Social Doctrine on Abortion

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church published by the Roman Catholic Church clearly outlines how Christian politicians should treat abortion. Since Protestant churches are sorely lacking in applied ethical standards, we might learn from these documents both how to deal with unjust, evil laws, and how to anticipate martyrdom:

When — concerning areas or realities that involve fundamental ethical duties — legislative or political choices contrary to Christian principles and values are proposed or made, the Magisterium teaches that “a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political programme or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals”. In cases where it is not possible to avoid the implementation of such political programmes or to block or abrogate such laws, the Magisterium teaches that a parliamentary representative, whose personal absolute opposition to these programmes or laws is clear and known to all, may legitimately support proposals aimed at limiting the damage caused by such programmes or laws and at diminishing their negative effects on the level of culture and public morality. In this regard, a typical example of such a case would be a law permitting abortion. The representative’s vote, in any case, cannot be interpreted as support of an unjust law but only as a contribution to reducing the negative consequences of a legislative provision, the responsibility for which lies entirely with those who have brought it into being.

Faced with the many situations involving fundamental and indispensable moral duties, it must be remembered that Christian witness is to be considered a fundamental obligation that can even lead to the sacrificing of one’s life, to martyrdom in the name of love and human dignity. The history of the past twenty centuries, as well as that of the last century, is filled with martyrs for Christian truth, witnesses to the faith, hope and love founded on the Gospel. Martyrdom is the witness of one who has been personally conformed to Jesus crucified, expressed in the supreme form of shedding one’s blood according to the teaching of the Gospel: if “a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies … it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

One of the footnotes here points to John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, which says:

73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. “They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: “the midwives feared God” (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for “the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10).

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it”.

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

74. The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation, since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement. In other cases, it can happen that carrying out certain actions, which are provided for by legislation that overall is unjust, but which in themselves are indifferent, or even positive, can serve to protect human lives under threat. There may be reason to fear, however, that willingness to carry out such actions will not only cause scandal and weaken the necessary opposition to attacks on life, but will gradually lead to further capitulation to a mentality of permissiveness.

In order to shed light on this difficult question, it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.

Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

John C. Wright compares the GOP and Democratic platforms on abortion. It truly is a life and death difference:

Democratic Party Platform on Abortion (source http://www.issues2000.org/Celeb/Democratic_Party_Abortion.htm)

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

The Republican Party Platform on Abortion (http://www.ontheissues.org/celeb/Republican_Party_Abortion.htm)

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm)

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.

2271 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:

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.

Rwaje, Muvunyi and Kolini Speak Against Abortion

Articles here and here describe how the bishops and retired Archbishop spoke out against any legalization of abortion in Rwanda. Excerpts:

Article 165 of the draft Penal Code, which was approved last week by the Chamber of Deputies and promptly forwarded to the Senate for further scrutiny, criminalises abortion but outlines four exceptional cases under which it may be permitted by a court of law.

The article stipulates that there is no criminal liability for a woman who causes her own abortion and a medical doctor who helps a woman to abort provided that any of the following conditions are met. They are; in case of pregnancy as a result of incest, rape, forced marriage, and/or when the continuation of a pregnancy seriously jeopardises the health of the unborn baby or the pregnant woman.

But Rwaje insisted that, rather than accepting abortion under those conditions, measures should be taken to address the four highlighted causes “since they are the problem and not abortion”.

He argued that some people were also born as a result of terrible circumstances, like rape, forced marriages or incest, among others, but have gone on to become useful citizens to the nation.

Retired Anglican Archbishop, Most Reverend Emmanuel Kolini, said abortion was wrong, adding that pouring innocent blood brings terrible conditions on a nation.

He, however, couldn’t commit himself regarding clause four of Article 165, which permits abortion to save a life.

Asked his position in case a woman who has been advised by medical personnel to abort due to the fact that the health of mother/baby was at great risk if they continued with the pregnancy, Kolini said the decision should be between the two parents.

“The decision should be made by the two parents of the child and a medical doctor. If they are uncertain about the decision, they should ask for God’s help,” he said.

Asked the same question, Archbishop Rwaje couldn’t also commit himself on whether he would advise a woman in that situation to terminate the pregnancy or not, only insisting that abortion is wrong.

Bishop Mbonyitege, however, stuck to his guns, saying “abortion is killing and therefore wrong”.

Archbishop Rwaje warned that secularism was knocking at the door of the country, so Rwandans should be very careful not to let it in.

Anglican bishop, Louis Muvunyi, of Kigali Diocese, Rwanda is down the same lane the US took when it started legalising abortion “bit-by-bit.”

