Consistent Ethic of Life

The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility toward the common good.
- Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin articulated the “seamless garment” moral vision in 1983. Also known as the “consistent ethic of life,” the approach was intended to form a broad commitment to the sanctity and quality of life in a variety of issues including integrity of creation, racism, poverty, the arms race, peace, abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. This moral vision is at the heart of the Gospel and Catholic social teaching.

The consistent ethic of life requires a shift from violence to non-violence and away from systems that endanger or limit life, toward a protection of the common good, according to the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference in their April 1997 statement, A Consistent Ethic of Life.

“The future of humanity itself has become dependent on the wise choices made by the human family to ensure the flourishing in abundance of life, love and diversity. There must be continuing reflection on the value of life so that wise choices can be made … In order to nurture and protect all life we need to widen our understanding of what it is we are protecting and how we are to go about it. We need to recognize the interconnectedness of all living things and the value of diversity.”


To learn more about the consistent ethic of life, check out our annotated bibliography: