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James Martin, S.J.January 10, 2019
  A woman holds a child in 2016 at a maternity home in Riverside, N.J., one of six pro-life maternity homes in the Good Counsel network. The Riverside facility houses about a dozen expectant mothers, provides a safe environment for the women to continue their pregnancy, and offers continuing education, job training and material support. (CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno)

Whenever I say that I am pro-life, it always surprises some people—which always surprises me.

Last summer I attended a conference on polarization in the Catholic Church, held at Georgetown University. One evening, when I mentioned my pro-life convictions to a participant, her face registered shock. “I’m so relieved to hear that,” she said.

Maybe because I also advocate for refugees and migrants, L.G.B.T. people and the environment—causes usually championed by those who identify as politically progressive—some people tell me that they wonder about the sincerity of my public comments in support of unborn children. By the same token, others with whom I share common ground on a variety of social justice issues often express discomfort, disappointment and even anger when I use the phrase “pro-life.”

So perhaps it would be helpful to explain what I mean when I say that I am pro-life. And I would invite you to consider this more as a profession of faith than as a political argument.

The best way of explaining my belief is this: The longer I live, the more I grow in awe of God’s creative activity and in reverence for God’s creation.

I see God’s creative activity in countless ways, but mainly in the ways that God is active in the spiritual lives of people with whom I minister. Over the last 25 years, I have accompanied perhaps hundreds of people in my ministry as a spiritual director—that is, someone who helps people notice God in their daily lives and in their prayer.

In the process I have seen first-hand how God encounters individuals in breathtakingly, sometimes nearly miraculously personal ways. With one person, God encounters him or her through a powerful experience in private prayer, with another during an almost mystical experience amid nature, with another in a conversation that suddenly heals an old emotional wound. The expression “God meets people where they are” captures some of this reality—but only a little. God’s ability to enter a person’s life in ways that are perfectly tailored to that life always amazes me.

The more I see this, the more my awe of God’s creative activity naturally grows.

But I notice God’s creative activity in other ways, too. The birth of my two nephews, who are now 20 and 13 years old, profoundly deepened my appreciation for the mystery of life. When I first saw my oldest nephew in the hospital a few hours after his birth, I was tremendously moved. After returning home, I wept for joy, completely overwhelmed by the gift and vulnerability of God’s new creation. Over the years I’ve watched them learn how to eat, sit up, talk, crawl, laugh, walk, read, run, ride bikes, make jokes, throw a ball, drive a car and take joy in the world.

The longer I live, the more I grow in awe of God’s creative activity and in reverence for God’s creation.

Recently I had dinner with my older nephew and thought, “I can’t believe that he didn’t exist 20 years ago” and felt a surge of gratitude for God’s grace. (I knew enough not to tell him this, since he’d probably say, “Uncle Jim, give me a break!” Or more likely, “Uh huh.”)

The more I reflect on this the more my reverence for God’s creation grows. All of this naturally increases my reverence for the life of the child in the womb.

Now, as a man and a priest, and therefore someone who will never experience the joys and challenges of being a mother, someone who will never have to make a decision about an abortion and someone in a position of some power in the church, I recognize the limitations of my experience. And I recognize that many women consider it offensive to hear this from a man—because they have told me.

Many women whom I love, respect and admire support abortion rights and see these rights as a constitutive part of their authority over their own bodies. And who can doubt that over the centuries, women have been dominated and abused by men—even men responsible for providing them with legal, pastoral and medical care?

I cannot deny that I see the child in the womb, from the moment of his or her conception, as a creation of God, deserving of our respect, protection and love.

But acknowledging that women’s bodies are their own does not diminish my own reverence for the living body in a woman’s womb. Thus, I cannot deny that I see the child in the womb, from the moment of his or her conception, as a creation of God, deserving of our respect, protection and love. Mysterious, precious, unique, infinite, made in the image and likeness of God. Holy.

And my respect for life extends to life at every stage, a feeling that has only grown though my experiences in various ministries during my 30 years as a Jesuit—for example, with refugees.

For two years, as a young Jesuit in the early 1990s, I worked in Kenya with refugees from around East Africa, who, in search of a safe life for their families, had fled war-torn countries like Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and Rwanda, and settled in the slums of Nairobi. There, along with colleagues from the Jesuit Refugee Service, I helped them start small businesses to support themselves.

Many of them had suffered the severest losses in their home countries, tragedies that might seem unbelievable to some—seeing spouses hacked to death with machetes before them; watching their children have their throats slit; and being brutalized, kidnapped and tortured themselves. Sometimes people think I am concocting these stories. I’m not. I have met these people, and in many cases have seen the proof: medical records, newspaper clippings, gruesome scars.

When I think of “life issues” I often think of the 68 million refugees, migrants and internally displaced people whose most important “pro-life activity” is to flee.

Their lives were devalued, threatened and imperiled. It’s no wonder that refugees and migrants flee their home countries. Nearly all of them flee to save their lives and protect the lives of their children. So when I think of “life issues” I often think of the 68 million refugees, migrants and internally displaced people whose most important “pro-life activity” is to flee. Their lives are often at risk not just in their home countries, but also in transit through the deserts and on the seas, and later in teeming refugee camps, where, despite many noble efforts, they and their children die due to lack of food, sanitation and medicine.

Every life is precious to God—including the lives of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons. In other words, the life of a child at a border is precious, just as the life of a child in the womb is precious.

To take another non-traditional “life issue,” think about L.G.B.T. people. In the past few years I have learned a great deal about how these precious lives are also in grave danger. Consider this: lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in the United States are almost five times as likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. In many countries around the world, a gay person is at serious risk of being beaten or killed if his or her sexuality is discovered, and in eight countries homosexual acts are punishable with the death penalty. And in the last 10 years, over 3,000 transgender people have been murdered worldwide, and the most common causes of their deaths are shootings, stabbings and beatings.

In some places, then, L.G.B.T. issues are truly life issues. The life of an L.G.B.T. teenager in a family that rejects them is precious, just as the life of a child in the womb is precious.

The life of an L.G.B.T. teenager in a family that rejects them is precious, just as the life of a child in the womb is precious.

I could also tell you about many other vulnerable lives that I have encountered as a Jesuit, which are equally valuable in the eyes of God: the lives of patients with traumatic brain injuries confined for years in a hospital in Cambridge, Mass.; the lives of the poor, sick and dying men and women in their final days at Mother Teresa’s hospice in Kingston, Jamaica; the lives of street-gang members in the violent, deadly and now-demolished housing projects in Chicago; the lives of men who have attempted suicide and who now sit in solitary confinement in a prison in Boston. All these people are God’s beloved children, made in God’s own image.

