Jesuits issue revised statement on abortion on eve of March for Life 2018

Pro-life advocates participate in the annual March for Life in Washington January 2017. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)Pro-life advocates participate in the annual March for Life in Washington January 2017. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

As the 45th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision and the annual March for Life in Washington approach this week, the Jesuit Conference of the United States and Canada issued an updated statement on abortion in the United States, “Protecting the Least Among Us.”

Describing abortion as a “key social evil” in the United States, the Jesuits say: “The most fundamental building block of a just social order is respect for human life. Until men and women individually and collectively make a profound commitment to the value and dignity of all human life, we will never find the true peace, justice and reconciliation God desires for us.”

Advertisement

In this revised and expanded statement on abortion—their first since 2003—the Jesuits describe the dignity of the human person as “the foundation of the Catholic moral tradition,” adding that another key insight of Catholic moral life is that “we are social beings and that solidarity matters.”

“The social acceptance of abortion is a profound moral failure on both counts,” the Jesuits say. “It undermines the claim that every life is infused with God-given dignity, and it often pretends such decisions can be relegated to individual choice without having negative consequences on society as a whole. Sacred Scripture, the witness of early Christianity, Catholic social teaching, and the magisterium consistently teach that we cannot in good conscience ignore this tragedy.”

Commenting on the revised statement, Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S., said, “St. Ignatius founded the Jesuits for the promotion of the faith and the progress of souls in the teachings of Christ. As Jesuits, we continue this mission, to accompany the child in the womb and the community into which each one of us has been born.”

Describing abortion as a “key social evil” in the United States, the Jesuits say: “The most fundamental building block of a just social order is respect for human life.”

In the new statement the Jesuits note that a regular criticism from abortion rights advocates “is the narrow focus of the pro-life movement on abortion to the exclusion of life issues such as the death penalty, economic justice, access to health care, or warfare,” a criticism they acknowledge as sometimes valid. The Jesuits say that “effective advocacy will not dismiss this challenge” but can offer “an opportunity to broaden the coalition of individuals interested in shaping our culture to one that respects human life in all its forms.”

The Jesuits argue: “We have the best chance of effecting change on abortion if our pro-life narrative is consistent and comprehensive.”

The Jesuits describe the institution of abortion “as part of the massive injustices in our society,” pointing to a “spirit of callous disregard for life shows itself in direct assaults on human life such as abortion and capital punishment.” “There are less direct but equally senseless ways we undermine life,” the Jesuits say, “through violence, racism, xenophobia, and the growing inequality of wealth and education. We also seek justice in ensuring that pregnant women and mothers have the resources they need to care for their children and live full lives.”

Citing the instruction of both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, the Jesuits urge a deeper “accompaniment with women” in U.S. life and warn that the style and content of the current public debate on abortion “exposes us all to many deceptive messages.”

“Women may be promised the falsehood that abortion solves a problem. Society may be deceived into thinking that abortion is a choice women casually make,” they say. “We must not listen to the voice that promises scapegoats or easy solutions to complex problems,” the Jesuits add. “Instead, we must incline our ears to Christ who has gone before us—healing all forms of brokenness, preaching liberation from all forms of bondage, and calling the most unlikely characters to work alongside him.”

Noting how little public opinion has moved over the last decade on abortion, the Jesuits are concerned by “troubling signs” about future attitudes regarding the sacredness of life as technology and public mores change.

“Advances in genetic technology make it much easier to screen for disease and disability in utero,” they point out; advances that can be a great gift “if used prudently for treatment or preparing couples to care for their children once born.”

“Yet it is also creating a situation that verges on eugenics, wherein persons deemed less than perfect are eliminated before they are even born,” the Jesuits say. “It is also increasingly easy to access pharmaceuticals that act as abortifacients. We take these realities as evidence that we must give those committed to this work more tools for engagement.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tim Donovan
6 months ago

