In the time that I’ve been writing, both on my site and on several Catholic websites, I’ve tried to stay away from controversial topics. I’ve never taken a public position on communion in the hand, ordinary vs extraordinary form, Gregorian chant vs guitar Masses, and so on. Partly because I don’t want to turn anyone off from what I have to say about our faith, all of these topics having ardent supporters on both sides, but also partly because these are all issues that are up to each individual to decide for themselves.
Sure, there’s some who say the Mass since Vatican II is illicit, but that is not the position of the Church, and they are a relatively small minority. I can receive the Eucharist on my tongue and you can receive in your hand, I will think no less of you and you will think no more of me, because both are permitted ways of receiving Our Lord. I can prefer guitars or organ music, either one doesn’t invalidate the Sacrifice Of the Mass. These are all matters of personal taste and opinion, while I try to deal only in facts and doctrines.
There are also things that the Church says we must do, like take care of the poor, but leaves the “how” up to us. We can support local charities, we can advocate for smaller government so people have more money to give to charity, we can also support a large welfare state that theoretically takes care of the poor. How the poor are cared for is a matter of prudential judgment, the Church just says that it must be done and leaves us free to figure out the details.
Then there are issues in the Church that are not matters left to each person to decide. These revolve around principles and teachings that are often deemed “non-negotiables” in our contemporary conversations.
One of these non-negotiables is abortion.
The teachings of the Church that touch on issues of life are often are hard pill to swallow for some converts, for me it was one of the easiest. I’ve always been pro life, and very outspoken about my beliefs that life begins at conception and should be protected. My beliefs weren’t so much based on religious convictions or church teachings, but on what I always considered common sense and a basis of civilized people; You don’t kill children.
Considering the Church’s firm teachings on this issue, what I didn’t expect when becoming Catholic was the amount of dissent I’d encounter from my co-religionists . Some mistakenly believe that the Church has “softened its stance on this issue,” but that just shows a severe lack of catechesis in the Church today. The Church can’t suddenly allow an intrinsic evil as a way to “get with the times.” If something is gravely evil, it can never be allowed.
Others think that their conscience is supreme and since they aren’t bother by the thought of abortion, then it’s not a sin for them to support it. But once again, abortion is intrinsically evil, so if your conscience has no problem with it, then there is a problem with your conscience.
This entire post isn’t aimed at convincing non Christians that abortion is wrong, it’s aimed at reminding Catholics that our Church unequivocally teaches that abortion is a grave evil.
When it comes to abortion, opinions among your everyday Catholics, and most of society, fall into one of three categories;
1. Abortion is the ending of an innocent life and we must work to end this tragic situation.
This is the majority position of the laity in the Church, and most importantly, it is the position of the Church itself. This position is founded upon scripture, tradition and science.
First, there is the biblical prohibition against murder that can be found in the Fifth Commandment, among other places. This commandment is commonly misquoted as “thou shall not kill” but a more accurate rendering would be “thought shall not murder.” What would constitute murder? Murder is the intentional taking of an innocent human life. This is exactly what takes place with abortion.
Abortion supporters try to tell us that a fetus is not a human and therefore it’s ok to kill them. But if a fetus is not a human, it begs the question of what is it? Does an unborn child only become human at some point decided by the mother? By the doctor? When it becomes sentient? Is there a magical moment when it becomes human?
Often, Christians are accused of being “anti science” but I think that saying an unborn human is not actually human unless people agree that it is, is the epitome of the anti scientific attitude of the day (in close second would be the belief that one can chose their own gender). But more on that in the next section.
One of the biggest pieces of evidence for the psychopathy of this post modern society is the idea that an unborn child’s worth is entirely dependent on the fact of whether it was “wanted.” As an example, if a pregnant woman were to get into a car accident and lose her baby as a result, the baby would be mourned, and it would be mourned by the public if the woman was a public figure. But assume that same woman was on her way to the local abortion clinic when the accident occurred, since she didn’t “want” the child that she carried, it wouldn’t be considered a loss at all because the child had no worth in the eyes of society. A human beings worth is solely determined by its value in the eyes of the one responsible for its wellbeing. If that person doesn’t value the life within her it has no value, if she desires to keep the child, it has infinite value.