So my respect for life extends to all people, but most especially those whose lives are at risk: the unborn child, to be sure, but also the refugee whose life is threatened by war, the L.G.B.T. young person tempted to commit suicide, the homeless person whose life is endangered by malnutrition, the uninsured sick person with no health care, the elderly person in danger of being euthanized, the inmate on death row. I have come to value all life, from conception to natural death, and believe that our laws should reflect this important principle.

Sometimes this is referred to as the “consistent ethic of life” or the “seamless garment” approach, a reference to the robe stripped from Jesus before his crucifixion and for which soldiers cast lots (Jn 19:23-24). It has been criticized unfairly by some people as “watering down” pro-life activities. One strong advocate of that approach, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the late archbishop of Chicago, lamented it was wrongly used in that way. But the misuse of a principle does not invalidate it.

The misuse of a principle does not invalidate it.

In fact, the point of the consistent ethic of life is not that we should focus on other issues instead of abortion, but that our witness for social justice and in defense of all life is strengthened when we base it clearly and consistently on the recognition of the dignity of every human life at every stage.

No less a person than St. John Paul II, in his encyclical “The Gospel of Life” (“Evangelium Vitae”), pointed to several “life issues” beyond abortion, invoking the Didache, one of the most ancient Christian texts outside the Bible, which dates to the first century. The Didache (which means “teaching” in Greek) not only inveighed against abortion but also condemned those who “show no compassion for the poor” and who “do not suffer with the suffering.”

In his encyclical, John Paul highlighted not only “the ancient threats of scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic disease, violence and war but also “new threats.” “Evangelium Vitae” joined with the Second Vatican Council in “forcefully condemning” practices that are “opposed to life itself.”

The long list often surprises people, but it is a reminder of the breadth of human life and the many threats to it.

…any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed.

Today we could add even more to St. John Paul’s list. The threats to human life in all its diversity grow with each passing year.

The threats to human life in all its diversity grow with each passing year.

Perhaps it is time to expand our understanding of what it means to be pro-life. During the Georgetown University conference, I met many thoughtful people who proposed other ways of framing the discussion: “Whole Life,” “One Life,” “Every Life.” These may be some helpful ways forward.

What would help even more than a new label is for all of us to care for every life. For the refugee advocate to care passionately about the unborn. And for the pro-life marcher to care passionately about the migrant. We should care for all life.

Because, as our faith teaches, as I have learned, and as I believe, every life is sacred.

This article has been updated.

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John Chuchman
3 years 5 months ago

I am Pro-Choice Pro-life. Everyone has a God-given right to choice, which does not make all choices right. It is not a legal issue, tho it may be moral.

Rhett Segall
3 years 5 months ago

John, should it be legal for people to sell heroin on the basis of the "free choice" principle? I'm confident you would say "No" because heroin kills human beings, perhaps slowly, but it kills. The "free choice" to abort kills human life immediately. The vulnerable need people to speak up for them.

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

Rhett you are talking apples and oranges. A woman who refuses to carry a fetus or embryo to full term cuts off use of her organs to the unborn life developing inside her. Without the use of her organs, the fetus dies because it's own organs are not capable of supporting it's own life. The equivalent example would be denying someone a kidney that was a match because the person will die without your kidney and donating your kidney although physically scarring and causing of major interruption and even great pain in your life, it won't Likely kill you.
Note we do not have laws mandating people donate kidneys to those who will die without one. This is because men would never be willing legally to put their body parts under someone elses control. Women don't agree to do this either and for good reasons.

Women have a real argument for justice because men are not required to use their organs to save others lives so it is demanding greater than equal treatment to the unborn to mandate this by law of women. This treats women as less valuable than their unborn children and this is not justice or freedom. I say this as someone who is morally offended by abortion.

So add to the fact that no criminalizing law about abortion can be made fair for all citizens, as only child bearing women could ever be jailed for breaking the law, to the fact that countries who already have these anti abortion laws have much higher abortion and maternal death rates, I have no problem stating that I believe Christ would want women to keep the legal right to choose but would also have us help in real ways all pregnant woman and new parents so less women seek to abort.

Frank T
3 years 5 months ago

Beautifully put. I am so sick of people using their personal convictions to decide for others, using analogies that don't make sense. No wonder Catholicism has lost the young.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

....Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church....those that believe, believe this. It doesn't matter how many people are in the Church. The mission of the Church is to preserve and tell the message of Christ...first and foremost,,,, I think its safe to presume 'holy, God centered people' were in the minority in Hitler's Germany..... Pol Pot also managed to attract multitudes of youth. So what's your point? Since when do 'popular trends' equate to holiness or the hope of salvation.

Ann Ryan
3 years 5 months ago

Why is a planned baby a real baby and an unwanted one not a baby? Women are smart enough to know how to prevent a pregnancy without having to kill a life in the womb. The innocent created life cannot defend itself. It’s our obligation to protect the defenseless. At some point, we must acknowledge that a body inside a mother’s body is a separate person. Why is that life worth less than the mother’s just because of it’s vulnerable position at that moment in time? I know too many examples of people who were allowed to be born in the most inconvenient of circumstances and I thank God for them. We cannot be shortsighted. We must acknowledge the pain of the poor women who live with regrets of their abortion, and the innocent babies who feel pain in the womb. Before advanced ultrasound, we didn’t know any better. Now, we have no excuse. Father Jim, this is your moment to educate your followers who reject your stance on life, particularly as relates to the unborn.

Crystal Watson
3 years 5 months ago

Not everyone has access to efficient and affordable contraception. An IUD can cost as much as $1000. And sometimes contraception fails. And sometimes people plan a baby but there are health problems of the mother or fetus that cause an abortion choice. Studies show most women - like more than 90% - do not regret having an abortion.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

So ' most women don't regret abortion"........what point are you making? '

rose-ellen caminer
3 years 5 months ago

It is NOT demanding greater then equal treatment, as needing an organ donation is not the same as a period of gestation in a womb. The gestation in the womb [ environment;where a human is located] has no inherent bearing on its humanity.I cant live underwater or in outer space without assistance, but that does not mean when under water or in outer space I am not a human.[ You drank the euthanasia- Terry- Schiavo-she's no longer human kool -Aid, me thinks] .Ones location in a womb has no bearing on ones humanity. Ones location is irrelevant. And so is ones lack of autonomy; ones dependence for oxygen or for nutrients. A baby , a child is also dependent for its life on adults. Most adults for that matter are dependent on society for their survival. We have civilization; we have networks of dependence and co dependence, communities, societies, which at this stage of our evolution, is essential to most of us, for our individual survival. And so the dependence of the unborn on its mothers body for its life, is really a straw man deflection .It is a throwback , a barbaric; might- makes -right , only the strong , the "autonomous"[ feral,uncivil] have a right to survive, ethos!