I am an imperfect Catholic who is gay. Because of severe depression due w my orientation I attempted suicide at age 20 in 1982. Ironically, I had been active in the pro-life movement from my early adolescence. However, my friends convinced me that my life was worthwhile. My best friend was 19 and in college when he told me shortly after my suicide attempt that his 17 year old senior high school girlfriend was pregnant. I did put him in contact with a crisis pregnancy center, and assured him that I would support their decision in favor of life. After their baby boy was born, they made the side decision to wait to get married to be sure that it was the best decision. Nine months later, on the feast of the Annunciation, they were wed. How appropriate that they prepared for genuine love as a married couple and parents on the day when Mary gave her that to the angel Gabriel's invitation from the Holy Spirit. While their son was growing up, I became convinced that ending my life would have deprieved me of the joy of helping to care for him. My life now no longer was focused solely on my sexual desires, but on loving my neighbors. I now am age 55, and live in a nursing home for health reasons. Although I can in most ways care for myself, I do need the assistance of nurses to receive my medication. However, since my friend's son is now an adult, I spend my time as best as I can to assist with the care of my fellow residents. Life changes as we.age, but I'm convinced that through both faith and good works, that I can join other people in their journey to eternal life. Despite life's difficulties, I believe as a retired Special Education teacher who taught students who were brain damaged, that "with men, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." ( Matthew 19:26).

James Haraldson
6 months ago

What a profound evil to repeat the sophistry that capital punishment, which is not even an intrinsic evil, is the moral equivalent of abortion. Perpetuating this nonsense is cowardice and undermines an honest focus on abortion. So too is linking abortion to any particular social policy that presupposes government as savior.

Vincent Gaglione
6 months ago

As Catholics we are opposed to abortion from the moment of conception. Imposing that point of view, and criminalizing it, on society at large is a big leap for those who do not even believe that abortion is “sinful.”

The revised Jesuit statement makes many good points. In general, however, Catholic opposition to abortion on the political level lacks the nuance and sophistication of the revised Jesuit statement. To merely oppose abortion, without equally advocating for the concomitant imposition of requirements on the nation to provide for the economic and physical wellbeing of lives that are preserved, only undermines our position among non-Catholics. Ironically, some vocal Catholic anti-abortion activists are some of the most fiscally conservative citizens in the nation, a contradiction in positions to be sure.

I read in the newspaper this morning that Trump will appear at the March for Life in DC today. If true, that scene will conflate Catholic opposition to abortion with political support for Trump in the minds of many citizens. On the political level, in the long run, a tremendous error in political judgment! But this isn't the first instance of Catholic naïveté on the political level nor will it be the last.

Alex Pugliese
6 months ago

Science has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the unborn is human from the moment of conception. To make the claim that it is better to be "personally opposed, but..." allows this injustice to continue. Furthermore, contrary to the popular belief of the Jesuits and Mr. Gaglione, There is a great deal of diversity in the Pro-life moment and you can look it up. While the movement includes conservatives, it also includes non-believers, opponents of the death penalty, social justice warriors, civil rights activists and more. I am so sick and tired of people like Mr. Gaglione and the Jesuit Order demeaning the pro-life movement without examining the evidence and reality. In fact, because of their smearing and slandering of the movement and the people in it, I have not one ounce of love or respect for the Jesuit Order. One day, abortion-on-demand will end in the U.S. When that day comes, I hope that everyone in the Jesuit order is sent right back to the gutter. Right where they came from and right where they belong.

Vincent Gaglione
6 months ago

I feel a certain pride in being branded along with Jesuits, of which the Pope is the most prominent. I am not so sure that the Jesuits feel likewise but I’ll smile in the glow of the presumption anyway.

As a non-Christian friend remarked to me yesterday, the optics of yesterday’s March for Life were astoundingly hypocritical and scandalous. The president of the United States, once a full-throated “pro-choice” citizen, in the last few days the subject of tabloid and media stories about cavorting with prostitutes while his young third wife was at home nursing a newborn child, proclaims his pro-life position to cheering Christians who are anti-abortion but support the president’s policies to limit health care resources and options and to refuse entry into the nation of refugees whose lives are threatened. On one major news channel I saw a film clip of the March for Life where two men in Roman collars were literally enthusiastically jumping up and down at the words of the President’s comments to the crowd.

My position has not changed. The politics of abortion deserves a nuanced and sophisticated approach. The USA’s bishops and alleged “pro-lifers” have failed to embrace and articulate that approach. In the minds of many citizens the Catholic Faith is and will be seen no differently than the evangelical Christian faith, long on hypocrisy and short on Christianity. When every issue is reduced to sound bites in a global culture where knowledge and information is so readily available, Catholics have become like evangelicals, reducing Christianity to mega-church media broadcasts. Our pews are already empty enough!

