Creating a pro-life culture is not simply putting up posters during pro-life week or sending a few students to the March for Life.
Those things are good, but if that’s all you do, it’s like putting a band-aid on an issue that’s literally life or death and saying, “Whelp, that should do it.”
Let’s certainly not terrify students with aggressive anti-abortion presentations when many students would respond well to science, logic, and God’s Plan. Life ethics are a controversial, huge, messy issue in our world. If you’re intentional about how you address these issues, it’ll all work out for the best.
Life is about more than grades. It’s about eternal life, and that means creating a pro-life culture in your Catholic school community.
Every Catholic school can help their students, families, and administration embrace their own worth and that of others by promoting a culture of pro-life with a few practical considerations.
Catholic Schools Need To Consider These Things To Build A Pro-life Culture
When addressing bullying… don’t take it lightly. Bullying is using the power one has to hurt someone who is more vulnerable, whether that’s physically, academically, socially, or even spiritually. It’s not healthy competition.
Abortion is bullying. Bullying mentality is also how assisted suicide manipulates its victims and is applicable to crimes of neglect and abuse of people of all ages. It dehumanizes whoever it targets and reveals that the inflictor needs healing, too.
Have a clear understanding of each person’s individual responsibility in a situation. Words lead to action, so know how to address locker room talk when immature boys (or girls) are verbally rejecting another’s humanity by sexualizing their body or demeaning their disability.
Bullying is not “tough love;” bullying is anti-life.
When a student or staff member reports abuse or harassment… take it seriously. Taking all claims seriously, acting immediately, and dealing with them with the consideration of all involved tells the entire community that this is serious and this is what happens. It promotes honesty. It is pro-life.
Maybe it is as simple as putting two teachers in a room and mediating, “Please stop telling her she’s hot. It’s not professional. It makes her uncomfortable. I understand you thought you were complimenting her. This is just a conversation so you are aware. She wasn’t comfortable telling you alone without me as a witness.”
Or maybe it is as serious as calling the cops and going into a full lockdown of the school.
Your action (or inaction) tells others their worth is recognized (or rejected). Not earned. Not proven. Not indefensible. It just is, and that’s truth.
This would also include making sure everyone is VIRTUS Safe Environment trained, or something similar to that. Proactively teach students and administration how to report concerns, protect each other, and that it is good to speak up.
You could even consider self-defense in gym class. Why? Because it provides the tools needed to defend the innocent in real life! That’s what the pro-life movement is all about.
When organizing school field trips… do you include opportunities annually for local and national March for Life pilgrimages? Are parents involved? Are the administration educated and equipped with the pro-life attitude to promote it?
Maybe someone struggles with their own worth surrounding their birth or family or medical situation. This is a prime opportunity to show them they are worth fighting for.
Maybe someone doesn’t fully grasp the church teaching and opening their eyes to science and the heart of pro-life activism will really influence them.
What you promote as a school community shows students what your priority is, which also includes academics and sports. Having a traditional senior pilgrimage to the March for Life would be monumental to those students about to graduate.
When rewarding students for academics or performance… do you praise worldly achievements only? Are you concerned with the individual well-being, the person’s path to sainthood—or just stats?
Academics, sports, and leadership are good. Achievements as these should be recognized but not idolized.
Some schools have programs where students send compliments to each other or can nominate virtue or honor awards for behavior. As long as your programs and attitude are focused on promoting good behavior for the sake of integrity, not bribing, you’ll create a phenomenal pro-life atmosphere.
Mentorship programs between students or a regular interaction of advisors with students would also provide an opportunity to shape the character of students.
Idolizing GPA and sports awards tells students their worth is rooted in worldly things they earn. That’s a lie that will send them into the world trying to earn their worth by higher salaries and impressive job titles.
They are made for greater achievements, like sainthood.
When reviewing “Sex Ed”… public schools are not guided by Christian values when it comes to health education. Catholic schools, though, must be aware of what is going on in all their classrooms. Students need age-appropriate truths about their bodies, God’s Plan, safety, and where babies come from.
This includes treating your body and other people’s bodies with respect—not like objects. Unborn babies are often treated like sub-humans, like an unwanted package or trash.
You need to review the language used in your classrooms involving the beginning of human life. Fetus means offspring, not an inhuman glob of cells. It’s the first stage of human development, not inhuman or unnatural.