And this notion that men can't have a say in whether killing unborn humans is ethical is also absurd and intellectually dishonest. [ IMO].The issue of the morality or immorality of killing, in the case of fetuses,of sentient; capable- of -suffering humans,is an ethical issue that all humans, as made- in- God's -image, - ethical - beings[God's laws are written in our hearts} have a natural right and obligation to discern.

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

yes it is the same. Environment of life is not relevant. We are demanding women use their bodies to give life where that life would die without that person's body. This is equally true if a person cannot survive without a donor kidney and the donor of the kidney is unlikely to die by donating. God does not care more about the life of the unborn than he does about the life of a person who needs a kidney to live. I never said men couldn't have a say but they should not have the greater say since their bodies are not effected by the law you wish to make.

Franklin Uroda
3 years 5 months ago

You seem to be talking about "Free Will".

Warren Patton
3 years 5 months ago

I find this position confusing. The reasons for thinking abortion is immoral are the same as the reasons for thinking it should be illegal. I can't think of any good arguments for thinking abortion is immoral that don't also point to banning it. The mere fact that God gives us the ability to make choices doesn't mean all choices we can make are acceptable or should be legal.

I don't understand this position, honestly. I don't see how you can admit that abortion is immoral- thus apparently accepting that it is the killing of a human being- and yet defend people's right to do it. Still if that is your position I hope your at least consistent in it and would defend the rights of pro-lifers to engage in their activities- like protesting and opening crisis pregnancy centers- without being tied down by the State.

rose-ellen caminer
3 years 5 months ago

Of course;" I think abortion is killing, but go right ahead". This position makes no moral sense yet Catholics say this often, especially politicians!Now that is serving two masters, I think.

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

Because what I think is immoral others may not and they have a right to act against my morals. It is right to make it against church law as long as you don't demand a greater penance than that of any other serious sin like murder or adultery. Governmental laws are designed to keep the peace and provide equal justice to all citizens (which means born people) as much as possible, and to protect the unborn, as long as the born citizen's rights are not overtaken by the desire to secure the unborn person's rights.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

I can see a Constitutional argument for a woman to abort but the right of others not to participate is clearly Constitutional . By that I mean in any way whatsoever ie. through taxation , employment or any other way. When I inquired with the Italian Consulate, I learned Italian citizens were never forced into participating in 'private killings of human beings in the womb, regardless of their ages on the continuum of life. Furthermore, no health professional , public or private, could be denied their job if they refused to kill, and no business could be forced to provide assistance in any way. The onus was on the woman to seek a willing provider. The Planned Parenthood Party continues to abuse the Constitutional rights of others.. Roe v Wade may be settled law but the dirty stuff that came after was a clear overreach. Feminists cannot legitimately defend what they're trying to do to the rest of us but they continue to influence with irrational, politically motivated judges. Catholic hospitals established by the nearly donated labor of nuns and Catholic charities abound throughout the nation. How dare the Planned Parenthood Party or its ugly fan club attempt to abuse that holy endeavor. Donate your own lifetimes to your own repulsive vision. The rest of us are not obliged to finance it any more than we are obliged to buy weapons for gun enthusiasts. Period.

Carol Goodson
3 years 5 months ago

I agree 100%; thank you for articulating this so well.

bill carson
3 years 5 months ago

"I also advocate for refugees and migrants, L.G.B.T. people"... When you advocate for people opposed to life as defined by the Church, you're actually NOT pro-life. Homosexual sin rejects life totally, yet Martin "advocates" for such sinners. As far as I know, he's NEVER spoken against homosexual sin. So don't give us this "pro-life" claptrap, Fr. Martin.

Mike Bayer
3 years 5 months ago

Doesn't Jesus advocate for sinners and forgive them? Isn't that the whole purpose of the Incarnation, His mission, His Death, and His Resurrection? I hope those stones you cast don't hit your glass house.

Franklin Uroda
3 years 5 months ago

Of course Jesus forgave sinners, but He expected repentance, i.e., forsaking the sinful life style "Go and sin no more".

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

NO offense Fr. Martin but that sounds very nifty. Unfortunately, women cannot afford to be nifty or naive with our responses to abortion. Three Jesuit trained men on our Supreme Court seem quite ready to make what I agree should be a non-political but still moral issue into a political one and change laws which will cause real death increases to both the unborn and many women if Pro-life and its movement gets its way.

The research is clear and concrete by valid sources like the World Health Organization and Guttmacher, a research corporation that our church uses for many research issues because it trusts its research ethics as honest.

All research shows that countries that make abortion difficult to access or a crime have the highest abortion rates, this is especially true if birth control is not easy and free to access in these countries (I will show the Guttmacher research below and you are welcome to check out the W.H.O's research which is almost identical and equally reliably unbiased.)

One cannot claim to be pro-life authentically while knowingly supporting laws that cause more death, of either women or the unborn. Our church is lying to its women. Our hierarchy has known the below research for over a decade and has not changed its stand on how to react to the sin of abortion. This makes them culpable for the increased deaths in the many Catholic run countries of S. America and Africa and Asia which have double, many of them, than that of the U.S. (for now with Roe v. Wade still in place) and Western Europe have for rates of abortion and maternal deaths.

Helping women gain free birth control, and countries offering mothers and fathers greater paid time off for maternity and paternity leaves, also "government funded" quality day care, and universal health care are the things which have been proven to lower abortion and maternal death rates on a global scale. NOT making abortion a crime! Not making birth control hard to access! Not de-funding Planned Parenthood's Cancer and non-abortive health care funds in clinics for poor women! such as Pro-Life has been pushing.

Women cannot pretend this isn't always a political and human justice issue for women while so called Pro-Life groups who refuse to educate themselves continually put narrow minded men on our courts to try to criminalize abortion. Already in states where legal abortion has been made difficult to access, there has been an increase in self-aborting with deadly and horrific results.

If you want to help women, the unborn, if you genuinely want to make a difference like Jesus would - stop making laws to punish women and doctors and support laws instead that offer real help to women.

