Pro-Life Atheist Participation at Catholic Events

I’m a pro-life atheist and my Catholic neighbor has been bringing me along to her church from time to time for different social events. That’s how I learned about this year’s Walk for Life which is occurring this Saturday. I signed up to attend (as far as carpooling and lunch plans are concerned) but was recently told by my neighbor that her priest asked her to uninvite me due to my being an atheist.

Is there some kind of ecclesiastical rule which forbids non-Catholics in general (or atheists specifically) from participating in events such as these?

Oh, no! Absolutely not! The pro-life cause needs all the help it can get! Feel free to join up! God bless you!

I agree with the previous poster in principle, and I qualify my perspective because I specifically do not know the particulars of the situation. I don’t know exactly how this local Walk for Life is being organized.

It may be the case that the group would be participating and organizing a Walk for Life which touts the specifically Catholic nature of the group. If the parish is marching in the Walk for Life as a Catholic organization, then it would be inappropriate to march with St. Anthony’s Parish in the walk for life as you are not a member of St. Anthony’s Parish. To march with St. Anthony’s Parish when they have their banners a-blazin’ and when you are not a member is effectively a lie.

There may be other similar exceptions, but every single exception I can think of requires the organizing priest to do some very foolish thing by restricting a Walk for Life to Catholics, either directly as above or incidentally by, say, offering Mass and Holy Communion as part of the day’s events. Indeed, it is the perception of being “pro-life” as being the “Catholic cause” that so quickly marginalized mainline Protestants into apathy back in the '70s.

It is in the best interests of everyone involved to embrace anyone who’d like to march for life in a March for Life.

EDIT: Of course, as a poster below notes, if there are other organizations which are appropriately secular and also are participating in the march, it is very permissible and not foolish at all for St. Anthony’s Parish to identify itself as such. Curse my foolish fingers.

You are a welcome sign of hope and a confirmation of what we know from the Bible and reason, that the natural law is written on mens’ hearts and is knowable without revelation (cf. Romans 1)

Is there some kind of ecclesiastical rule which forbids non-Catholics in general (or atheists specifically) from participating in events such as these?

No, but as has been said, I think that the concern is that you would be marching with a Catholic group when you yourself are not Catholic. (It would be the same issue if you were Catholic and marching with a Jewish group or Jewish and marching with a Muslim group.) You may want to join up with one of the secular civic organizations behind the March instead, that way you can still participate without raising eyebrows.

Judging by your location, I imagine you’d be participating in the Walk for Life West Coast right in San Francisco.

Looking at the itinerary, there are a number of extra events besides the walk itself, including a Mass or two, Eucharistic Adoration and at least one prayer service. If your friend is participating in any of these other events, it may be inappropriate to carpool with her. Unless, of course, you don’t mind being left stranded in the opposite side of town for a few hours before and after the walk.

Without asking the priest why the dis-invite was asked, we’ll never know for sure. I have a feeling, though, that this comes very close to the reason.

There is not such a rule

Also I’d like to know why you are pro-life (just curious)

Agree with Dakota. There is no such rule. I believe Catholicism even encourages Catholics to work with men of good will towards making this world a better place. I am not saying though that the priest is entirely unreasonable. We do not know his reasons. It might be beneficial to respectfully ask why.

My family has attended four Marches for Life in Washington D.C.

One of the most encouraging things about this huge event is the presence of such a diverse group of people who are pro-life.

The pro-abortion media tries very hard to convince the nation that pro-life people are part of a small, extremist, fanatically-religious group.

But the March for Life makes it clear that this is not the case.

Among the groups we saw marching (we could tell by their banners) was Atheists for Life, Feminists for Life, Gays for Life, Lesbians for Life, Students for Life, Libertarians for Life, and Democrats for Life.

There were also plenty of one and two-person groups carrying their own banners or signs; many of these were families (“Smiths for Life”) or small businesses (“Joe’s Bar and Grill for Life”).

So I encourage you to go to this walk in your city and speak up for what you believe in. Good for you, and I hope that everyone gives you a warm welcome. Don’t be surprised if any evangelical Protestants try to “witness” to you! I’m sure you’re used to it!