Abortion in Russia

I think that in the West, abortion may be curbed or come to an end not through religious pressure directly, but more through overt concern for the collapse of the population. Having children will become a civic duty again, rather than killing them. We are not at that point yet at our population continues to climb, but that point will come, perhaps by the end of my own life. In Russia however, that point has arrived. Witness this news story:

Russia’s influential Orthodox Church and members of its parliament are working together to push legislation that would restrict abortions. The legislation – promoted Monday by the head of the parliamentary committee on families, women and children – would ban free abortions at government-run clinics. Russia has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, while the number of abortions is among the highest in the world.

This is of serious concern for Russia as it fights to stem a steep population decline. Committee leader Yelena Mizulina said she wants to see public debate on abortions before the legislation is submitted to parliament. Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin said the goal is to “live in a Russia without abortions.”

The Abortion Debate

Thomas Fleming has an ongoing series of important posts up at Chronicles on the abortion debate. So far there are:

Part I, II, III

Often, the comments after the posts are as insightful as the posts themselves. Here is a snippet from his first column:

There is really no good Scriptural text on abortion, and the common pro-life bumper sticker “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” assumes a knowledge of embryology on Jeremiah’s part (and an intention) that is quite out of the question.  The various fundamentalist/evangelical attempts to find a secure Scriptural basis for outlawing abortion are as futile as most of their theology.   Exodus 21, the most frequently cited text, merely states the penalty for causing the death of the fetus, though it is quite true that rabbinical commentators used this to support their condemnation of abortion.

Despite rabbinical prohibitions, there is no reason to believe that Jews did not behave more or less like other Mediterranean peoples.  This has no bearing on the undoubted fact that Christians were early on distinguished for their rejection of infanticide and abortion.

There is no need for Scriptural authority in this case.  Man is made in the image of the God who sent his Son in human form to take upon Himself the sins of the world, to die for us, and in rising from the dead to give us the promise of life everlasting.  The Christian vision, then, could give no support to infanticide or abortion, except in the difficult case where a mother’s life is at stake.  (I do not intend to take any position on this since it is of almost no significance today.  We shall stick to the main road.)

Like other ancient texts, the Old Testament says nothing nothing about the rights of children and very little about parental duties:  What matters most is the child’s duty to the parent and not the reverse.  Nonetheless, the OT texts, like the literatures of the Greeks and Romans, gives a very positive portrayal, generally, of parents. There is no need, I think, to speak of Abraham and Isaac, or  Jacob and Joseph, when we have the portrait of Mary and Joseph’s very tender regard for Jesus.  Mary’s outburst, on finding her son teaching in the temple, is almost amusing, it is so like what any normal mother would say when realizing that her son is safe–and not through any effort of his own!  I can hear my own mother’s “Where have you been? Do you realize your father and and I have been waiting up all night long…?

In the Christian tradition, then, there is no talk of a child’s universal human life to be guaranteed by a government or legal system, only the parents’ duty to love and care for their children.  This is not a universal or convertible obligation:  I have to take care of my children but not your children much less everybody’s children.  Of course, a Christian society will want to enforce up to a point Christian moral law and might even institutionalize some forms of charity, but in an anti-Christian society it is incumbent upon us to return to a more traditional Christian way of thinking about matters such as abortion, divorce, and charity, lest we find ourselves sacrificing the moral authority of family’s to the power of an anti-Christian state that makes war upon the family.

John Edwards and Abortion

It should not be surprising to us that politicians, particularly Democrats, support killing babies in the womb if this interview with Rielle Hunter is any kind of guide to their thinking. When “Johnny” Edwards impregnated her, he seemed to hope and suggest that she get an abortion, witness:

And what was his reaction?
He was always very gracious about it. And always said that he would support whatever decision I made. But I believe on some level he was hoping I would get an abortion. Because he didn’t—he wasn’t happy about the timing. Which is understandable. [laughs] He was married and running for president.

So he was gracious, really? There were no fights about it?

No, there were no fights. He was very gracious, but I always felt the underlying discontent in his graciousness. I remember one time in Miami—or was it Orlando? [laughs] I traveled a lot to see him. But he said to me, he was like, “There’s just nothing I can say to make you change your mind about this.” and I said, “Nope.” he said, “Guess I’m just gonna have to accept it.” very teasing and sweet.

Isn’t that nice? There was nothing he could say to change her mind and get her to agree to killing the baby he had conceived and which was about to become a big inconvenience in his life of lies. So, he was sweet about it. “I support whatever decision you make” equals “you may kill or keep this baby alive, it’s up to you.”

So, one reason that will never be uttered in the Senate or House about why we need to keep abortion legal is so that politicians can have their mistress’s babies killed to cover up the cheating. Of course, they could probably fly them somewhere or pay enough to get it done even if it were illegal, but it’s so much easier on the conscience since it is legal.