This attitude that there is only the baby's life to consider has already made the U.S. the most dangerous place in the world to give birth outside of the actual third world. That is nothing to be proud of Father.

Get real. We need real priests, who really care about what is actually taking place in the real world. This article takes its force not from God or Justice or the quest for Life, but from some Zuloo Fantasy. Women can no longer afford to join you there in this fantasy land and you are not the one paying the price for your self-inflicted coma on this subject. Please wake up! We need you all to wake up! Now!

From Guttmacher: Abortion and Birth Control Stats.
(Notes from my other research on this topic - bottom)
REGIONAL INCIDENCE AND TRENDS:
• The highest annual rate of abortion in 2010–2014 was in the Caribbean, estimated at 59 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, followed by South America, at 48.
The lowest rates were in Northern America, at 17, and Western and Northern Europe—at 16 and 18, respectively.
• Across regions, Eastern Europe experienced the largest decline in the abortion rate, from 88 in 1990–1994 to 42 in 2010–2014. Despite this decline, there is a persistent gap in rates between Eastern and Western Europe (42 vs. 16) likely reflecting lower use of effective, modern contraceptive methods in Eastern Europe.
• The overall abortion rate in Africa was 34 per 1,000 women in 2010–2014. Subregional rates ranged from 31 in Western Africa to 38 in Northern Africa. There has been little if any change in abortion rates in these subregions since 1990–1994.
• For Latin America, subregional abortion rates range from 33 in Central America to 48 in South America. Rates have increased slightly since 1990–1994, but not by statistically significant amounts.
• Abortion rates in Asia have also fallen since 1990–1994, although not significantly. Asia’s subregions all have rates close to the regional average of 36 per 1,000 women.
• Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. When countries are grouped according to the grounds under which the procedure is legal, the rate is 37 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age where it is prohibited altogether or allowed only to save a woman’s life, compared with 34 per 1,000 where it is available on request, a nonsignificant difference.
• High levels of unmet need for contraception help explain the prevalence of abortion in countries with restrictive abortion laws.

What I have researched from other appropriate sources agrees with Guttmacher but also indicates the below information on this subject:
The World Health Organization Research agrees with the Guttmacher Research. Their results are almost identical.
However, neither the W.H.O. or Guttmacher can give us a solid conclusion, due to lack of evidence, as to what happens when countries offer easy access to quality birth control but make their abortion laws stricter. This is due to the fact that most countries either are lenient on both issues or they are strict on access to both abortion and birth control.
We could make some confident speculation, based on the global evidence that does exist, that in countries, currently, where laws are strict for both abortion and birth control or where both are criminalized, that were these countries to loosen up laws on birth control access alone and not on abortion, the abortion rates would come down more, and likely closer to where the Western and developed nations are at. However, these countries are not necessarily or likely to get quite as low as the western, industrialized, countries since there does exist evidence that the mere difficulty of access to abortion alone lends, especially in certain cases, to higher abortion rates by itself.
Unfortunately, in the countries where the laws for abortion become much stricter than in the past, such as may exist in the U.S. for the future, the amount of abortions could increase quite a bit even if birth control access remains easy and free. One of the reasons this is true is due to the fact that, in these countries, many women who get pregnant in their later years, 40s or older, often now seek to get an amnio to see if their fetus is healthy. They can only get this during the late part of the 3rd month or beginning of the fourth month of their pregnancy. With stricter laws, some of these women may decide they don't want to take the chance the fetus is unhealthy or has downs syndrome, and instead may opt to get an early abortion thru more easily, anonymously obtained, although perhaps illegally obtained, abortion pills. These pills become not an option in later months, and testing would put women in a position to not be able to deny they are pregnant, publicly, if they wait, so this puts the women at risk they could be charged with a crime if abortion becomes illegal. (Please note: I am not suggesting this is right or moral or Christian behavior but only that the reality exist and I personally know quite a few women who would fit this category, today, in the U.S. despite anyone's opinions or beliefs)
A horrible side effect of the above situation is this: 50% of all downs fetuses naturally miscarry in the first trimester, and 40% that make it to the 2nd trimester miscarry then. Fetuses that have other severe health issues often miscarry, naturally, within the first three - four months of pregnancy as well. The amount of downs fetuses that become born infants are very small amounts even for older women. This illness is still quite rare overall. This means many women could end up aborting perfectly healthy fetuses, by the thousands, each year, or more, to avoid the possibility of having an unhealthy baby, and this number increases if women already have other children. One way some western countries avoid this issue is that they keep early abortions legal and allow later abortions into the 4th and 5th month if the fetus has tested unhealthy or the woman's life is in real danger if she remains pregnant. Many married older women think they aren't fertile when they still are and stop taking birth control.
Lastly, there is no existing evidence that easy access to abortions, even throughout pregnancy, equates to more abortions, in any country, that has free and easy access to birth control. In fact, countries with easy access to abortion and also free easy access to birth control have the lowest rates in the world, and these rates lower even more when those countries offer mandated longer paid maternity/paternity leaves, free quality universal health care, and free, quality, public daycare. (The only exception to this seems to be Sweden. Despite Sweden's similarly ease of access to both abortion and birth control and it's offering many of the benefits listed above that other Western European Countries offer, it still has quite a high abortion rate. However, there is no evidence suggesting that tightening Sweden's existing laws would lower its rate for abortion and doing so would likely only raise it even higher.)
The evidence we do have seems to indicate, on a global scale, that despite what seems reasonable in theory, i.e., harsh abortion laws will lower abortion rates, is completely false when put to the test in reality. It just may be that easy access to abortion, and lenient abortion laws, help more to reduce abortion rates than having strict laws against abortion, in any country. Perhaps some morality issues simply cannot be solved by force or threat but must instead be dealt with by respecting the situation of the people involved and helping them out of their place of fear or desperation, with physical and material protections and emotional and spiritual support. We could do much more perhaps by encouraging a choice for good, and for life, without attempting to control women. We could choose to help women in real ways, instead of trying to corner them into doing the Christian thing.

Beatriz Vera
3 years 5 months ago

Nora Bolcon, I couldn't find the words to say what I think until I read your comment. Without wanting to "wiggle myself out" of my own voice, I could not find better words and thank you for yours.

Tim Miller
3 years 5 months ago

While you are correct that pro-life side ignores too much of the information you cited, that information contains a few serious problems/errors; i just name the most easy ones to explain:

1. "Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. When countries are grouped according to the grounds under which the procedure is legal, the rate is 37 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age where it is prohibited altogether or allowed only to save a woman’s life, compared with 34 per 1,000 where it is available on request, a nonsignificant difference."

