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Abortion: What Does The Catholic Church Teach?

Yesterday, I mentioned that one thing we can all do to assist the pro-life movement is pray daily for an end to abortion. Another very obvious, but easily overlooked step, is to find out what the Catholic Church teaches about abortion. While most people are aware that the Church condemns abortion, many Catholics don’t fully understand the Church’s teaching. This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to defend that position when necessary.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:

Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (CCC 2258)

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. (CCC 2270)

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law (CCC 2271)

Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society. (CCC 2272)

To summarize, the Catholic Church considers abortion murder and it is ALWAYS condemned with no exceptions. Sounds pretty clear, right?

“What about when a woman is raped and a pregnancy results?” While I agree that this is a very difficult situation, supporting abortion in this case implies that God doesn’t know best. The Church teaches that God is “the author of life” and for some reason He allowed this new life to be conceived. We may never know the reason, but “God’s ways are not our ways” (Is 55:8). Secondly, an abortion would result in the murder of an innocent child. There are many couples who would be happy to adopt this child. While I’m not denying the difficulty of a pregnancy in this case, murdering him/her isn’t going to make the pain disappear.

“What about if the mother’s life is in danger?” Choosing abortion in this case implies that the mother’s life is more important than that of the child. This contradicts the teaching of the Church, who states that we are all created equal. Also, there is no doctor who can predict with certainty that the mother will die… only God knows for sure. Having an abortion, however, ALWAYS guarantees the death of the child. Even though it is difficult, we must always trust in God’s providence. The story of Abraham and Isaac provides a great example of trusting in God even when it doesn’t make sense (Gn 22:1-24).

“It’s my body and I can do what I want!” This argument completely baffles me. I really don’t even know how to respond to this statement. Other than replying with the obvious (“no it isn’t!), I turn to the legal system. In the United States, if a pregnant woman is murdered and her baby dies, the murderer is charged with 2 counts of homicide. If our legal system (the same one which upholds the right to legalized murder) recognizes that an unborn child is alive, shouldn’t it be obvious to the rest of us?

While I have only addressed a few common arguments, the point that I wish to make is that abortion is always wrong…period! Some people will try to complicate the issue, but don’t let them. Turn to the Church for wisdom and continue to “stand up for life” at home, in the workplace and in the world.

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