcare, housing, and food, enabling individuals to bear and care for their children, and meeting other basic life necessities.

We often fail to recognize the importance of consistent life ethics when we proclaim the sacredness of life and the unquestionable perfection of God, but then fail to love and accept those who identify with different genders or no gender at all. We use religion and politics to deny others their rights to thrive, make choices, and experience love. We close our hearts and doors to those who bear the image and spark of the beloved.

I have developed a deep love for the United States, and I am proud and honored to call it my home. It has given me so much! However, I can’t help but question how we have forgotten the holy family’s journey as immigrants and Jesus’ teachings about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless. We have chosen to reconstruct the truth and manipulate religion, politics, and power to decide which lives are sacred and which are not, which migrants to welcome and which to shut out, which wars are just and which are unjust, which form of nuclear armament is justified, and what race is considered supreme. We determine who remains enslaved and who goes free.

Unfortunately, common sense is not so common. We are losing sight of the true meaning of life ethics and our moral obligation to recognize and uphold the dignity of every human being in all their forms. We fail to see the divine in others as we should.

Joan Chittister raises an important point when she states, “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.” She further expresses her perplexity at how the church fails to address women’s health issues or abortion with the same nuance as other life issues.

Pope Francis also warns against falsely prioritizing certain social concerns as if some lives were inherently more important than others. He cautions against allowing a particular focus, such as abortion or migrant issues, to distort our valuing of human life in other areas.

John Dear emphasizes Jesus’ instruction to passionately pursue social, economic, and racial justice. We are called to resist systemic injustice with every fiber of our being, to seek justice as if it were vital for our very sustenance.

As we strive for a consistent and dignified pro-life approach, Fr. Richard Rohr suggests that Christianity will regain its moral authority when it equally emphasizes social sin alongside individual sin, weaving both into a seamless garment of love and truth.


Josephine Garnem

Bob Cooke & Josephine Garnem

In his sermon to mark the 50th anniversary of Pax Christi USA, Bishop John Stowe of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, reminded us of Jesus’ call to be vigilant, to never become complacent. He mentions how Pax Christi has vigilantly monitored the nuclear arms race, advocated for justice worldwide, challenged their own nation’s contributions to injustice, confronted climate change’s impact on vulnerable populations, and stood in solidarity with migrants and refugees. He stresses the need for vigilance against violence that can exist within our own hearts and urges us to build a treasury of peace through prayer, study, action, and calling each other to greater integrity as people of peace.

Ultimately, all life possesses immeasurable value. The weakest, most vulnerable, sick, old, unborn, and poor are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in His own image, destined to live forever, and deserving the utmost reverence and respect.

To heal our world, we must be willing to change our lifestyles for the sake of others’ lives. We must strive to create a society that values and protects every human being, ensuring access to food, education, work, healthcare, and freedom from violence. This comprehensive approach embodies the true essence of being pro-life.



For posts on a similar topic, see: 

Open Letter to Governor Stitt: the Pro-life Case against the Death Penalty

Social Programs to Help the Poor are Pro-life

What History Shows: The Consistent Life Ethic Works for Pro-life Referendums

When Linking Abortion with Other Violence Comes Naturally to Pro-lifers – Part 1: Connections Show Importance

When Linking Abortion with Other Violence Comes Naturally to Pro-lifers – Part 2: Consistency Strengthens the Case




  1. This is truly amazing. Thank God we have exceptional people like you to remind us.
    Love this!

  2. Kofi Danso says:

    This is an amazing and eye-opener piece of writing. This challenges everyone to look at the coin on both sides and from different angles and understand human dynamics and perspectives.
    This writing is really heartwarming!

  3. Mary Liepold says:

    Bless you, Josie – and right on! I will share this widely, and I hope many others will too.

  4. Rachel MacNair says:

    Note from editor Rachel MacNair: this comment was originally under the post published after where there was no Chittister quote, so I’ve moved it here to the post to which it applies. The commenter is “Pantheist”:

    I did read the quote by Joan Chittister and I am perplex how can you present it in your website, because its a typical quote used by pro-abortion people to justity their stance. Model Gigi Hadid comments on her Instagram, which I read, while apparently not radical, reject totally the pro-life stance on abortion, they even justity late-term abortions. By the way its been a matter of contention if Chittister is really pro-life on abortion, because she seems not to take any stance on its legality. We should never sink the pro-life stance on defense of the unborn on behalf of social justice and radical pro-abortion agendas, like Cardinal Joseph Bernardin warned. He would be totally on the conservative side of the abortion debate today. From a National Catholic Register article from 12 June 1988: “In 1988, the Register asked Cardinal Bernardin if Catholic voters should disqualify candidates who don’t support a human life amendment./ “Well, certainly,” he said. “That’s what the consistent life ethic is all about.” “Isenhart: But a practical question must be dealt with. People see candidates running who think that a woman’s right to abortion should never be repealed; who do not support a human life amendment. Can Catholics disqualify such candidates because they violate the consistent ethic of life?/ Bernardin: Well, certainly. That’s what the consistent ethic is all about. I feel very, very strongly about the right to life of the unborn, the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings. I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a “basic right” of the individual. The consequence of that position would be an absence of legal protection for the unborn.”/ Isenhart: In view of that, how do Catholics defend themselves from being called “single-issue voters”? How’s that different from a “litmus test”?/ Bernardin: Depends on how you approach it. In one sense I think there is a single issue, and that single issue is life. What’s our obligation to protect and promote life? What’s our obligation to try to do away with everything that undermines life or destroys it? That’s the issue. We have to keep pursuing that.

  5. Gail Karrer says:

    Just browsing a bit today to see what is going on at a parish I attended from 5th to 8th grade–1957 to 1961. Those were the good old days of true Catholicism–reverent Mass and altars, reverent attire, good solid families of VARIOUS CULTURES, not just Hispanics, as it is nowadays. Since that time St. Therese, one of my patron saints, has guided me and has been with me my entire life. (I am now 75!). I find the article above to be disconcerting for a few reasons: the author makes blatant and openly false accusations against the devoted pro-lifers, who do, indeed, not just say let a child be born, but offer financial and other assistances to women who decide to keep their child. That is a part of the entire agenda! Such an accusation is unfounded. 2) She represent the liberal agenda which criticizes all the good work the church has done for centuries when building schools, orphanages, hospitals, etc., as if it (the church) was never so rightfully concerned about the poor, the sick and the afflicted!!! 3) She implies that if one does not accept the LGTB gender issue, one is being uncharitable—this is the norm for the liberal followers of Bergolio, the apostate pope. 4) The pastor of this parish would not allow pro-lifers to hand out flies at his church quite a few years ago, while (now) Gov. Lujan-Grisham was allowed to give a talk in the parish hall! Now we see that she supports abortion until birth, and helped build an abortion center at the NM border, which cost the taxpayers $10 million! As we now read, even in the national news reports, Lujan-Grisham has allowed for children in the public schools to seek medical help for gender changes, abortions and “other things”, without parental consent! She has recently defied the Second Amendment by forbidding citizens of NM to carry guns in order to protect themselves against the incredible violence that exists in NM. This is definitely not a parish for me anymore, nor has it been for many years. I will not give in to the new liberalism which is destroying the true church of Christ.

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