Considering that abortion rates vary even inside one country a lot (up to a factor of 2,5 between dense cities and rural areas) it borders on the dishonest what Guttmacher does here, to just arrange countries according to abortion laws and thereby deliberately giving the impression that laws against abortion do not effect the number of abortions; one should at least check for other factors and also look at countries with differing abortion laws which are otherwise less different.

E.g. compare Irland to GB, instead of sub-sahara Africa to Western Europe; and that comparison - up until 1st January this year - would strongly indicate that Irlands strict abortion ban did have an effect to reduce abortions, as GB has about 15 abortions per 1000 15-44 year old women while Irland had about 6 or 5.

(Part of the issue is of course, that with ban, the data is less reliable; but that adds to Guttmacher's near dishonesty - one does not compare countries with legal abortion and reliable statistics to countries with illegal abortion and therefore only unreliable estimates and then draws as a scientific undeniable conclusion, that it is proven, than bans do not lower abortion; after all, the reduction effect of ban might be sucker up by the measurement error; while Guttmacher does this nowhere explicitly - they are not stupid after all - they never raise there voice when activist or journalists cite their studies as supposedly "scientific" "evidence" that bans do not reduce; comparing reliable statistics with rough estimates is in principle insufficient to consider anything scientifically proven; it is just indication)

2. direct contradiction of the claim is found in Guttmacher's own statistics:
"Across regions, Eastern Europe experienced the largest decline in the abortion rate, from 88 in 1990–1994 to 42 in 2010–2014. Despite this decline, there is a persistent gap in rates between Eastern and Western Europe (42 vs. 16) likely reflecting lower use of effective, modern contraceptive methods in Eastern Europe."

Why the decline?
The best available guess is changes of laws making abortion more illegal, when the countries went from communist - no communist out there who ever saw and abortion he didn't like - to non-communist.

3. "The evidence we do have seems to indicate, on a global scale, that despite what seems reasonable in theory, i.e., harsh abortion laws will lower abortion rates, is completely false when put to the test in reality. It just may be that easy access to abortion, and lenient abortion laws, help more to reduce abortion rates than having strict laws against abortion, in any country. Perhaps some morality issues simply cannot be solved by force or threat but must instead be dealt with by respecting the situation of the people involved and helping them out of their place of fear or desperation, with physical and material protections and emotional and spiritual support. We could do much more perhaps by encouraging a choice for good, and for life, without attempting to control women. We could choose to help women in real ways, instead of trying to corner them into doing the Christian thing."

Guttmacher and other pro-abortion advocates have fallen into the false dichotomy, that its either banning abortion as murder or having a lenient and easy access.

In Germany the supreme court affirmed that unborn have the right to life according to Art. 2.2 of German constitution and affirmed that unborn have human dignity according to Art. 1.1 of German constitution and that there the German state has a duty to attempt to protect the live of unborn and is required to both use penal code and other means to achieve this, with the German state left quite some freedom how to exactly due to this based on the experience that harsh laws are of limited effectiveness.

So there is no need to legally deny the right to life of unborn to cope with the issue, that data so far INDICATES (but does not prove as activists claim) that harsh abortion laws are often of limited effectiveness.

It is in principle so simple:

Unborn humans have a right to life, etc.

Banning abortions does not work?

Then try something else, but for the sake of sanity do not change the law to consider unborn humans to be non-humans.

Evidence about German supreme court:
https://dejure.org/dienste/vernetzung/rechtsprechung?Gericht=BVerfG&Datum=28.05.1993&Aktenzeichen=2%20BvF%202%2F90

First link under "Volltextveröffentlichung":
http://www.servat.unibe.ch/dfr/bv088203.html

"1. Das Grundgesetz verpflichtet den Staat, menschliches Leben, auch das ungeborene, zu schützen. Diese Schutzpflicht hat ihren Grund in Art. 1 Abs. 1 GG; ihr Gegenstand und - von ihm her - ihr Maß werden durch Art. 2 Abs. 2 GG näher bestimmt. Menschenwürde kommt schon dem ungeborenen menschlichen Leben zu. Die Rechtsordnung muß die rechtlichen Voraussetzungen seiner Entfaltung im Sinne eines eigenen Lebensrechts des Ungeborenen gewährleisten. Dieses Lebensrecht wird nicht erst durch die Annahme seitens der Mutter begründet. "

So unborn have rights according to constitution.

"11. Dem Gesetzgeber ist es verfassungsrechtlich grundsätzlich nicht verwehrt, zu einem Konzept für den Schutz des ungeborenen Lebens überzugehen, das in der Frühphase der Schwangerschaft in Schwangerschaftskonflikten den Schwerpunkt auf die Beratung der schwangeren Frau legt, um sie für das Austragen des Kindes zu gewinnen, und dabei auf eine indikationsbestimmte Strafdrohung und die Feststellung von Indikationstatbeständen durch einen Dritten verzichtet. "

State ("Gesetzgeber") may pursue protection in the early phase of pregnancy with an approach less focused on penal code ("auf eine indikationsbestimmte Strafdrohung ... verzichtet") and more focused on counseling ("Schwerpunkt auf die Beratung der schwangeren Frau") and helping.

The critical difference:
When the unborn is legally a worthless nothing, there is legally little or no way to put limitations upon father of the child or other people asking or even pressuring the woman to abort - after all, there can be nothing wrong in asking someone else to destroy a legal nothing of no ethically value whatsoever according to the constitution.

Hope i could shed light on what trap lies within the data from Guttmacher (a trap which i think is to some extent gladly accepted if not deliberately set up; cause do you think pro-aborts are happy in Germany with the solution that abortion is possible within first three months if a mandatory counseling happened? No, they literally scream how cruel and inhuman it is, to require woman to have such counseling, which is at least formally aimed at encouraging the women not to abort and to help them with the problems they face; there are pro-aborts - and Guttmacher people might be partly among them - who will be satisfied with nothing less than solely on request of the woman, paid by taxpayer, doctors forced by law and till the umbilical cord is cut [that doens't mean that a lot of people being against strict abortion laws, might also be against that radicalism; but as the situation in Canada shows, that is of little help, if the radical pro-aborts get their way; so one should be aware about them and the traps lying inside Guttmacher and other data])

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

Hi Tim,

Since I already answered these pretty much same questions in the last abortion article in America - I am now just going to cut and paste this response again. Perhaps you did not get the chance to read the other one yet.

