A Consistent Ethic of Life


What is “a consistent Ethic of Life?”

The consistent life ethic, or the consistent ethic of life is a [life stance] that opposes abortioncapital punishmentassisted suicide, and euthanasia. Adherents are opposed, at the very least, to unjust war, while some adherents also profess pacifism, or opposition to all war. The term was popularized in 1983 by the Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to express an ideology based on the premise that all human life is sacred and should be protected by law.

What does the Church say about the consistent ethic of life?

Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

Gaudium et Spes 27 | The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council


ARTICLE:  A Consistent Ethic of Life: An American-Catholic Dialogue

Gannon Lecture, Fordham University by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin December 6, 1983

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Gracious and Good God, the beauty and dignity of human life was the crowning glory of your creation. You further ennobled that life when your Son, Jesus Christ, became one with us in his incarnation. Help us to realize the sacredness of human life and to respect it from the moment of conception until the last moment at death. Give us courage to speak with truth and love and with conviction in defense of life. Help us to extend the gentle hand of mercy and forgiveness to those who do not reverence your gift of life. To all, grant pardon for the times we have failed to be grateful for your precious gift of life or to respect it in others. We ask this in Jesus' Name.  AMEN.


The Sacredness of Human Life and

End of Life Discussions