VATICAN CITY, January 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In recent months Pope Benedict XVI has placed a great emphasis on respect for life of the unborn, noting that it is a cornerstone of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.  However the emphasis is surprising to some who have in the past seen social justice only as pertaining to concerns around poverty, development, peace, and the environment.

In the 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI insisted that “openness to life is at the centre of true development.” In December, the Pope issued a formal legislative document, or Motu Proprio, called, “On the service of Charity” which went so far as to insist that bishops strip the name ‘Catholic’ from charitable agencies which are not being carried out in conformity with Church teaching. 

Stressing the point again last week the Pope said, “We must exercise a critical vigilance and at times refuse funding and collaborations that, directly or indirectly, favour actions or projects that are at odds with Christian anthropology.”

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While in Rome recently, LifeSiteNews.com interviewed the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life about the Pope’s insistence that the pro-life issue is central to the social justice mission of the Church.

Here’s what Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula had to say:

Well, the issue of life in the social doctrine of the Church has become a central and fundamental element. When the Church began its teaching on social matters, on justice, at the end of the 19th century, life, so to speak, was something the whole world respected, so there weren’t serious problems.
So at the center of social justice, were problems concerning work, the family etc… Justice regarding interpersonal relations were the main point.  The issue of life arose later.

The problem became a serious one I believe, in the beginning of the 1960s. 

The first [Pope] who intervened I think, in this matter was John XXIII, with the encyclical, for example, Mater et Magistra. 

Why? Because at that time what was called the “demographic problem,” the “population bomb” was proposed. That’s when the problems began.

Because the growth of the population, the fact that people were born, that there were increasingly more people, was proposed as a great danger for our survival. And therefore it was a suggestion, it was an incitement, let us say, to take measures against life, to limit the number of people.

And at that point very serious problems began.

What is the situation? The first thing that comes to mind?

Now, after fifty years of experience that we now have in this area, we see many consequences.

Today we have other types of social problems that are important such as, for example, the aging of the population.

The diminishment of ‘living forces’. The presence of young people reduced as a percentage, and therefore people who can provide support, principally with their work, with their productive capacity, etc…

So it’s nothing special… I think that Benedict XVI when he wished to present in his encyclical the relationship that exists between social justice issues and issues regarding human life has presented something that I would say is evident for anyone with a minimum of wisdom for understanding what’s happening.