Guttmacher is not the only one with these results, The World Health Organization agrees with this research and there is no viably sourced evidence contradicting either Guttmacher or the W.H.O's evidence. Also, I have a problem with your comment being riddled with statements accusing Guttmacher of lying, yet you offer no evidence to support their findings as incorrect.

Definition of Evidence: the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

What Guttmacher has supplied fits the definition of evidence. They have researched these issues in every country of the world, and with integrity. In fact, the abortion rates in Africa and in other certain third world countries, listed in their research, are probably on the low side. The W.H.O. points this out in its research that because many of these countries are extremely poor and don't keep good records and abortion is illegal, the rates listed for abortion are much lower than likely is the reality since only what is recorded can be listed in the research.

There is nothing misleading in grouping countries by abortion rates, and abortion and birth control access, as this was the point of the research in this area. They are allowed to research countries by the data they find significant and of use to the world organizations who may need this data or find it constructive.

As for the clustering of urban to non-urban - this issue makes no difference since every country with strict laws against abortion had higher rates of abortion and much higher rates of maternal deaths which some of us also care about. Urban or not every country had higher rates around the globe and all countries have urban and rural populations. Our own country has seen an increase in self-aborting around some of our states that have tried to restrict abortion access with nasty results since 2014.

As for Ireland, it has been well documented in England that as long as abortion has been legal in England, the Irish have gone to England to procure abortion. Which explains the lower rate documented in Ireland than most countries with banned abortion.

The same applies to the Eastern European Countries such as Poland. Polish Women have commonly gone to Germany and other European Countries to procure abortions since the wall came down and this research has been documented as well. Eastern Europeans now have difficult access to both abortions and birth control compared to most Western European Countries, and their rates are still much higher than Western European rates of abortion and maternal deaths. As for the rate drop from before the wall fell in the Eastern Bloc of abortions to now - I don't know why, and neither do you since there is no research on this issue that I have found or you have offered here - so this is pure speculation but I can tell you abortion rates were higher in the U.S. too before birth control was more readily available after the 1980s. It could have been due to poor access to birth control in Russia or the promotion of abortion in Russia before the wall came down. I am merely guessing. I don't disagree that pushing abortion on women in desperate situations will likely increase its happening as well. I am sure China has had hideously high rates of abortion while it mandated no more than one child per couple but that issue is not the subject of my comment or this article. We are not discussing rates of abortion when women are forced to abort. The subject is access and the lack of it to both birth control and abortion increasing, and by how much, abortions happening in countries where there is no governmental pressure to abort.

So let me get this straight - you prefer the amount of 42 abortions per 1000 women in Eastern Europe compared to the 16 in 1000 women in Western Europe? That does not sound Pro-Life to me!? Either way 42 unborn lives compared to 16 is the difference of 26 abortions being done above the Western European countries which have the easiest access to both birth control and abortion, compared by the Eastern European Countries which now have more difficult access to both.

I don't think there is anything misleading in what the Guttmacher evidence has pointed out but I do believe Pro-Life isn't really Pro-Life, but instead a morality brigade and no matter how damaging the results of its efforts, it will not change its tactics even to save many of the unborn it proclaims to care about, and certainly they will not rethink their destructive goals to criminalize abortion in order to lower maternal death rates to save any women's lives.
Also to answer your German statement, Yes, after a certain time of pregnancy, Western European Countries protect the unborn and demand greater medical evidence - physical or emotional for allowing an abortion. However, I know a German couple and this is not tightly restricted until after the first 20 weeks and even then women can get an abortion if the fetus has a serious health issue or the mother does and the women gets a note from her Dr.
As for, "Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. When countries are grouped according to the grounds under which the procedure is legal, the rate is 37 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age where it is prohibited altogether or allowed only to save a woman’s life, compared with 34 per 1,000 where it is available on request, a nonsignificant difference." . . . .
I don't consider 3 deaths non-significant per 1,000 women, but that's me. Also if you research further into the World Health Orgs. research online, you will see that most countries that have strict abortion laws also have strict birth control access so in this one area Guttmacher is using very little evidence to back its statement but probably is using the little evidence there is available. Either way, we have more deaths of the unborn with only abortion restricted according to available evidence and that is what I wrote, that abortions would likely be dramatically less in countries with easy access to birth control only but not as low as say Western European Countries or the current rate of the U.S. with Roe v. Wade still intact.

None of this research justifies anyone getting an abortion morally. I do not believe it is right or moral or healthy for anyone to get an abortion. However, what we are discussing is criminalizing the act, and since all evidence available proves that this only increases the amount of times this act is done around the world, and definitely causes more women to die and the unborn too, it is more immoral to react with this response to the problem.

Jesus never told you or anyone else to condemn another person. In point of fact he specifically told all of his followers not to condemn anyone. You can proclaim abortion a sin, and I would agree with you, but criminalizing it only seeks to punish, after the fact, and neither Jesus nor I would support that action, according to what is written in the Gospels. Do not murder is not the same command as you must jail anyone who murders. Laws in the country are designed to keep the peace and give justice to all citizens, as equally as possible, and also to the unborn, as long as you are not taking rights from the born to do so.

God Almighty nor Jesus values the unborn more than their mothers, whether in regards to their lives, or their human dignity, or their freedom and right to act according to their free will over the body God gave to them. Unfortunately, no law could ever be justly made to force women to gestate a baby they do not wish to gestate with the use of their organs since we do not have any such mandate on men, or on women of non-child bearing age. The equivalent would be mandating organ donation to save the lives of others, say of kidneys or bone marrow and you notice we do not have such laws.

Sometimes the best and most just solution is no law at all and choosing another avenue. With abortion, both Europe and the U.S. have already proven other routes work much better so why are you still pushing for criminalization? Avoiding the actual evidence, and there is plenty of it, won't avoid the results that the evidence foretells. Women and the unborn are dying in higher amounts while you keep your head in the sand. Time to wake up brother - time to ask yourself are you really backing what Christ would do or maybe it just feels good to try and control women since you won't be effected by any such laws of the kind you want made?

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

Sooo tired of hearing about poor defenseless persistently victimized women who apparently have no control over their lives and are evermore systematically .beaten, raped and subjugated by men and starved to the point they are forced to kill their children to survive....in America . Stop it .

Crystal Watson
3 years 5 months ago

JPII - the man who protected Marciel. Women in this church ... we can't be priests, we can't even be deacons, we;re not supposed to use contraception, we aren't supposed to take a morning-after pill even after a sexual assault, we're not supposed to divorce a wife-beater. The only thing the church thinks we're good for is bearing and taking care of children ....Pope Francis has stated many times that this is our God-given destiny. Why would I ever take seriously the church's opinion on women's reproductive choices?

