NB: The Bishops and the Pope have all published opinions that Pro
choice or pro abortion in any manner is NOT an acceptable choice for
Cathoics and Catholics holding this view are asked to consider refraining
from presenting themselves at the Communion Rail.
By Father William Saunders
Sometimes I meet Catholics who say, "I am personally against
abortion, but I am pro-choice." To me, that makes no sense, but how can
I argue with them? -- A reader in Springfield
The pro-abortion movement has made great gains using
the "pro-choice" label. First, the "pro-choice" label numbs our moral
sensitivity because it masks the fact that anyone really is for abortion
and diverts our attention from the act itself. Secondly, the idea of being
"pro-choice" seems to appeal to Americans who cherish freedom and the idea
of being free to choose rather than being forced to do anything.
In arguing against this "pro-choice" position, one
must first focus on the heart of the choice—a child. Proceeding from a
purely scientific approach, we know that when conception occurs, a new and
unique human being is created. The DNA genetic code attests to this
uniqueness. (Why has DNA coding become so important in identifying
criminals?) Moreover, from that
moment of conception, the child continues to develop and grow; the child
is born, matures to adolescence and then adulthood, and eventually dies.
Note, though, that this is the same person who was
conceived: all that has been added is nourishment, time and hopefully a
lot of love. Therefore, our Church teaches that
"From the time that the ovum is
fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of
the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own
growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already"
(Declaration on Procured Abortion, No. 12,
Moving beyond science to the level of faith, we also
believe that almighty God creates and infuses a unique and immortal soul
into that body. This soul—our spiritual principle—is what gives each
person that identity of being made in God’s image and likeness (Cf.
<Catechism of the Catholic Church>, No. 363-368). Even if there were some
doubt that God infused the soul at conception or some doubt that the
conceived child were truly a person,
"it is objectively a grave sin to
dare to risk murder. ‘The one who will be a man is already one’"
(Declaration, No. 13).
We find in sacred Scripture testimony to the sanctity
of life in the womb:
The Lord said to the mother of Sampson,
"As for the son you will
conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be
consecrated to God from the womb" (Jgs 13:5).
"Did not He who made me in the
womb make him? Did not the same One fashion us before our birth?"
In Psalm 139:13 we pray,
"Truly You have formed my inmost
being; You knit me in my mother’s womb."
The Lord spoke to Jeremiah,
"Before I formed you in the womb I
knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations
I appointed you" (Jer 1:5).
For Christians, the sanctity of life in the womb and
the belief that this truly is a person is further corroborated by the
Incarnation: Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus
Christ, the true God, entered this world becoming also true man. Even
though Jesus was still in the womb of His blessed mother, St. Elizabeth
and St. John the Baptist (who was also in the womb) rejoiced at the
presence of the Lord. Would anyone
dare suggest Jesus was not a person in the womb of His mother?
Little wonder that the Didache (The teachings of the
Twelve Apostles) -- the first manual of doctrine, liturgical laws and
morals, written about the year 80 AD—we find the moral prohibition,
"You shall not kill by abortion
the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born."
Given that the heart of the choice involves a unique,
human person, the choice of action becomes clear: to preserve and
safeguard the life of this person in the womb or to destroy it. Since this
is a person, the latter choice does not involve simply a termination of a
pregnancy or the removal of a fetus; rather, the latter choice involves a
direct killing of an innocent person, a deliberate murder.
Therefore, the act of abortion is an
intrinsically evil act. The Second Vatican Council
"Life must be protected with the
utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are
abominable crimes" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 51).
We do not have the right to choose
evil, no matter what the circumstances are or even if some sort of "good"
may arise. To purposefully choose to do evil is an affront to God Himself,
in whose image and likeness we are made. Here it is
not as though one is choosing between two good actions; instead, one is
defending the sanctity of human life in the face of evil. To say one is
"pro-choice" in this matter is no different from saying one is "pro-
choice" for apartheid, Nazi concentration camps or Jim Crow segregation
laws—"I am personally against it, but everyone should choose."
Pope John Paul II said,
"Anyone can see that the
alternative here is only apparent. It is not possible to speak of the
right to choose when a clear moral evil is involved, when what is at
stake is the commandment, ‘Do not kill!’" (<Crossing the
Threshold of Hope>, p. 205).
In those difficult, tragic situations—rape and incest
(which result in conception at best 2 percent of the time, depending upon
which set of statistics one looks at), a young teenage pregnant mother, or
a deformed or handicapped child—we must remember the child is still an
innocent human being who through no fault of his own was conceived. Here,
sharing in the cross of our Lord becomes a reality without question. In
these cases, we as members of the Church must support both the mother and
the child through our prayers and by opening our hearts, homes and wallets
to their needs. We must make the sacrifice to preserve human life.
Fr. Saunders is president of Notre Dame Institute and associate pastor
of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria. This article appeared in
the January 19, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the
Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511
or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.
The electronic form of this document is copyrighted. Copyright ©
Trinity Communications 1995. reprinted with permission from The
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