Seamless Garment Ethic

"All life has dignity and worth from the moment of conception to natural death"


The Seamless Garment Ethic, also known as the Consistent Ethic of Life, encompasses the Catholic social teaching on various ethical life issues, which holds all life to have dignity and worth and that all life must thus be protected.

 The use of the phrase "Seamless Garment" to refer to this ethic was first coined by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Cardinal Bernardin explained the importance placed by Catholic Social Teaching on protecting the dignity of every life in a speech given at Fordham University in 1983. (Click HERE to read his speech, which is provided by the Archdiocese of Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernandin Archives and Records Center). He based the phrase "Seamless Garment" on a passage from the Gospel of St. John (Jn 19:23) in which Jesus is referred to as having a seamless garment, which was made from a single piece of cloth. This reference connotates an inclusiveness to all life, in seeing that there are no "seams" closing individuals out. 


In conncetion to our Franciscan Heritage, upholding the dignity and worth of individuals was  stressed by Sts. Francis and Clare in their teachings and lives. To them, all of creation had undeniable worth and individuals are all called as stewards to care for creation and one another. As a result, individuals must all take care to avoid neglecting their brothers and sisters, but must love them as themselves, regardless of their state in life.

As St. Francis is quoted as saying "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."


 However, these values are not specific to Catholicism or Christianity as a whole. Safeguarding the dignity and worth of all of creation holds a prominent part in various religious and cultural codes of ethics.

Ethical Life Issues

In encompassing "the moment of conception to natural death", this ethic encompass any issue during a person's life which places the dignity and worth of human life at risk.

This includes (but is not limited to): human trafficking, abuse, just wages, medical ethics, homelessness, poverty, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, abortion, war, and the death penalty.

For a more complete listing of ethical life issues in Catholic Social Teaching, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' website page on Human Life and Dignity.