I am Catholic, an actual Catholic who believes & agrees with the Pope. (Ok, at least most of the time. There are, admittedly, some doctrines I struggle with.) With that in mind, Pope Benedict summed up so much of my Catholic-worldview beliefs in his message delivered on the World Day of Peace this year (January 1, 2008):
Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests...With that context, we should respect and be good stewards of our environment, but not at the expense of human life; we should respect and have compassion for all God's creatures, but, again, not at the expense of human beings.
One question this raises for me is whether we should eat meat, since we can survive without it. I'm still not going to expound on that issue yet.
The bigger issue for me, though, is the hypocrisy that I have encountered regarding the value of animal life versus that of human life. I know there will be some out there who'll take offense to my separation of the two, but human beings are not just "other animals," and animals are not human and should not be afforded the same rights as human beings. They deserve humane treatment, yes, absolutely, but not human rights.
However, human life deserves human rights.
Anyone who knows me knows I am adamantly pro-life, something that is reflective of my Catholic beliefs, but that is based in much more than religion for me. That's not to say I can't put myself in the place of the single woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, the impregnated rape victim, or the woman with health issues that could prevent her from carrying a baby full-term safely. However, as empathetic and codependent as I am, I know in my core that human life begins at conception.
A little over a month ago on December 31st, I had the opportunity to visit the Body Worlds exhibit while it was in Charlotte. The exhibit was one of the most amazing, grotesquely beautiful things I have ever seen. It was uncomfortable to view, yet incredibly magnetic. (This blog covers the exhibit well.) One part of the exhibit focused on fetal development. The curtained off area included human embryos from 4 through 8 weeks, fetuses from 16 weeks (I think) through 34 weeks, and a woman who was eight months pregnant, with her in utero baby exposed. As awesome (and hard to take) as the pregnant woman and babies were, the embryos probably amazed me most: I'd read it before and seen photographs, but to see the spine on a 4 week old* embryonic baby and to see the fingers on an 8 week old baby the size of a nickel, there is no doubt that these are children.
So, back to the beginning: where I see hypocrisy is in those people who are adamant animal rights advocates...and card-carrying pro-Roe supporters. I have a hard time understanding how someone can argue that hogs should have the right to move in their pens without being passionate that a child has a right to live.
My issue is really that simple.
* A baby's gestational age is calculated from the mother's last menses, typically about 2 weeks before her ovulation. Hence, a baby is 2 weeks old gestationally before s/he is even conceived! For me, that fits so perfectly with