Father James Martin: Why I Am Pro-Life

  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.

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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. 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.

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Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks ago

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Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 2 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks ago

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

arthur mccaffrey
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 4 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks ago

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

Rockhurst Jesuits
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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
10 months 3 weeks 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

Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks ago

( Coterminous ?. Really Father?) You're talking about a newspaper with a writer's debunked extrapolation of a papal comment for which there is no reason to expect the Pope would isolate a younger human being on the continuum of life from the rest of her human family in the womb or after birth.. Theology is an academic designation which doesn't confer spiritual authority .( ie. Women can be theologians too, ). His sophistry is denied by those with the Spiritual Authority going all the way back to the Didache. The matter has been firmly established.. There is an infinite chasm between the limits of that designation and the Spiritual Authority as expressed through the Successors of the Apostles. The majesterium has never wavered in its teaching that abortion is killing a human being and is a grave sin, one which causes death to the soul. The idea we don't know when a soul is instilled is similar to the true statement.....'' We don't know if souls exist at all'. We don't KNOW. We BELIEVE. And to imagine out of whole cloth there is a demarcation of time in the womb when a soul would be imbued after the continuum of life has started , and it happens to 'coincide' with an arbitrary section of time or maturity on the continuum of life for which 'Caesar' coined the word 'embyo' is ridiculous. When did the 'creation of a soul' become a purvue of scientific study? When did Caesar claim ownership of the Soul? I admire astrophysicists but they have no place deciding when souls are instilled, and any priest who purports to 'follow ' that line of thinking should fear for his own. The logical extension of this unmitigated sophistry is 'If we don't know when or if a soul is ever instilled, we can kill whomever we want, as long as it's a popular activity.. This an apparent attempt at 'De Facto'' probabilism , a sideways trick to render impotent the Church's unarguably solid position. The self-serving theory has no rational support in Natural Law either. .......... .. And the Church isn't buying it.

Jeannette Mulherin
10 months 4 weeks ago

What causes the demand for abortion to plummet? Easy access to birth control. As long as the church forbids birth control and works against its accessibility, it is complicit in the continued demand for abortion services. Practical people realize that a significant decrease in demand is preferable to a continued fight that, if successful, would not only NOT decrease the demand for the procedure, but would create devastating consequences on a grand scale. For example, the most violent country in the western hemisphere, El Salvador, is a "pro-life" country. Right now Salvadoran women are sitting in crowded prison cells, some serving 40 year sentences for having had miscarriages. They are uniformly young and poor, and many are illiterate. How did this happen? Opus Dei-infused "thinking" believes, as did JPII, that a woman's sole purpose is to reproduce and that if she miscarries, well, she must have done something to cause it. With this in mind, perhaps "pro-life" priests who sit down at their computers to draft articles proclaiming their love for humanity should pause now and again to consider just how easy it is for them to be "pro-life" in a very complicated world.

Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks ago

Abortifacients abort. No theoretical argument can address the right here right now 'private' killings of human beings that we are all forced to .participate in. Substitute Hitlers holocaust for the holocaust of today and this argument would be ridiculous if it wasn't so grotesquely tragic.

Nora Bolcon
10 months 4 weeks ago

Also father, if you so care about the human dignity of all people then why do you never fight publicly for women who are called by God to the same ordained priesthood you enjoy to be equally ordained?
Religious sexism has been proven to cause pedophilia, poverty, slavery, terrorism, murder, rape, torture, many of these things that lead to fleeing ones country and the creation of rrefugee situations. Yet no dissent from you demanding same sacraments be offered to both women and men. No one respects a hypocrite. Either stand against attacks of all people's human dignity or admit you are just another man with an agenda against women.

Gail Bederman
10 months 4 weeks ago

Who could disagree with anything in this article—as long as we see all of these issues, including abortion, as a simple matter of independent individuals. Abortion is only a problem because the two people involved—mothers and unborn babies—are neither independent nor (in this context) individuals. If babies were able to support themselves from the moment of conception or birth without profound maternal sacrifices, then nobody on earth would support abortion.

But babies are not independent individuals; nor are unhappily pregnant women who carry their babies to term. These beings’ rights and needs are profoundly, indissolubly intertwined, particularly because during pregnancy, women almost always bond with their babies, such that they are emotionally unable to give them up for adoption.

Thus, as much as I admire much of the article, I think Fr. Martin misses a crucial moral issue here. If we owe the baby life, then what do we owe the mother? The crux of the abortion problem is that often both the unhappily pregnant mother and the unborn baby face existential threats. Poor women are far more likely to have abortions than other women; yet (at least in the USA) almost nobody treats the needs of both sides as if they were equally serious.

