There have been many indications over the last few years that the culture of life is gaining a foothold like never before. Recent polling data have consistently indicated that popular opinion is shifting farther and farther from abortion and towards a pro-life stance. Unprecedented pro-life legislation has been passed in many states where, five or ten years ago, similar measures would have fallen (or did fall) flat. A drop in the abortion rate could also be indicative of the shift toward greater respect for human life.
And politics and polls aside, as much as the liberal mainstream media try to ignore it, this trend is also affecting the culture at large, as evidenced by the Catholic Church’s outspoken pro-life leader, Pope Francis, being chosen as TIME magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year. And Francis actually earned the spot after only eight months in the global eye.
Contending with other notable figures of 2013, Pope Francis was chosen over gay rights activist Edith Windsor, Syria’s oppressive leader Bashar Assad, Edward Snowden, and another outspoken pro-lifer, Senator Ted Cruz. The fact that two staunchly pro-life figures made it into the final selection is itself astounding, and that one of them won out among the others is a testimony to the culture shift in favor of life.
Although the mainstream media – TIME not excluded – has a tendency to read many of Pope Francis’s actions as a criticism of his predecessors (He doesn’t wear red shoes? He must be condemning the pomp of the papacy displayed by predecessors…etc.), TIME accepts the pope’s unapologetic pro-life position at face value. However, in the magazine’s explanation of its choice of Pope Francis, Nancy Gibbs took part in the wild mischaracterization of the pope that has been the norm in the mainstream media.
When he rejects the pomp and the privilege… cold-calls strangers in distress, offers to baptize the baby of a divorced woman whose married lover wanted her to abort it, he is doing more than modeling mercy and transparency. He is embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals.
Although the mainstream media do not understand – and apparently refuses to study – the foundation on which the Catholic church builds her pro-life teaching (that is, primarily because life itself is precious, valuable, and a gift), they accept Pope Francis as a hero along with his pro-life convictions. The disconnect seems to be that the mainstream media hold up Francis in contrast to the rest of Church teaching, when Francis and all of his recent predecessors actually embody Catholic values in their own unique but equally authentic Catholic way. Francis is not the prototype of a more progressive form of Catholicism; he is a unique embodiment of the same truths that all of the recent popes have, in their own ways, emphasized.
TIME sees in Francis an extraordinary example of mercy and charity, which has rightly earned him recognition. And choosing Francis while being fully apprised of his stance on abortion is one more example of the abolition of the culture of death that is taking hold in the modern world.