Stuart Meisenzahl
6 months ago

Vince
Describe what you mean by :"the politics of abortion deserves a nuanced and sophisticated approach"?
Nuance: Is it that abortion is a homicide with first degree, second degree and manslaughter? Or that just the discussion of abortion should use similar gradations ?
Sophistication: Sophistication is in the ear of the listener and I suppose once you declare abortion to be a matter of "personal moral decision" that all kinds of people will hear you differently. To suppose one is more sophisticated on this topic than others reeks of a certain elitist moral arrogance.
BTW your statement that:" Evangelical Christian faith [is] long on hypocrisy and short on Christianity" has a certain outdated Pius IX sound and in any event seems neither "nuanced or sophisticated"

James Haraldson
5 months 4 weeks ago

Vincent Gaglione:
The silly word of "optics" notwithstanding, your type of blatant hypocrisy is what we in the March seeks to confront. The past sins of Trump are neither your business nor mine but his heartfelt current concern for ending the crushing of skulls, expressed in his non-hypocritical speech should be both our concern. So should his attempts to help affect social policies that bring about the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity to heath care by reducing tyrannical control from central government. So should policies that seek to stabilize nation states with legitimate governments rather than force their populations into unnecessary migrations that create humanitarian disasters impossible to alleviate simply to provide Western liberals a pretext for pretend care and pretend concern.

Nora Bolcon
5 months 4 weeks ago

Well, I have come to the conclusion there is no one who hates the spread of freedom and democracy more than Conservative Catholic Americans.

Nora Bolcon
5 months 4 weeks ago

And I can only say Amen! We need to spend our time and resources on a way that actually lowers abortions and helps women and children and families instead of cages them. Europe has already proven there are far more effective ways than criminalization of abortion to end or at least extremely decrease abortion rates in the U.S. and globally.

Nora Bolcon
5 months 4 weeks ago

Well Alex,

I wasn't going to put this info. out again because I already did so on a similar article on Pro-"Life" and it is pretty long and I have already been fairly hard on this group of priests whose overall morals and ideals I agree with wholeheartedly but I feel you really need to know this info. because it is based on evidence not nonsense:

A long comment because this subject is too important and too many Catholics do not have any idea what the facts on this subject actually are.
Our current church's stand on abortion is the product of our broken religious politics and misogyny.

How do I know this with confidence? By examining actual facts.

There have been 3 major articles on abortion laws and contraceptive laws taken on a global scale over that last two decades. The first of the three was written in 2007 by a newspaper in Rome. All three gave reliably sourced statistics stating that outside of one small country in Western Europe, the countries with the laws which are most prohibitive of abortion and birth control are the countries with the highest abortion rates per pregnancies of all countries and also the countries with highest maternal deaths per pregnancies as well. The World Health Organization is one of the reliable sources for the stats. but not the only one and there is no even quasi-legitimate source contradicting these findings over the last several decades. These statistic also pointed out quite clearly that the countries which are most lenient with abortion rights and who offer free contraception or tax-paid contraception to all citizens while offering easy access thru the government system, have, by far, the least amount of abortions and maternal deaths per pregnancies. There are also direct links between extreme poverty in many countries and the inability for women of these countries to access any birth control. So there are the FACTS. NOT OPINIONs, NOT BELIEFS, BUT THE FACTS - realities proved by actual large scale research and evidence. This research was done by specialists in the fields of health care, global population trends and trends in poverty and global violence.

Now I am Catholic, which means I believe first and foremost in the Gospel of Jesus Christ being the ultimate Truth above all Truths. What I have come to understand, over much time, is that this ultimate truth may or may not be able to be proven true, during the age I am currently in, by scientific method or other reliable evidence. However, this truth is also never adequately disproven by legitimate science or research either.

This is where the Pro "Life" movement has its main problems. If your movement's CHOICE of actions against even a genuine immorality cause more of the immorality to occur, i.e, in this case - more stricter laws always equal more abortions, how do you justify continuing to push this choice of action in order to deal with the immorality? Why are you not instead choosing a different approach which has already been proven to work better at lessening the immorality occurring in the world to a great degree? Whether the Pro-"Life" movement wants to deal with the reasonableness of this question or not, others will demand a reasonable answer to it, including Catholics.