The unborn child was a human person, and its death is a tragedy, regardless of if it was a wanted child or was unwanted. This is obvious to a person with common sense, but when blinded by the ideology of the sexual revolution and a radical commitment to individual autonomy, a person is unable to see these logical inconsistencies.
There’s also this trope that “Jesus never mentions abortion” as if He needed to leave us a list of do’s and don’ts. Never mind that this undercuts the fundamental Christian doctrine of the Trinity (because Jesus is co-eternal with the Father, and so existed and was active in the world in the age of the Old Testament), it just doesn’t comport with what Jesus called the “new commandment.”
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
And later Saint Paul expands on this, in his letter to the Galatians he writes,
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s understandable that these Bible passages would carry no weight with non believers, but for a Christian, how does murdering the unborn child line up with this law to love? Some might say it’s more companionate, therefore more loving, to kill a child rather than letting them be born and live a potentially difficult life. Only in our Orwellian culture could killing equal love, and death be preferable to existence.
Second, there are the teachings of the Church. These teachings, founded in the Church’s magisterial authority, would be of no consequence to a non-Catholic Christian, but should never be casually dismissed by those calling themselves Catholic. Unfortunately this is all too common.
CCC 2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.
Human life must be “respected and protected” because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. We are all children of God and have inalienable rights, that don’t just exist on paper or in the philosophical principles of America’s Founders. The right to life is inherent to all humans from the moment God creates our souls at conception.
This right to life is the most basic of all rights. Without that right, none others matter. My rights that come from God, and are protected by the US constitution, are of zero worth if I first don’t have life. Without life, my right to free speech, free association, to practice my religion or any other enumerated or unenumerated right, means absolutely nothing. Since life is the foundation of all the rest, it must be protected more stringently and with more diligence than all the rest.
We must do this in word and deed, we must work towards building a “culture of life” as Pope Saint John Paul II called it, to counter this prevailing culture of death.
This prohibition against abortion is not some new invention by the Church magisterium either, it has been part of our tradition since the earliest days of the Church. In the Didache, an early catechism from the second century, there is a clear teaching that abortion is forbidden,
you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.
All this adds up to the fact that abortion at every stage of fetal development is condemned by the Church. This firm stance for life, and resistance against the culture of death, is the last speedbump for western civilization’s race down the highway to Hell.
2. An unborn child is just a collection of cells and aborting a fetus is no different than having your wisdom teeth removed.
This second position is the coldest of the two pro abortion positions, in my opinion, and completely dehumanizes the unborn. This is a classic tactic for those who want to exterminate a class or group of people. Hardly anyone of good conscience would willing go along with genocide against fellow human beings, but feed those same people enough propaganda that “they aren’t fully human after all” and it makes it far easier to march them to the ovens.
People who hold this position will sometimes believe in limits on what gestational age a child may be killed at. Some say 20 weeks, some 24, sometimes it’s up until birth in cases where the mother’s health is endangered. But since the child, in their opinion, is not a person until birth, these limits don’t really mean anything. Even the “health of the mother” exception can be interpreted so broadly that it can include things like emotional health and financial health. Essentially meaning that a baby can be killed for any reason and at any time.
One of the common justifications for this position is that the child is “dependent” on the mother for all things, but then what’s to stop a court from one day extending the exercise of your “reproductive rights” to the killing of toddlers? They are wholly dependent on their mother as well. Or how about a missed diagnosis of Down’s syndrome? We know that the vast majority of children diagnosed with DS are killed before they are born, so what if it’s only discovered after its born? The culture of death claims that it’s more “loving and merciful” to terminate a child that would have no quality of life, so how about a 1 year old with a terminal diagnosis? People say that this kind of hand wringing is ridiculous, but just take a look at New York’s recently passed abortion bill and tell me with a straight face that this is not the direction we are going.
It also seems like every contentious conversation today eventually devolves into Reductio ad Hitlerum (playing the nazi card) but tell me what other social movement sounds as similar to the ideas of 1930’s Germany as the “Reproductive Rights” movement?
