Can Catholics be Pro-Abortion?


Can Catholics be Pro-Abortion? The Popes, the Doctors, the Fathers say NO

by A.L.

To put it bluntly: NO. Catholicism and abortion are two contradictory things. One cannot be a Catholic while at the same time, be pro-abortion. One of the things which distinguish Catholics and other individuals is their loyalty to the Church. We believe that when the Church has spoken, we must give at least religious submission. When the Church has spoken infallibly, we must give a definite assent.

Some try to justify abortion by quoting certain Church Fathers and theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas who taught that life does not begin at the moment of conception. Some even try to justify abortion by arguing that Scripture does not condemn abortion. However, we must always remember that the Pope is the official interpreter of Scripture and Tradition. As St. Thomas Aquinas said,

"We must abide rather by the Pope’s judgment than by the opinion of any of the theologians, however well versed he may be in the divine Scriptures." (Thomas Aquinas, Quodlibetum IX, Q.8, Quaest Quodlibetales)

and

"Consequently it belongs to the sole authority of the Sovereign Pontiff to publish a new edition of the symbol, as do all other matters which concern the whole Church, such as to convoke a general council and so forth." (ST II-II, q. 1 a. 10)

Thomist theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange also said,

"The last word in determining what pertains to faith and what does not belongs to the Sovereign Pontiff....the Pope belongs the supervision and all decisive action governing the more momentous issues and perplexing difficulties in Church life." (Theological Virtues: On Faith, Volume 1, B Herder Book Co [1965], page 154)

Even if the Pope does not speak infallibly, religious submission must be given. Vatican II Lumen Gentium 21 says:

"Religious submission of mind and of will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff even when he is not defining, in such a way, namely, that the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to according to his manifested mind and will, which is clear either from the nature of the documents, or from the repeated presentation of the same doctrine, or from the manner of speaking."

But in the case of abortion, the Pope has spoken infallibly. How can the Pope speak infallibly? Vatican I says:

"All those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith and which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment, or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed." (Dogmatic Decree on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 3)

No criteria must be meant. All it has to be is that the statement is definite. As Pope Pius XII said in Humani Generis:

"If the Supreme Pontiffs, in their acta expressly pass judgment on a matter debated until then, it is obvious to all that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be considered any longer a question open for discussion among theologians."

Evangelium Vitae -- The Gospel of Life

The Pope infallibly condemned abortion in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (EV). The first reason why he condemned abortion is that it murders an innocent human life. Pope John Paul II said,

"This has always been clear, and....modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time -- a rather lengthy time -- to find its place and to be in a position to act." (EV, 60)

He said that science has shown that at the moment of conception, a new genetic individual has come into existence. He then said, "how could a human individual not be a human person?" (ibid). He then makes an argument from Scripture. He states,

"The texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mother's womb that they require as a logical consequence that God's commandment 'You shall not kill' be extended to the unborn child as well." (EV, 61)

Scripture does not explicitly mention abortion, but as the official interpreter of the Scriptures, he said that the commandment "You shall not kill" applies to abortion as well. There are also other references which state that an unborn baby is a human person. Such as:

"Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5)

and

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made....My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:13-16)

and

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)

John Paul then speaks about Tradition:

"From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practised, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache mentioned earlier. Among the Greek ecclesiastical writers, Athenagoras records that Christians consider as murderesses women who have recourse to abortifacient medicines, because children, even if they are still in their mother's womb, 'are already under the protection of Divine Providence.' Among the Latin authors, Tertullian affirms: 'It is anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born; it makes little difference whether one kills a soul already born or puts it to death at birth. He who will one day be a man is a man already.'" (EV, 61)


For those who want to read the Church Fathers themselves on the subject:

The Didache (or Teaching of the Apostles)

"The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child." (Didache 2:1-2 [AD 70])

The Letter of Barnabas

"The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following....Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born." (Letter of Barnabas 19 [AD 74])

St. Athenagoras of Athens

"What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? ....when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it." (A Plea for the Christians 35 [AD 177])

Tertullian of Carthage

"In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed." (Apology 9:8 [AD 197])

"Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery. There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] 'the slayer of the infant,' which of course was alive....[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive." (The Soul 25 [AD 210])

"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" (ibid, 27). "The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Exod 21:22-24]." (ibid, 37)

Minucius Felix

"There are some [pagan] women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your [false] gods....To us [Christians] it is not lawful either to see or hear of homicide." (Octavius 30 [AD 226])

St. Hippolytus of Rome

"Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!" (Refutation of All Heresies [AD 228])

St. Lactantius

"When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but he warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men....Therefore, let no one imagine that even this is allowed, to strangle newly-born children, which is the greatest impiety; for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death. But men, that there may be no crime with which they may not pollute their hands, deprive [unborn] souls as yet innocent and simple of the light which they themselves have not given. "Can anyone, indeed, expect that they would abstain from the blood of others who do not abstain even from their own? But these are, without any controversy, wicked and unjust." (Divine Institutes 6:20 [AD 307])

The Council of Ancyra

"Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees." (Canon 21 [AD 314])

St. Basil the Great

"Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not." (First Canonical Letter, canon 2 [AD 374])

"He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it dies upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees." (ibid, canon 8)

"Those who give abortifacients for the destruction of a child conceived in the womb are murderers themselves, along with those receiving the poisons." (Canons 188.2)

St. John Chrysostom

"Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication....Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? -- where there are many efforts at abortion? -- where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with his laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine." (Homilies on Romans 24 [AD 391])

St. Jerome

"I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother....Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder." (Letters 22:13 [AD 396])

The Apostolic Constitutions

"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, 'You shall not suffer a witch to live' [Exod 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten....if it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed." (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3 [AD 400])


John Paul then continues by teaching that the past Magisteriums condemned abortion such as Popes Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, and Vatican II. He then said,

"Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops -- who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine -- I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium." (EV, 62)

As the interpreter of Scripture and Tradition, John Paul has spoken by means of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, that abortion is a deliberate killing of an innocent human being. Since he spoke through the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, it is infallible. He also said that the doctrine is based "upon the written Word of God" and "transmitted by the Church's Tradition." It is therefore a de fide credenda. It must be given assent. Cardinal Ratzinger speaks of de fide credenda:

"These doctrines are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and defined with a solemn judgment as divinely revealed truths either by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks 'ex cathedra,' or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law (Cf. CIC, can 750 and 751; 1364 : 1; CCEO, can 598; 1436 : 1)." (CDF Doctrinal Commentary on Professio Fidei, 5)

Ratzinger also gives an example of de fide credenda as "the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being." (ibid, 11) He also reaffirmed the teaching of the Magisterium:

"From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has wished for himself and the spiritual soul of each man is "immediately created" by God; his whole being bears the image of the Creator. Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves "the creative action of God" and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (Donum Vitae, 5)

In closing, everyone has the obligation to form their conscience especially to the teachings of the Church. To dissent from the teachings of the Church is to make yourself un-Catholic, and would be considered as a heretic. We must receive the teaching humbly, having confidence in God that His promise to Peter, that his faith will never fail is true (Luke 22:31-32).

St. Peter has spoken through John Paul II. Rome has spoken, the case is closed. God is on our side in this abortion debate.

JMJ, A.L.

"If we didn't look down upon mothers, we would not have this abortion holocaust."

See also Questions and Answers on Abortion by American Life League, edited by P


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