Bonus, it would let the students know they are worthy of the committed, blessed true love of married life as God intended when He designed our bodies.
As for other subjects, make it routine to not sugar-coat historical lessons. You don’t need to tear apart one group of people’s dignity by blaming them for an incident, but you also shouldn’t rewrite history in the opposite extreme to glorify one group above others. Many materials are guilty of such revisionist history, and as a school, you need to be aware that history is the story of us all, best told in age-appropriate honesty.
Are your classes teaching truth or lax about morals and reject a Catholic worldview, which includes pro-life issues?
In science, don’t exclude theological discussions. Physical science and our Catholic metaphysical beliefs are complementary. Truth does not contradict truth. This approach will help guide students to the truth of pro-life with scientific evidence and divine backing.
Teach speech classes with the aim of integrity—not manipulation. Reiterate in political science classes and government that God is King—no man can save your souls so don’t idolize a system of government. A human ruler could deny your right to life or make a law about who gets to die or reproduce. Approach social justice issues with the Catholic social teachings that continually affirm the dignity of all human beings.
When booking speakers… inviting people like Lila Rose and Abby Johnson would be epic and moving.
I will never forget the Holocaust survivor’s story from one of my high school assemblies. Never. Someone else decided he didn’t have the right to live, and he was a young boy surviving mass murder in a concentration camp by hiding among the dead bodies until people came to save him.
Survivors of genocide, witnesses to crimes against humanity, and sex trafficking survivors or rescuers are all amazing speakers. Addressing tough issues also teaches students that they are taken seriously and respected as maturing young adults. Avoiding them makes truth taboo and belittles them.
Anti-pornography organizations, such as Porn Kills Love, would also be great pro-life influences as speakers or associates to help your school community further embrace respect of self and others with dignity. No person is an object or property of another for pleasure!
Support a pro-life club. Imagine the depth of bioethical debates you could host by inviting other schools to come debate your pro-life students. With proper rules and mediation, this could be revolutionary.
Part of being pro-life is hearing the other side—not agreeing, but hearing.
Perhaps Students for Life is a good choice for your community.
Allowing the leaders of the club to be well-rounded students championing the pro-life efforts they participate in or lead makes it so that pro-life isn’t something forced by adults. Instead, it is championed by student leaders as well.
Who is your Pregnancy Crisis Center representative? You might need this for students in crisis or to inspire students to pursue a career in helping parents in need or at the battered women’s shelter. They could be an ambassador or invited to sit at lunch and speak to the students on a regular basis.
When looking into community services and raising funds… why not raise money for the local pregnancy crisis center? Or an infant safety box? Is there an opportunity for students to volunteer in the NICU or other infant care facility?
Visit the sick or elderly. Participate in programs like Angel Tree for children whose parents are in prison. Feed the hungry and clothe the naked with the intention to know their humanity, their names—not just that they are vulnerable people. Clean a cemetery for respect of death.
Have a meal train ministry for students’ families who have members in the hospital for illness, job loss, or birth of a new member.
When setting standards of student dignity in dress and speech… lead by example. Make and enforce a dress code that teaches professionalism with the goal of displaying dignity and focusing on words and actions. Teach etiquette and lead by example. Something as simple as enforcing the Catholic teachings on the feminine genius by promoting opening doors and “ladies first” would be counter-cultural, just like the pro-life movement. Such visible respect for ladies would also translate well into respecting boundaries and the miracle of life.
When a student becomes pregnant… have a support system so that she is NOT shamed out of school. Make it clear that parenthood is NOT a sin, but instead a major blessing.
God does not like sex out of marriage because He wants us to receive martial love in its fulness—not treat each other as objects of pleasure. Regardless of whether the conception of the child was consensual or criminal, the mother has been given a great gift and her body is simply doing what it is naturally created to do.
Any crime involved in the conception of the child should be fully investigated, especially if on school grounds or by other students or staff. This is obviously a delicate situation, but handling it with respect is essential to the students involved and those who may be sexually active that life is precious and should be respected whether it’s a pregnant teen or a preborn baby. Use these opportunities to enforce good lessons—not maximize bad.
Plan a Grandparent’s Day annually! Respect for the life of elders is part of the pro-life movement, too. Make sure to help accommodate those with wheelchairs. Have time set aside for fellowship so that those who don’t have living grandparents can hear their stories. It is incredibly influential to hear the generations who have lived longer than us tell their story.