I would have loved to read Fr. Martin's wisdom on this issue. How do we weigh the mother's needs against those of the baby's, especially if the mother is already economically, physically, or emotionally fragile? How do we measure the baby’s needs against those of her already-born siblings, who are often already living in extreme poverty—poor women often have other living children, and choose to abort to protect their other living children’s future. If a desperate mother does bring a baby to term, she will probably bond emotionally with the child, thus committing herself to at least 18 years of continued maternal sacrifices, even if she knows or suspects this will cause all kinds of sufferings--hers, her baby's her other children's. But say, she brings the child to term, nonetheless.

My question is if she does this, weighing the good of the child against her own, and maybe the other children’s--then what do we owe her, as Catholics, Americans, and fellow creatures? If she is going to make those kinds of sacrifices to bring up an American citizen, aren’t the rest of us obliged to sacrifice, for her good and her children’s good, too?

Isn’t this the main moral issue raised by abortion: Say we owe the child life. What do we owe the mother?

I'm sure Fr. Martin would have wonderful things to say about this. But he didn't. And that was disappointing

Hilary Hutchinson
10 months 4 weeks ago

I swear I read an article by Fr. Martin last year (July 2017) about what he means when he says he's "pro-life". With his definition, I could say I also was pro-life. It was an excellent article which made the claim that most pro-lifers are really pro-birthers. That is what I believe, and that's one of the reasons I'm pro-choice. I'm puzzled how Fr. Martin can seem to straddle both sides so eloquently.

Richard Neagle
10 months 4 weeks ago

Just to mention two things wrong with this article. Number one Fr Martin does not even mention that abortion is a mortal sin against the 5th Commandment "Thou halt not kill" . Those who participate in this murder in anyway condemn themselves to eternal damnation unless they reconcile with God in the confessional
Numbe two .How about this line

"Many women whom I love, respect and admire support abortion rights"

Do you respect their right to pronounce and publicly support "abortion rights". The right to slaughter innocent babies. Love them by all means and correct them lead them to Gods mercy , but they have no right under in God's kingdom to proclaim killing babies is a right.

Vincent Gaglione
10 months 4 weeks ago

I appreciate what Father Martin writes. He makes clear what many regard as lacking in the current Catholic pro-life movement. I also appreciate that he does not address the strategy for political solutions. To my mind these are moral and ethical issues, many of which we have failed to inculcate and broaden in our Catholic communities.

Crystal Watson
10 months 4 weeks ago

One problem is that pro-life people treat abortion as if it was the same as killing small children ... Fr. Martin has a photo at the top of this article of a child. More than 98% of abortions are early term, of embryos and zygotes, and even those few late term abortions are not of children like in this article's photo. This is an embryo - it can't think or feel, nor is it self-conscious ... it isn't a child ... yet.

Warren Patton
10 months 4 weeks ago

That is an embryo on Day 3. Most abortions do not take place on Day 3 of a pregnancy.

But even that embryo- on Day 3- contains the germ of a human being. It has all the information necessary to create a totally unique human the likes of which will never be seen again in any embryo, and it has the ability to grow into one through it's own activity. Is this not something to be cherished? Is this not sacred? I don't see how you can hold anything sacred if we don't hold the beginnings of human life to be sacred. Even in it's earliest stages a fetus is more than mere disposable material. It's totally unique and precious. It's loss can never be replaced.

And while the late term abortions may be (relatively) few, I don't think it's right to gloss over them. Look at pictures of fetuses at 20 weeks. Do they look disposable to you? Can you understand why people want to protect them?

For the record I honestly do kind of agree with you that a picture of a young child is inappropriate for an article on abortion. I think a photo of a fetus at 7 weeks might have been more appropriate (https://motherandbaby.blob.core.windows.net/web/1/root/week7_w555.jpg). To me that fetus looks precious and I can't look at that picture and not want to see it protected. I see no reason pro-lifers should be embarrassed by pictures of early-term fetuses.

Crystal Watson
10 months 4 weeks ago

I don't really understand the idea that human life is sacred (but not all life?). If it's sacred, why do most people sign off on capital punishment, on war, on lethal self-protection?
I've never been pregnant so I can't say I understand it personally, but the fact is that a lot of women, most of whom are already parents, decide that they cannot be parents (again) and get abortions. Some of them feel so strongly about that decision that they will even endanger their own lives in order to do this. I don't think anyone should be forced to have a child, anymore than anyone should be forced to have an abortion.