One thing I would be careful of, depending on how large your Walk is. In Washington, we saw several of the extremist right-wing white supremacist groups participating in the March. I don’t know if these kinds of groups still make an appearance–it’s been several years since we’ve gone to the March for Life. But if they do–just be careful. I think it makes sense to respect that that these groups may harbor violent types who could hurt you and others that they disagree with. I think that they may use large pro-life rallies as an opportunity to get names of people to solicit for membership and money, as well as names of people to target. I also worry about children around these groups–I would not want these people to have any opportunity, even a few minutes, to try to groom my children. Everyone be careful out there.

I think the priest is a fool. If he had a real issue, he should have said exactly why and made an alternate suggestion. (eg we will be hanging around at Mass etc after, and won’t be able to give your friend a drive home. If she doesn’t want to do that she’ll need another ride. Or, we’re walking as a parish, why not have your friend walk with “atheists for life” But we could still give her a drive.)

Unless there are other reasons that are not disclosed in your OP, I find it strange for the priest wanting to exclude you.

And no, there is no rule that forbids non-Catholics in participating in Catholic events, unless it is clearly stated for such events.

Sorry to everyone for having abandoned this thread. I was new to Catholic Answers and had made a rushed password, having forgot what it was, and couldn’t return. Since a lot of you seemed confused by the situation I owe you all an explanation of what ensued.

My neighbor ended up asking her priest why it is she ought to uninvite me to the Walk for Life San Francisco, and he essentially gave the same explanation which the user Elijah Baley offered: namely that the event was organized by Catholics and has heavily religious themes. Furthermore on the itinerary for her parish was something she called a Eucharistic Adoration and some other sets of prayers, or something. The priest apologized for having been unclear and stressed the fact that I was more than welcome to tag along, as long as I understood that there were going to be explicitly religious events going on and that such would not offend me.

As I’m pretty open minded I went along and even stayed for the Eucharistic Adoration. The Walk itself was quite eye-opening. Never before had I known that the Pro-life movement had such strange bedfellows, as others have pointed out! The Eucharistic Adoration seemed like a large moment of silence mostly, with some intermittent prayers and speaking. I think everyone was focusing on something further up, but I was so far back that I couldn’t see what it was.

The church members there were very hospitable and quite kind. My neighbor kept introducing me as her “godless neighbor”, in a cute, humorous manner, which at first set me aback since I didn’t know how everyone would react. For the most part everyone continued without skipping a beat, asked me about my studies and what I do, and what it is that got me into the pro-life movement. We also had dinner at another parishioner’s house who insisted that I come to try her Key Lime pie.

I’ve got to say, having come from the deep South where all the “Christians” are Bible-thumping, fire-and-brimstone Evangelical Christians, I never knew how kind you Catholics are. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and speedy replies!


I could yack your ear off for an hour explaining why I’m pro-life (and have done so many times as it seems so strange to so many people that someone who doesn’t believe in God would be pro-life).

In essence, I’m pro-life because I believe in equality and the value of individuals. I stand up for fetuses for the same reason I’d stand up against abuse of the elderly: because the less vulnerable owe it to the vulnerable to do something.

Arguments to choice do absolutely nothing to persuade me, due to my belief in the equality of worth of every individual. A fetus is not an extension of the woman bearing her, nor is she a parasite, as some rather morbid pro-choicers have said in the past. She is an individual human being equally deserving of life as you or I, or the mentally retarded, or the encephalic, or the demented, or the elderly, or the most recently born.

I’m quite aware of the utter dependence of a fetus on the woman bearing her, but I’m not convinced that dependence is a disqualifier for so-called “personhood”, otherwise the same argument to “choice” ought to apply to infanticide, or the passive euthanasia of the elderly and infirm.

Now, I’m open minded when it comes to pro-choice arguments, should any good ones arise. The most common objection I hear always seems to in some way involve distress or inconvenience placed on the pregnant woman. Again, distress and inconvenience doesn’t seem enough to me to deny life to another individual. Even in the most brutal of cases, which to me seems to be the rape of a woman who subsequently becomes pregnant, I cannot fathom how psychological trauma and/or distress of having to give the baby up for adoption outweighs the interest of the baby to live. And to be sure that I’m consistent in my ethics, I would graciously cause psychological angst and emotional distress in 100 people if it meant that doing so would save the life of just one.

There’s more to be said, for sure, but I think this suffices for now. I’d be happy to answer questions if you think of any.


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