In Good Conscience…Live And Let Live

I don’t normally discuss abortion in the context of religion – not because it doesn’t have a worthy place in the debate, but because I believe that abortion concerns the entire of humanity, not just those members who may belong to a specific creed.  We all have a right – and duty –  to be concerned with the effects on abortion on our world and that concern doesn’t have to stem from any specific religious belief.

That said, it is difficult to ignore those who campaign on a platform that specifically tries to found a pro-choice argument within a religious context.  By bringing religion into the debate, they leave themselves open to some very serious questions concerning faith as well as humanity.

There is one main group which has been building its own momentum recently in the hope of gaining support on this ground and it might be time to put some of its claims under the microscope.

So step forward, US-based group, Catholics For Choice.

Catholics For Choice is an unusual group in that the campaigning brief on its website sets out its intention – to ensure that all men and women have “access to safe and legal abortion services”

Leaving aside for one minute the disarming misnomer that is “safe and legal abortion” – abortion is always risky for the woman and always fatal for her unborn child – the deeper problem here  is the misleading claim that it is feasible to be a Catholic while campaigning for abortion.

At this point, I should say that I am by no means a Catholic apologist – the Catholic Church gets some things wrong, as does every other large organisation prone to human fallibility.  But Christianity lies at the heart of the Catholic Church – and with it comes the universally comforting figure of Jesus Christ who was no slouch when it came to protecting the weak from those who could do them harm.  It is this type of Christian humanity which is so alarmingly ignored or subverted by Catholics For Choice.

The Refusal To Engage

But before we get on to an analysis of their claims, I would point out that I have tried to engage with Catholics For Choice on Twitter – most notably when they retweeted a post calling for legislation on Ireland’s X Case.  At that time, I pointed out to them that any legislation for the X Case would have to introduce abortion up to birth due to the fact that no time limits were introduced.  I received no response.

More recently, I logged onto their Facebook page and saw that they were asking people to follow them on Twitter  As I already follow them, I left a comment on their page in the hope that they would begin some sort of fruitful discussion so that I could at least understand where they were coming from.  I explained my position, and asked how they could reconcile their beliefs with the strong pro-life ethos that pervades the Judeo-Christian belief, and Catholic teaching.  Specifically, I mentioned the words of Jeremiah 1:5   – “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

I asked then, and still wonder now, how it can be that this God who formed each individual in the womb – indeed, knew each one beforehand – could somehow give authority for that life to be extinguished while still in the womb?  I received no response – none, that is except for the removal of every comment box on their facebook page.  Catholics For Choice, it would seem, are happy to support Choice, so long as they don’t have to defend it to anyone.

Hence this post.

Let’s move on to what the Group’s website and publications tell us – seeing as they refuse to discuss their position.

The Problem With “Personhood”

They publish an informative little leaflet entitled “Truth About Catholics And Abortion”, available here.  I should say, it’s not informative about the actual truth about Catholics and abortion, but it does give an interesting insight into the way the group formulates its thinking.  For example, much is made of the history of the Church’s teaching on this issue, the fact that “personhood” was not attributed to the foetus in the first trimester by Saints such as Augustine and Aquinas.  On this point they are correct, although they fail to mention that both of those saints lived a few centuries before developments such as 4D imaging, or modern embryology.  They couldn’t watch this video.  Thanks to our current level of scientific knowledge, we know that the unborn child is a human life from the moment of conception.  He or she possesses 100% of their human DNA at that stage.  Nothing further is added but time.  There is no doubt but that a new human life is present.  Abortion ends that life.

Hasn’t it occured to them too, that any group clinging to the out-dated notion that the       unborn child is not a “person” is on a sticky wicket in the light of human rights abuses of the past?  Women, African-Americans and various other groups have been denied the privilege of “personhood” throughout history – often with devastating results.

The only suitable criterion in this case is human life because it does not involve any degree of philosophical debate regarding notional ideas such as “personhood” or “ensoulment” or any other subjective consideration.  Biology is very clear on when human life begins – sperm meets egg, fertilisation takes place and an entirely new, never-to-be-repeated human life comes into being.

Few things in each human life will be certain – but we can be confident that each life begins at that specific moment.  Catholics For Choice skip over this fact with bizarre indifference to this very basic fact of life.