Warren Patton
10 months 4 weeks ago

Well, yeah. If you don't place value on human life then abortion would be permitted, along with all the other things you mentioned. I can't argue with that.

I am aware that women get abortions. There's no need to tell me that.

I think the language of "forcing" a woman to have a child is misleading. The thing forcing a pregnant woman to have a child is nature. A pregnancy coming to term isn't something that's being artificially imposed from outside. It's nature: it's the natural working of a woman's own body and the fetus's own potential. When you say that a woman is "forced" to have a child what you really mean is that nature is allowed to take its course- that a woman is unable to thwart nature through violence.

Crystal Watson
10 months 3 weeks ago

I value life and not just human life. But pro-life people seem to use the "human life is sacred" expression when talking of fetuses. Why aren't pro-life people pacifists? Why is there no pro-life outrage over capital punishment? Saying that fetal life is "sacred" is a sanctimonious device to elevate your cause.

Warren Patton
10 months 3 weeks ago

Your not defending abortion here your only attacking pro-lifers. If there were a national debate about infanticide you could use the same argument to justify that (assuming infanticide opponents supported capital punishment and so on). Can't you defend abortion on its own terms, without resorting to whataboutism?

Crystal Watson
10 months 3 weeks ago

The defense is that fetuses are not persons but part of a woman's body. Women, as persons, have the right (according to the Supreme Court) to decide what will happen to their bodies. The pro-life movement's argument depends on the religious belief that at the moment of conception, an embryo has the same rights as an already existing person ... but that's a minority religious belief not even shared by all Catholics.

Warren Patton
10 months 3 weeks ago

The embryo isn't merely a part of a woman's body- like a hand or a spleen. It's a separate living individual. And my conviction that the fetus must be protected is based on known facts about the fetus- that's it's a totally unique individual that is alive, that it is growing. It's a human being in its earliest stages. This isn't belief- it's clear fact. We can quibble about "rights." Rights are decided on by society, so there's no way to prove that *any* person has rights. But we shouldn't muddle our concept of what a fetus actually is.

And the fact that you even defend *late-term abortions* makes this argument hard to swallow. A being that can survive outside the womb (even if only for a short time) is only to be considered as a part of the mother? What about the rare case where someone survives an abortion? In some cases people have survived abortions with major deformities. I can't accept that an act that wounds a human being for life was not done to a human being. I just don't have the intellectual sophistication to believe such things.

As for this being a minority view this is either gloating ("you're losing, nyeh") or it's just irrelevant. What's right is right, even if only one person believes it.

Crystal Watson
10 months 3 weeks ago

I'm not arguing for late term abortions. I'm not arguing for abortion at all. I'm arguing for letting women decide what to do about their own pregnancy, which includes *not* getting an abortion. This is about (mostly) men wanting to control women's lives. If these people actually did care about the "unborn" they would be promoting the use of contraception, but that would involve treating women like functioning moral agents who can make good decisions, so they don't.

Warren Patton
10 months 3 weeks ago

Of course women are moral agents and are capable of making good decisions. But in many cases they don't, and people die because of it.

Obviously you are arguing for abortion in the sense of arguing for it as an institution. You want it to be available. You want laws that support it. And you think it is good for some women in some cases. No one is suggesting that pro-choicers want to end every pregnancy, so this is a strawman argument. But "letting women decide what to do about their own pregnancy" means allowing unborn children to die. I can't accept that and I don't think you could either, if you shared my views on fetal life. The implication here is that we can accept that a fetus is worthy of life, but still allow them to get killed because at least *some* women will choose to let them live.

It's not about wanting to control women's lives. I have no stake in women I'm never going to meet having children. It's about saving human lives.

Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks ago

Crystal : You say " I don't really understand the idea that human life is sacred (but not all life?)" so you have no standing in any argument based on Catholic teaching... There is no common ground whatsoever.

Crystal Watson
10 months 3 weeks ago

That is a ridiculous statement, as is your idea that only Catholics are Christians. Catholic history is full of people who dissented on various teachings, from John Courtney Murray to Mary Ward. You sound like a religious bigot.

Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks ago

Did you deliberately misstate? The 'whole' of Christianity resides within the Catholic Church for obvious reasons. It's the first and only Witness to Christ, for one. Therefore, no belief or practice inconsistent with Catholic teaching is Christian.( See previous posts ) .

Marie Haener-Patti
10 months 4 weeks ago

When the Chuch recognizes and supports preventative birth control, I will be willing to open discussions about abortion. The Church cannot have it both ways and still proclaim that women are allowed the self-determination to which they are entitled as children of God.

Bev Ceccanti
10 months 3 weeks ago

Again, Abortifacients abort.

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