Go to your local holocaust museum and read the documents related to Action T-4. This was the start of Nazi Germany’s genocide across Europe. It all started with those deemed “Lebensunwertes Leben” or living a life unworthy of life. This included the mentally handicapped, those with hereditary physical handicaps, children with birth defects and anyone that will have a hard life.
There’s also the idea that a child does not gain personhood, and therefore rights, when it gains sentience. This theory of personhood is even more dangerous because it opens the door to the liquidations of all people in comas, persistent vegetative states, or even depending on how you define sentience, children up until 3 or 4 years old. Once again, look up the Nazi policy towards the most vulnerable.
If we can define who is a person, based on nothing more than our subjective opinion, we can include and exclude anyone at will. This is always how genocides begin, whether in Rwanda, Germany, Sudan, Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland, or in the United States since Roe v Wade.
3. Abortion is wrong, but we can’t outlaw it because that’s a personal choice that I don’t feel comfortable imposing on someone else.
This position is the one commonly held by “pro-choice Catholics.” While it’s less genocidal in attitude, and potentially murderous, than the previous one, it is also the one that is most sinful in my opinion. The reason that I say this is because it acknowledges that abortion is “wrong” but then claims that for whatever reason, it’s not “wrong enough” to challenge someone’s choice.
If you are of this opinion, ask yourself this question. Who is more culpable; the man who doesn’t believe blacks are human, therefore it’s ok to enslave them; or the man who knows they are just as human as him, but doesn’t think he has a right to tell the plantation owner not to enslave him?
The one who knows but does nothing, not that he has to spark a rebellion, but even just agreeing with the injustice and not voicing any opposition, has the greater sin because he knows right from wrong.
If you believe abortion is wrong, but it doesn’t align with your political persuasions, then you need to seriously examine your political persuasions and consider if they’re more important and central to your life than your religious convictions.
No Grey Area
I had a prominent pro choice catholic tell me that “Catholics struggle with the church’s teachings on abortion, and so it’s not black and white,” and while I don’t disagree that some may struggle with these teaching, I reject the idea that their difficulty in accepting these teachings in any way make them less clear or authoritative. I’m sure some people struggle with the concept and idea of the Trinity, it’s something that’s hard to wrap your head around, especially converts from Islam, but that doesn’t make the doctrine of the Trinity any less true. It only means that those having difficulty with it need to pray about it and do more studying on that doctrine.
I also get asked all the time if I believe everything the Church teaches, if I agree with all those teachings, and if I live by them.
The short answer is yes, yes, and I try.
I do believe everything the Church teaches, when I stood at the foot of the altar in my parish and said “I believe and profess all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God,” I wasn’t lying.
I do happen to agree with all the teachings, but even if I didn’t, that doesn’t make them less true. Is the earth not round because some people don’t agree that it is? Is gravity less effective on those that deny its existence? Our agreement with a truth isn’t necessary for it to be true, it’s true by its nature, our agreement not withstanding.
Do I live by the teachings of the Church? I sure try, and when I fail, there’s always confession available to get back on track.
The Good News
I set out in this post to show that the Church unequivocally supports the right to life, but I ended up rambling on about many aspects of this issue.
If I could sum all this up in a single paragraph it would be this;
Abortion is an attack on the respect and dignity that we owe to every person because they are made in the image and likeness of God. Abortion is also a direct assault on the law of love that Jesus called us to live, there’s no more severe attack on love than a parent killing their child. All children have a right to life because they are persons, regardless of their physical or cognitive defects, a birth defect makes you no less a child of God. And finally, abortion is murder because it is the intentional ending of human life.
But here’s the Good News; no matter if you’ve had one abortions or ten, you can still come back from that! Jesus is waiting for you with open arms, He is waiting to heal you, to forgive you, and through His forgiveness you can forgive yourself.
Let us all pray to end abortion, for those involved that they may have a change of heart, and those that have repented that they may be healed from this loss they’ve experienced.
3 comments on “Catholicism and Abortion”
Great clarity. It’s always a relief to find faithful Catholics unafraid to speak the truth on abortion and other political issues.
Thank you very much. If we don’t speak for the voiceless, who will?