Abp. Gomez Irons Out ‘Seamless Garment’

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 5, 2016   

The archbishop says it's "a mistaken idea that all issues are morally equivalent"

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LOS ANGELES (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles is clarifying the erroneous notion that social justice issues like unemployment and immigration are morally equivalent to life issues like abortion and euthanasia.

Speaking recently to a Hispanic Pro-Life Congress in Santa Ana, California, the archbishop criticized the "seamless garment" theory, which some Catholics use to place all moral issues on the same level. Gomez remarked that this approach misleads people, resulting in "a mistaken idea that all issues are morally equivalent."

The theory, originally called "a consistent ethic of life," was coined in 1983 by the late Cdl. Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. Since its inception, the theory has often been misused by dissident theologians to downplay the gravity of intrinsically moral evils like abortion, contraception and stem cell research, while putting great emphasis on issues like pollution and homelessness.

As recently as last year, this theory was abused by Abp. Blase Cupich of Chicago. ChurchMilitant.com reported on Cupich's op-ed in the Chicago Tribune equating Planned Parenthood's alleged sale of baby organs with other social justice issues:

We should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.

The comments by Abp. Cupich elicited a response by Abp. Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who refuted his claims:

On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. … [O]nly a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence. The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.

At the pro-life congress, Abp. Gomez lamented, "Never before has there been so much talk about human freedom and dignity and self-realization. The fundamental injustice in our society is the killing of innocent unborn life through abortion and the killing of the sick and defenseless through euthanasia and assisted suicide."

He continued, "If the child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the old have no right to be taken care of, then there is no solid foundation to defend anyone's human rights."

The archbishop said injustices include racial discrimination, drugs, prison conditions and deportation, adding that while not all issues are equal, they are all important. "I am not trying to say that all of these issues are 'equal.' They are not. And we always need to be clear about that."

"But in the face of the suffering and human need in the world," he insisted, "we cannot compartmentalize our compassion or draw lines between those we will care about and those we will not."

To learn more about Church teaching on marriage and family, watch ChurchMilitant.com's exclusive interview with Bp. Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois on "Mic'd Up—Michael Voris Interviews Bp. Thomas Paprocki."


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