“What could ever be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the innocent? This is precisely what we are dealing with here. Whether inflicted upon the mother or upon the child, it is against the precept of God and the law of nature: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ ” – Pope Pius XI
The Citizen is a working teacher who has spent his career in a number of poor, urban school districts. I have seen poverty, hunger, and want. I have taught children whose parents are incarcerated. I have taught children whose immigration status is questionable. I have taught children scarred by drugs and violence. I have taught a lot of children who live in public housing. I have taught children who are malnourished. In short, I have seen the face of poverty – I see it every day in my classroom. I share this not to make myself into a Saint, but to establish that I know these issues do exist and that they are important. In fact, I know them better than many Americans. While these are all issues of vital importance to Catholics, the teachings of the Church – the Magisterium – specifically addresses some issues as being so contrary to our beliefs and the Canon, that they cannot be countenanced. Abortion is one of those issues. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 2258, reads
“Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever 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.”
This statement clearly articulates the Church’s position. Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of Vatican II, even more specifically states the Church’s teachings on abortion; “Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” In 1869, Pope Pius IX, speaking ex cathedra, promulgated that the philosophical difference of ‘fetus inanimatus’ and ‘fetus animatus’ were moot. The official policy of the church was that the soul was present at the instant of conception, if not immediately before. Why did Pius make this statement? Saint Thomas Aquinas has often been used as a justification for this transitory state of the fetus. He referred to an act called ‘ensoulment’, following the teachings of Saint Augustine who wrote that the soul would not dwell in an undeveloped fetus. Aquinas also wrote that the abortion of a fetus before ensoulment (inanimatus) was a ‘grave sin against natural law’ and that the abortion of a fetus after ensoulment (animatus) was a sin of homicide. This lead to a lengthy debate about the time when a ‘ensoulment’ occurred. The argument was – or should have been – purely academic. As early as the First Century, the Church teachings on abortion were made clear. The Didache or the ‘Teachings of the Twelve Apostles’ clearly forbade all abortions. The history lesson aside, since 1869 the teaching of the Church clearly states that life begins at conception and abortion at any stage is contrary to the Magisterium. It is an act that is inherently evil and inimical to life and the teachings of the Church. Any policy or politician who supports abortion is acting contrary to a core tenet of Catholic belief. Any Catholic politician who supports abortion is violating the vows we take every week when we attend Mass and profess our faith.
Many politicians support social reform policies that are very compatible with Catholic teaching. Social justice issues are important to us – or should be. But – and this is the big but – supporting a politician who advocates very worthy issues and also supports abortion is not acceptable to Catholics. Abortion is ‘inimical’ to the Catechism and cannot be supported by a Catholic who is communion with the Holy See.
I hope that this makes sense to the Non-Catholic readers … and those Catholic readers who support abortion. Abortion is not a simple issue out of many that you can place on the balance scales, weighing to see if the ‘good’ of a candidate’s other policies and platforms outweigh the ‘bad’ of abortion. It is – and must be for Catholics – a deal breaker.