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

Amen sister!
When half the bishops and cardinals and ordained priests are women we will consider your ideas about womens health in general but not before. Until you respect our same authority and equally sacred intelligence and humanity we won't respect yours brothers.

Respect and love are reciprocal or nonexistent and the proof is in the treatment of each other not just in empty words.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

You outright deny the authority of the Catholic Church in previous posts .... so where does that leave your argument on any serious issue. as it pertains to practicing Catholics?

ho think k

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

If Catholics are not Christians first then they are nothing. Our religion allows us to act according to our conscience and intelligence per Vatican II. I am not willing to put my head in the sand and ignore restricting abortion kills more women and the unborn just because the pope is willing to do this. That does not make me a bad Catholic, merely an aware Catholic who knows she must fight for a just and sane country and church at times. Stupidity is hard to cure for many, and impossible for some.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

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Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

You misunderstand. I said the word 'Christian' wasn't used to describe the Church in its early days(up to about 1500 yrs after Christ when it was coined in Protestantism to distinguish that man made movement from the Church that Jesus established). The first word used to describe the Church was 'Katholikos, a Greek translation of 'Catholic', which was a reference to its 'whole' or 'universal' character................Also, consistent with Catholic teaching long before Vatican ll , in reference to mortal sin, the Catechism states on line 1867 " For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge , and deliberate consent." The critical terms used are also defined there ,..(.The Church also teaches it is our responsibility to form a good moral conscience). ........In addition, and also since long before Vatican ll, the Church teaches only God can know what sins are on a man's soul...........For example, WE CAN'T EVEN KNOW IF HITLER COMMITTED MORTAL SINS. This is known to him and God alone. But if I were a betting person........................(see what I mean?)

Nora Bolcon
3 years 5 months ago

Hi Bev,
For starters - we read in the Book of Acts 11:26
"and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." This is the very beginning of the church - Paul is still being referred to as Saul here. Christians were called Christians from the earliest start of Christianity - even according to the bible.

I have no idea why you are responding as you are. Again, no one is debating that only God knows for certain the intent of any sinner's heart. You condemned me as not having any business pointing out our hierarchy has chosen a sexist and life costing response to abortion instead of pursuing and preaching that which has proven to help women not abort, such as actually supporting women (with daycare costs, paid maternity/paternity leaves, social services and universal health care) because this is not supported by church teaching at present. You tell me for these reasons I am a bad Catholic. I disagree - I believe in Vatican II's given rights for the laity not to support already well proven choices in actions which lead to misogyny and greater deaths, as a matter of Christian conscience and therefore as a matter of good Catholic conscience.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

The word 'Christian'was used by outsiders, in Antioch, to describe individual members of the Jewish sect that followed Jesus. Around 75 AD, the Pharisees, another sect with powerful connections to Rome, & adversaries of the sect that followed Jesus, disowned the Jesus sect from Judaism (their authority to do this being questionable). Jesus never named His Church, He only named His Authority on earth. Early followers referred to the entity of the singular unit of their group simply as 'The Church', as opposed to 'Christian Church''. Jews had status in Rome & were considered citizens but Jesus' followers lost that status when they were disowned and this put them in danger of persecution............................ In the days there were books, I often looked a lot of stuff up in The Encyclopedia Judaica, of which a hard copy was maintained next to the Catholic encyclopedia in the Reference section at the library.. I learned the move by the Pharisees to disown the followers of Christ and throw out the manuscripts they were using to substantiate that Christ was the Messiah, was likely political, The first evidence of' Catholic' being used to describe the Church is extant in a letter from Ignatius of Antioch to Christians in Smyrna. St Ignatius who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote letters to the Church on his way to be martyred. ....................................................................................................................................... . Wikipedia states ' "The earliest recorded evidence of the use of the term 'Catholic Church' is the Letter to the Smyrnaeans that Ignatius of Antioch wrote in about 107 to Christians in Smyrna. Exhorting Christians to remain closely united with their bishop, he wrote: "Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."[12][16][17] ".................................................................................................................................................................. After a couple of centuries the persecutions subsided and the Christian came out of hiding, ie., out of the catacombs. At the Council of Nicaea, the bishops, as majesterium, defined the attributes of the Church as One Holy Catholic and Apostolic. All existing evidence, ie references in letters by the bishops and early Church Fathers show the name of the Church to whom Jesus gave His Authority was known as Catholic by the 2nd Century. We know history by letters that circulated among the disciple of the apostles and inscriptions on catacomb walls and other writings. These exist. All of early Christian history resides within the Catholic Church.

James Haraldson
3 years 5 months ago

Because all you comments are stupid and dishonest and bigoted and might begin to find truth if you would abandon your self-serving self-worship if you would actually learn something about the Catholic religion. You might learn something about minimal human decency in the process. You know, the sort that would discourage you from crushing the skull of an innocent child.

Larry Motuz
3 years 5 months ago

Pro-life means more than what you've said, Fr. Martin. It means not permitting people to have reproductive choices. It means not letting anyone decide when or if they should be parents. To be truly pro-life actually means respecting the dignity of all persons. That includes respect for their agency. It means being for social justice, not denying it to some like those who've been raped. It means speaking out against those who go out of their way to prosecute women when they miscarry --those who assume she did 'something' that led to the miscarriage. As long as you and the Church are silent about such matters, you do not have reverence for life so much as reverence for your beliefs about how others should live.

rose-ellen caminer
3 years 5 months ago

Calling the killing of sentient human fetuses "reproductive choices", and claiming that respect for the dignity of all persons means means supporting a free agent's killing of sentient- capable-of -suffering - unborn humans, is Orwellian in its brazen inversion of language, and of ethics; how dare you don't respect a persons choice to inflict suffering and death on innocent defenseless humans!This is sheer brainwashing, or just callous indifference to suffering humans in the womb,or just manipulation of language to challenge the value of all human life., It is a misuse of the concept "respect for persons and their agency".!t is pure anti science and or just inhumane propaganda talking points. Get real! Or honest!I don't know what you are talking about as no one is going after people who miscarry!