The Question Of Papal Infallibility

Throughout the various explanations in this pamphlet, there is clear evidence of the group’s eagerness to convince the reader that it is possible to follow the precepts of the Catholic Church while still advocating the right to choose abortion.

For example, a surprising amount of importance is attributed to the fact that the late Pope John Paul II chose not to apply the doctrine of infallibility to his papal missal Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel Of Life)  in 1995, following discussions with then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now-Pope Benedict XVI.  This is seen to be have immense significance, despite the fact that papal infallibility has only been applied three times in the history of the Church.  Yet Catholics For Choice proclaim this as almost a given sign that abortion is a take-it-or-leave-it aspect of the Catholic belief.

We are told that the Second Vatican Council published a Doctrine on Religious Freedom, calling on Catholics to respect other faith positions – which is all very well, until we come across the pointed comment telling us that the Catholic Church is more conservative than those “other faiths” when it comes to abortion.  We’re not told what those hip and trendy “other faiths” are, but it doesn’t really matter.  Remember, we’re still reading from the “Truth About Catholics And Abortion”.  Although I’m starting to think it should be entitled “The Truth About The New Church I Want You To Join” – because it doesn’t seem to have any interest in the Catholic Church or what it actually teaches.

But in case we’re feeling left out, we’re told that “many Catholics” don’t support the Church’s official position on abortion.  Well, that’s alright then…alright, until you remember that we’re not talking about a group where serious issues of life and death are decided by a show of hands.  To even insert such a statement into a pamphlet that purports to express what this group is about says much, and none of it is very good.

By this reasoning, the Church would never adhere to a position on anything because there will always, ALWAYS be members of that Church who don’t agree with one or more of its precepts.  I also find it quite bizarre that a group calling themselves Catholics would so randomly overlook any mention of the Holy Spirit, who guides and inspires the Church in issues of faith and morals.

To it’s credit, the leaflet espouses  a desire to help many people who are living in poor social conditions, and perhaps this is the saddest aspect of the group’s existence.  It talks about the need to protect women and children but appears blind to the fact that the fundamental right is the right to life.  Without first safeguarding that right, there will not be a need to even think about anything else.

A Line In The Sand

In one of its first articles posted this year, the group made what is for even the most hard-line pro-choice group an extravagant step – it tried to defend Partial Birth Abortion.  Under the heading “Shying Away From Explaining Abortion”, the author shines a spotlight on the “awkwardness” felt by some lawyers during litigation hearings involving partial birth abortions, as they strove to find the words to describe what actually happened during this most grotesque of abortion procedures.

The article is couched in the terminology of medical treatment – a partial birth abortion is described as “necessary medical treatment”.  As usual in these types of debates, the distinction is never made between the case of a doctor who delivers a baby from a desperately ill woman with the intention of keeping both of his patients alive throughout – and the case of a doctor who performs a partial birth abortion on a baby, thus carrying out such steps as to ensure that the baby does not survive.  In this sense, the irony of calling for an “honest conversation” seems to be lost on the writer.

I choose not to discuss the physical realities of partial birth abortion, but if you are not familiar with this gruesome technique (and if you can stomach it) I would urge you to read the article, which sets out the position of Catholic For Choice without any of the complications of true Catholicism which advocates allowing life to continue un-assaulted on its human journey from conception to natural death.

A Group Adrift

I wrote this post because this group is in error.

I respect the beliefs of any group composed of people who have the courage of their convictions, who set out a belief – however much I may personally disagree with that belief – and who are prepared to debate and discuss that belief with others so as to try and reach some accord.  We are all contributing to this debate in the hope of improving our world for the good of its inhabitants.

But Catholics For Choice are not interested in debate; on the contrary, they shut it down wherever it rears its scary head.  I believe this to be because they have no answers to the genuine questions that prolife Catholics, Secularists and pro-life advocates of other faiths would pose to them.  This is not a mature attitude, neither is it fair or just to the many Catholics of good faith who may happen across their site, believing their strictly-censored fora to be an accurate reflection of Catholic teaching on this subject.

At a deeper level too, there is a more fundamental crisis at the heart of this group.  Its founders and members have not understood that the Catholic Church does not authorise or condone any Choice which results in the the ending of human life.  It does not because it cannot.  The Catholic Church believes that only God, the Creator of each Human Life, has the power and wisdom to take each Life back to Himself, at a time of His own choosing.