Many Catholics and others will also make the reasonable assumption that protecting the unborn was perhaps never Pro-"Life's" agenda because these facts would likely stop any reasonable person, genuinely seeking abortion to be lessened, right in their tracks, and make them instantly consider another path or another CHOICE of reactions to the immorality of abortion. Yet this does not seem to be this group's choice.

For example, if rape were proven, globally, 99 % of the time to be increased in countries where the strictest rape laws existed and were meticulously enforced, and the countries that had practically no anti-rape laws had the least rapes occurring over the last several decades, I would promote countries not illegalizing rape. Why? Because the point of the rape laws is to stop or at least decrease, as much as possible, the occurrence of rape. Does that mean I believe rape is moral? NO - not at all. It means I don't support criminal laws that have already, on a global scale, been proven to increase certain immoralities occurring. Some sins are not decreased by criminalization of any of the involved parties (women or doctors re: abortion). Rape is a sin that has been proven to be substantially decreased the stricter and more enforced the laws are globally despite the country but the reverse is true of abortion. These are the facts.

Unfortunately, our church has a misogynistic streak which is evidenced by the fact that without cause in any gospel, we refuse to treat and ordain women equally to men. Abortion is a sin only women can really commit and our church up until this past year let women know that abortion was so sinful that it required women to get absolution from a bishop where a male mass murderer did not need to go to these lengths officially unless he killed a pregnant woman to gain absolution. This gives "The enemies" to Pro-"Life" good cause to not trust the motives of Pro-"Life" as an organization. The broken politics came from the broken religious attitudes of misogyny and the real desire to control women by our Christian Churchmen over the last millennia.

As a good Christian and a Good Catholic who believes Jesus Christ said Yes, you may judge a behavior as immoral and not choose to support that behavior itself, and teach against it to those who seek to hear the truth, and help all who need your help in desperate situations, however, this does not mean you have the right to judge or condemn those people. This is the Lord God's job, alone. This translates for me - use the common sense God gave you when choosing to support laws. I do not have to support governmental laws criminalizing all immoral behavior, especially, if facts have broadly proven that such laws will cause real harm to the situations involving that behavior rather than cure them.

If we, Catholics to Catholics, and Pro-Life to Pro-Choice, refuse to dialogue honestly regarding the facts and the alternatives to illegalizing abortion and reconsider our beliefs on artificial contraception, based on the facts regarding abortion too, I see no end to the nonsense or lack of peace on the subject.

To note: The countries with the lowest abortion rates also tended to supply universal good quality health care for all of their citizens and the unborn while also offering good quality free day care for all their citizen's children. I offer this as a couple of possible examples of how alternative choices from criminalization, as a reaction to abortion, can make a much bigger difference in how much abortion occurs. There are other non-criminalizing possibilities beyond these which would likely also lessen abortion numbers.

None of these ideas matters for anything however, if Pro-Life's agenda is not one of reducing abortions, as its first and top-most priority.

Vince Killoran
6 months ago

I have yet to read or hear of a reasonable, workable, &/or coherent plan for re-criminalizing abortion.

Alex Pugliese
6 months ago

If abortion is ever criminalized, the abortionist will be sent to jail for a period of 20 or more years. Women who have had abortions done to the them can claim assault enabling them to seize the abortionists assets and more. Finally. on the infanticide doctor-assisted suicide front, any doctor who kills or does harm to another being or distributes deadly medicine, will forfeit his or her assets and sent to prison for 20 to 30 years. I hope that answers your question Mr. Killoran.

Vince Killoran
6 months ago

"Women who have had abortions done to the them can claim assault enabling them to seize the abortionists assets and more"

Iowa state senator Mark Chelgren came up with this little gem (he's the same legislator who tried to pass a law prohibiting Iowa universities' marching bands from collaborating w/Stanford on the grounds that one of the California band's skits made fun of "hayseeds.").

It's a fanciful notion that is not rooted in any sober understanding of Anglo-American law. if abortion were to be re-criminalized why on earth wouldn't a fully-informed adult woman be liable for murder? After over four decades, this is the best the re-criminalizing crowd can concoct?!