Mike Bayer
3 years 5 months ago

The Republican party has co-opted and politicized the Pro-life movement. That's why it's really only an anti-abortion movement. Also, let's remember that the Republicans are hypocrites. They use abortion as a wedge issue to fundraise and rile the base. They use and abuse true pro-life people for the party's selfish agenda which violates every pro-life tenet.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

I was a lifelong Democrat till I was left no wiggle room on the abortion issue. (as exhibited by Hillary Clinton's proclamation the baby has no Constitutional protection up through the last month of pregnancy.) And the Planned Parenthood Party has only grown increasingly grotesque since then.

BARBARA LEE
3 years 5 months ago

We need a better vocabulary. "Pro-life" is understood in modern American English to mean "anti-abortion." When we use it in its broader sense, it is misunderstood. The Church also needs to make clearer, much clearer, that we care for children AFTER they are born--with more support for maternity leave, nursing mothers, anti-poverty measures, and keeping families together.

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

Pro-life is simple.. It means Thou shalt not kill nor cause others to kill

arthur mccaffrey
3 years 5 months ago

if JPII said "whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation" is a threat to life, I would have thought that self -mutilating surgery to change one's sex would be regarded as a threat to such integrity, no?

Colin Jory
3 years 5 months ago

Fr Martin's article is most heartening. I must respectfully object, however, to the wording of his statement, "Many women whom I love, respect and admire support abortion rights". There is only one abortion right, and that is the right not to be aborted. Words matter.

Jim Lein
3 years 5 months ago

When I see a pregnant woman, I see a pregnant woman, person to person. I have no right to tell or order her what to do with her pregnancy. That's why I would never vote for making abortion illegal. And as I man, I really have no right, because us guys are responsible for all unwanted and problem pregnancies. To put it differently, we are irresponsible. We could bring an end to abortion--if we were more responsible.
Also, from one-third to two-thirds of women who abort were pressured to do so by significant others, including by the man responsible for the pregnancy.

Colin Jory
3 years 5 months ago

"I have no right to tell or order her what to do with her pregnancy." Let's start, JIm, by rewording this euphemistic evasion of reality -- the particular reality which counts -- to express the reality being evaded, thus: "I have no right to tell or order her what to do with the child in her womb." That reality-check radically changes the complexion of the issue, doesn't it? When you mother was pregnant with you, Jim, you weren't a pregnancy, you were a child in her womb. Her pregnancy ended when you were born, Jim, but you weren't ended -- you simply changed address.

Jim Lein
3 years 5 months ago

Easy for us guys to talk, opine. We are never going to be pregnant. And we are the ones behaving irresponsibly by contributing to unwanted pregnancies, leaving women in a very difficult and unique situation. We are like a major part of the abortion problem. Who are we to tell pregnant women what to do--or force their choice by law?

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

Jim Lein: If one accepts your declaration that only women have the right to speak, work and vote against the killing of humans,' it follows that Jesus , if He were here today, would rightfully be muzzled on this issue.

Kevin Liston
3 years 5 months ago

Thank you, James, for your clear exposition. It is important to have a clear position on respect for life while also respecting the decisions
(conscience) of those directly involved. It is not good to use legislation to inflict our moral positions on others. Kevin Liston

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

So if my neighbor practices infanticide it's none of my business?

Rockhurst Jesuits
3 years 5 months ago

I suggest that those who misrepresent, and likely don't understand, what the Church teaches have done more harm than good, and are themselves responsible for much of the confusion in the political forum. The Church teaches that we have a human BEING at conception, but we do not know when the embryo becomes a human PERSON, with an immortal destiny. Also, our opposition to abortion depends on the church's sophisticated teaching on probabilism, and includes the distinction between material and formal evil. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has encouraged Catholics to form their conscience well, and then follow their conscience, not omitting to consider any of the issues. As Scripture says: "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." As Christians we must be concerned about all of these issues, but we won't necessarily agree on how to prioritize them. John Zupez, SJ

Bev Ceccanti
3 years 5 months ago

Rockhurst Jesuits: How dare you! I shudder to think your proximity to this issue is more of the 'Formal' variety by your very comment herein.
( Remember the 'millstone' ?) As a Catholic educated woman I understand the importance of nuance and it's for this reason we need clear eyed leaders in our Church and in the confessional. Probabilism in this matter is rejected by the majesterium. Probabilism' and 'sophistry' aside, Confusion works for the Devil. I am well aware words are modified over years, let alone centuries. Language also does not translate straight across. In addition, there is no known Bible anywhere in the World, in that the only extant collections of manuscripts are copies themselves, and therefore subject to error in translation. Your declaration that 'we do not know' when the embryo becomes a human PERSON ..with an immortal destiny' is true, in that we don't KNOW' anything in Faith. We don't ' KNOW" if Jesus was God... or if there is a God, It's a belief. That's why it's called 'Faith'.. As Catholics, however, we have the opportunity to arrive at Faith through reason,( for those of us who can't subscribe to fairy tales, ie Thomas Aquinas) . The belief the Soul exists at conception, and the embryo is an immortal human being is consistent with all of Divine Tradition, all existing copies of the written Word (as confirmed by Nihil obstat and Imprimatur), modern declarations of the Majesterium and by reason itself. The 2000 year old belief is not seriously challenged and never has been. We are GIVEN to believe John 'jumped for joy ' in Elizabeth's womb when Mary approached. Moreover, the word 'person' is a human invention and a legal device. It is owned by 'Caesar' and it means whatever 'Caesar' determines it to mean. At one time, a 'person' meant 'white man'. A few years from now it could mean 'three years and older'
................. Again, the word 'person' is a legal device and a human invention and is not an indicator of when the human being is an immortal being.. The whole of Divine Tradition, and reason itself, is consistent with a soul being instilled with conception. Shame on you...for leading many astray on this critical issue. I have my suspicions as to why you do this but I refrain from that discussion here..

Rockhurst Jesuits
3 years 5 months ago

I never said that probabilism allows us to abort, it's the teaching on why we can't apply probabilism here that needs explaining to those outside our faith. And I suggest we can trust this excerpt from the National Catholic Register on the question of the distinction between being and person: "What the Holy Father does not do here is to make a pronouncement that human beings and human persons are always absolutely coterminous. Rather, he again shifts the discussion to focus on the key ethical affirmation that every human being “deserves all the respect owed to the human person.” Clearly, the Pope could have chosen to phrase it differently, e.g.: 'Every embryonic human being is a person, and therefore deserves respect,' but he didn't, and in no official Church teaching that I am aware of has the Church ever phrased it that way, because that is not how she typically reasons about this complex and important matter."
http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/the_wisdom_of_the_church_is_in_her_silence_too
National Catholic Register AUG. 10, 2003 The Wisdom of the Church Is in Her Silence, Too Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk

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