Catholic Politicians and Abortion Funding
Members of the United States Congress never are in a position to support the legalization of abortion, because in 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it by raw judicial power. The Supreme Court’s imposition does not, however, require those measures conducive to abortion that many members of Congress support. For example, the Supreme Court did not require that public funding be provided for abortions, but members of Congress regularly are in a position to support or oppose such funding.
Forty-eight Catholic members of Congress addressed a widely publicized letter on May 10 to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., arguing that those of them who vote for legislation consistent with that mandate [the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decisions] are not acting contrary to our positions as faithful members of the Catholic Church.
Supporting abortion funding is supporting legislation consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions. But supporting abortion funding ought to be recognized as incompatible with being a faithful member of the Catholic Church. Of course, not everyone who votes for a bill that includes abortion funding along with many other things supports funding for abortions. But when the issue in committee or on the floor of the House or Senate is whether to include or exclude such funding among other appropriations, those who vote to include the funding or vote against excluding it do support funding for abortions.
In Reflections on Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion, Archbishop William J. Levada of San Fransisco wrote on June 13, 2004:
Can a politician be guilty of formal cooperation in evil? If the person intends to promote the killing of innocent life, s/he would be guilty of such sinful cooperation. If such an intention were present, even a voter could be guilty of such cooperation. But this seems unlikely as a general rule. Should every Catholic politician who has voted for an unjust law favoring abortion be judged to have this intention? I hope not. The public nature of such votes raises the question perforce. But this is the point of a pastor’s solicitude for this member of his flock. He will need to inquire of his fellow Catholics about their intentions, about their understanding of their faith obligations, about their concept of their role in living out their faith in political life, about how they recognize their duty to uphold the law of nature and of nature’s God through the legislation of just laws, and the avoidance of unjust ones.
If Catholic politicians who support funding for abortions were asked about their intentions, as Archbishop Levada suggests, they almost certainly would say that they do not intend to promote the killing of innocent life. If honest, they probably would say that they intend to please elements of their constituency without whose support their rivals may well be nominated to run in their place. They may claim that they do not intend to promote abortions but only to see to it that the women for whose abortions they support funding will not be disadvantaged by comparison with more prosperous women, or women who have health insurance to pay for their abortions.
Such statements could be truthful. One can and usually does intend many ends whenever one chooses to do anything as complex as voting in a legislative assembly. And most if not all the ends Catholic politicians are likely to admit intending would not need to involve killing the innocent.
But choosing to support abortion funding also has a built-in intention. Whoever engages and pays someone to do something intends that it be done. Thus, when Mr. M’s wife or girlfriend or secretary tells him that she is pregnant with his child, and he offers to take her to an abortionist and pay for the abortion, Mr. M intends that the woman get an abortion. If she took his money and used it to buy diapers and a crib for the baby she meant to have, keep and raisein part with the help of Mr. M’s regular child support paymentshis intention in providing the funds would be frustrated.
Similarly, when the U.S. government engages and pays abortionists to do abortions, the U.S. government intends that abortions be done. The government’s act of engaging and paying abortionists to do abortions is complex. Part of that actnot some extrinsic act that only cooperates with itis the legislating that includes abortion among services to be supplied; part of it is the legislating that appropriates the funds. Other parts of it are actions by members of the executive branch and, in some cases, by various officials at the state level.
Imagine a situation in which the officials of some state accept federal funds offered under an act of Congress that provides them for abortions, but after receiving the grant, those state officials do not fund abortions. Instead, they set up a program to counsel pregnant women not to get abortions, and if the women agree to carry their babies to term, the officials use the available funds to pay for diapers, cribs and so forth. Lawsuits surely would be filed in the federal courts, and most federal judges surely would hold that those state officials were violating the intent of Congress by not paying for abortions with the money appropriated for abortions.
Moreover, if Congress entirely forbade the use of federal funds for abortion, no office of the executive branch and no state agency expending federal funds would be able to engage and pay any abortionist to do an abortion. And, surely, some abortions that would be funded with federal funds would never be done if they were not funded. So, members of Congress who support abortion funding not only intend to engage and pay abortionists to do abortions, but their participation is a necessary condition, a sine qua non, for the killing of some unborn babies.
In sum, legislators who support abortion funding ipso facto intend that abortions be done. Archbishop Levada is badly mistaken. As a general rule, Catholic politicians who support abortion fundingas well as some other measures consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decisionsintend to promote the killing of the innocent.