James Haraldson
5 months 4 weeks ago

The movement is a moral movement, not a re-criminalization movement. There is much that can be done on a moral front including the excommunication of the numerous bishops and Cardinals who aid and abet the process of abortion.

Rudolph Koser
6 months ago

Why has abortion gone down in Dem administrations and up or stagnant in Rep? Could it be support for social services for these women?

Rudolph Koser
6 months ago

Why has abortion gone down in Dem administrations and up or stagnant in Rep? Could it be support for social services for these women?

Nora Bolcon
5 months 4 weeks ago

Well as much as I agree abortion is wrong, still this article on "Pro-Life" seems mostly geared toward abortion.

Most disturbing, in this statement from our Jesuits, for me is when it lists the evils of discrimination they leave out the most destructive of all forms: Sexism.

Sexism and misogyny have already been proven to cause, directly and continually, the following evils on a global scale: poverty, violence, war, rape, child abuse (including the sexism present within our church's own scandalous clergy child sex abuse crisis), torture, genital mutilation, forced illiteracy, slavery, sex trafficking, kidnapping, murder, and even terrorism. This bias is especially damaging when it is present in religious beliefs as it makes its victims believe even their God believes them less than other people.

The lack of this one bias being listed within a statement on Pro-Life which concentrates mostly on a sin only women can really commit is even more hurtful and damaging overall to women. It seems as though our Jesuits do not seem to think sexism and misogyny are even wrong or sinful. Meanwhile women of this church desperately need their brothers, especially its priests standing up for them in the world and especially in church where their sisters voices have been completely stripped away.

Someone, maybe a Jesuit priest?, should consider letting our Pope Francis know that until the men of this church end their discrimination against women and treat and ordain them the same as men, as Jesus would do, and has taught and commanded how we all ought to treat one another- the same, it isn't likely many women, in or out, of our church are going to trust them either.

Perhaps when all our clergy realize that their distrust of women, in part, has led to women not trusting them, they might change and be able to make a real difference in women's lives and in the lives of their children. Maybe more women in trouble would go to more priests for advice and help if they knew these men wanted women treated with justice and the same voice and ordination that they have been offered from birth. You can't really be a companion to women unless you are willing to completely treat and respect them as equals and that includes ordaining them as equals and priests, and also making them bishops, cardinals and even popes.

It is a shame that this article runs chicken in this area. Jesuits are really the best choice to reach our pope but it will take courage on their part if they want to make a real difference in our church. This seems to be God's challenge to all who wish to have their lives truly matter, and make a real difference: One must risk everything they hold most dear, and trust God fully, with their hearts and hands trembling, in order to make that difference happen.

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 months 4 weeks ago

Nora
You hit this issue from every angle except perhaps the one that is most important in our secular political society:

The embryo/fetus/child's "right to life" vs the woman/mother's "right to control her body"..

As a matter of US Constitutional law, the resolution of competing rights is the decisive factor. Questions of morality, contraception, broad statements of feminism and the exclusion of women from the Catholic hierarchy are irrelevant .
It is perfectly correct for the Church to comment on the moral implications of the Court naming the superior right. But how the individual Catholic hears and acts upon such moral commentary is the only "personal aspect" of this debate.

The other issues involved in the expanded Pro Life movement such as the death penalty, welcoming immigrants ,etc all involve mercy, response to the Beatitudes etc but they do not involve the resolution of competing Constitutional rights. They are simply not on the same footing. Again the Church has every right to comment on the moral implications of governmental action concerning these matters....and again how Catholics respond to such commentary is a matter of personal responsibility.

Personally I find it disconcerting that some members of the Pro Life Movement insist that the government act to embed into the law a positive response to the Beatitudes but when it comes to abortion they take the position that their "moral view" should not be imposed on others. The reverse position (demanding a law solely based on the morality of abortion but denying the same demand for laws to enact the Beatitudes) contains the same seeming hypocrisy.

Advertisement

The latest from america

So what does it matter what a celibate woman thinks about contraception?
Helena BurnsJuly 20, 2018
Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)
In Johannesburg, Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.
Anthony EganJuly 20, 2018
With his "Mass," Leonard Bernstein uses liturgy to give voice to political unease.
Kevin McCabeJuly 20, 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives for the Jan. 6 installation Mass of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” says Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection in Rome.