Friedan, Feminism and Fulfillment

In his “Writer’s Almanac” for today, Garrison Keillor talks about Betty Friedan who wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Keillor says:

Friedan wrote about what she called ‘the problem that has no name,’ found particularly among educated suburban women in the years after the end of World War II, women who were leading ostensibly idyllic domestic lives as busy housewives and mothers and yet who felt inexplicably unfulfilled, unhappy, and restless.

She wrote:

‘The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all?’

I’m sure it’s true that many wives and mothers then and now felt unfulfilled or suffocated at home. I would attribute this more to America’s affluence at the time – whereas in previous generations most women didn’t have the luxury of thinking about much beyond survival and the daily routine, in the post-WW II generation, the horizons expanded due to prosperity and the possibility of office work.

With that said, guess what: the secret is that men feel the exact same sense of ennui, despair and boredom at work that Friedan seems to locate in the home! Do you think it is somehow inherently exciting to get up at the same time five days a week, get in a car, commute to work listening to the same garbage on the radio, sit down at a desk and become a cog in the faceless corporate machine for 50 years? Or better yet, to mop floors, drive trucks, lay concrete, or whatever? Is this a life of dazzling fulfillment that men are conspiring to deny to women?

Far from it. And I think most women who get beyond college-age idealism find out the hard way that this is the case. I say the hard way, because by the time they realize this, it is often too late. They are hemmed in by college debts that need to be repaid, a kid or two at home and the built-in financial demands of a two-income lifestyle. Some find that when they have children they actually WANT to be at home with the kids, but now they can’t because of those same financial reasons. The expectation of college and career contributes to the delay in marriage. Women and men get married older and by the time they get around to having kids, it becomes more of a strain to bear them and raise them. Guess what? You don’t have as much energy to deal with screaming toddlers when you are 35 as opposed to 20 or 18. That might be one reason why God designed us for maximum reproductive potential at those younger ages!

With widespread abortion, birth control, and the expectation of wealthy, comfortable lives, I don’t expect the pattern of women working rather than mothering to change except in small pockets of resistance. At bottom, the idea that fulfillment is found in a sphere other than where we are is the classic “grass is greener” myth. Some jobs are inherently fulfilling, but not many in the big picture. The Christian ideal is that we find contentment in whatever role we are given, and sanctify the same. The Apostles tell us again and again to be content. This is not easy, it is the knife edge of sanctification, because jobs are tedious, hard, demanding and draining. Telling women that moving into corporate slavery is somehow a big advantage over raising kids and sitting at home is a lie. Unfortunately, it is a lie that we are now completely bought in to. Thanks, Betty Friedan.

“populations that we don’t want to have too many of”

Unbelievable. Read this horrible (and coldly murderous) quote from Justice Ginsburg in the NYT:

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Prolifism?

James Jordan does the usual: speaks his mind and lets the chips fall where they may. This essay is dated, but is now relevant again due to the murder of Tiller in Kansas. Read the whole thing here. An excerpt:

As a result of all this, the older, responsible anti-abortion Christian voices have been overwhelmed, and their organizations left in the dust. You cannot hear a string quartet if a rock band is playing in the same room. This is probably for the good, if it forces us to channel our efforts into rebuilding the Church. The fact is that it takes an act of faith to believe that the baby in the womb is a human being, because you cannot see it. In our time, only Christianized cultures have regarded abortion as murder and criminalized it. Thus, apart from a revival of genuine Biblical Christianity, the present situation will not significantly change. We should do what we can, bearing witness and helping unwed mothers, but more and more it will be necessary for Christians to separate publicly from the heresies of the Prolifist religion and its false humanist god.

Suffocating Obama Adoration

Last week at a company lunch my highest local boss got up to make his usual announcements. He is a visionary who is well-respected within our company. So last week he chose to speak about what a great week it was, a week of hope for the entire world, a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and so forth.

I’m sure he violated all kinds of company rules about speech, but I’m not the litigious type who is going to run and report him for thought-crime. What bothers me is the appalling lack of etiquette and assumption that we all agree with him. Would I get to stand up and talk about how great a victory for the unborn it was had Senator McCain won? Of course not. And I wouldn’t anyway because in this society we’re not allowed to talk about abortion. 

I wouldn’t have done it anyhow though. I feel strongly about politics, but I keep it to myself at work. I’m not going to run around boasting about victories for our side or rubbing it in the face of others. Yet, the leftist masses feel free to rage at Bush and flaunt Obama and assume that you will agree or kindly shut up with your stone-age mentality. It is really hard to escape the gloating left right now, and it presages bad things for our nation. I can see how civil wars start.