If Catholics For Choice cannot accept this basic tenet of faith, then “in good conscience”, they need to look again at either their mission statement, or their name.

But has God even featured in their considerations?  I wasn’t sure, so I ran a search on their website’s signature magazine, “Conscience”.

This time, I got a response -

All things considered, that sounded about right.

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14 thoughts on “In Good Conscience…Live And Let Live

    • Hi Evelyn,

      Thanks for your reply.

      Unfortunately, the people at CFC seem to have overlooked someone!! On a serious note, I am hoping that they will engage in a respectful debate on this very important issue. Only then can they hope to be taken seriously as a site. Blocking the comments of those who disagree with you is not the way to approach this vital issue.

      Regards,
      Cora

    • Hi Tsk,
      Thanks for your reply.
      I have gone through some of the entries mentioned in your reply but none deal with the main point which CFC seems unwilling (or unable) to address – namely that abortion is consistent with Catholic teaching. I very much welcome your thoughts on this matter, or indeed the comments of anyone involved with CFC.
      This is a debate which is long overdue.
      Regards
      Cora

  1. There is something very sinister about “Catholics for Choice.” They are aligned with Planned Parenthood and receive their funding from several shady foundations. They are not a grassroots organization funded by the contributions of individuals who agree with what they say. Their specific purpose is to undermine the teaching and mission of the Catholic Church and as your rather funny photo shows they have nothing to say about God, Jesus, prayer, sacraments, heaven, hell, morality and so fourth. They do say a lot about conscience but their understanding of conscience is laughably faulty. Conscience can never be used to justify actions that are inherently wrong, that includes the taking of human life.
    Catholics for Choice is a fraudulent organization that is reminiscent of the “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association,” it has the name, but it is specifically designed to undermine the Church, its leaders and its teaching.
    The fact that they do not engage with people who do not share their opinion is further proof that they are frauds. Like you I have been blocked from remarking on their Facebook page and they blocked me from their Twitter feed. In fact they are far less tolerant of dissent from their own magisterium than the Church is from its Magisterium.
    I am not shocked in the slightest by their fraud and hypocrisy I am disappointed by their airtime.

    • Hi Billy Bob,
      Thanks for your reply.
      As you say, I find the continued failure of CFC to enter into debate on this issue disappointing. The most we can hope from the airtime they receive is that it will draw attention to the implausibility of their position. They certainly do not appear to have the facts or desire to defend their claims.
      Regards,
      Cora

  2. The first thing that strikes me here is your phrase “Leaving aside for one minute the disarming misnomer that is ‘safe and legal abortion’” you then go on to commit a similar misnomer when you say catholics for choice are “campaigning for abortion”.
    Then we have this zinger
    “It is this type of Christian humanity which is so alarmingly ignored or subverted by Catholics For Choice” – any mention of all the “pro-life” groups that harass women, bomb hospitals, or reign judgement upon others. Criticize one group for a la carte catholicism and ignore the others?

    “pro-life ethos that pervades the Judeo-Christian belief, and Catholic teaching. Specifically, I mentioned the words of Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”
    Pro life ethos – ahh classic framing the debate in your own language to suit your needs. Of course the bible is pro life, everyone is pro life, i have yet to meet anyone who is anti-life. And is there not plenty of death and genocide also in the bible, some of it commited by the man himself? So one could argue there are quite the few mixed messages in catholic teaching.

    “He or she possesses 100% of their human DNA at that stage. Nothing further is added but time. There is no doubt but that a new human life is present. Abortion ends that life.”
    Youre not wrong on this point but you certainly arent right. Nothing is added but time? Talk about simplifying a position to a ridiculous point to make it suit your argument. Do you seriously believe that the only difference between you and a fetus is time?
    You have just dismissed most of human experience. Love, relationships, hurt, knoweldge, awareness among so many others. Im sorry but that is a ludicrous position to take.

    “Use of partial birth abortion”
    Another use of language to frame a debate. They abort the baby during labour do they? because otherwise that is another of many “pro-life” sensationalist terms used to horrify rather than debate.

    Just my two cents.

    • Hi Carlos,
      Thanks for your reply.
      I would like to deal with your points separately if I may:-
      1. In campaigning for “Choice”, CFC are campaigning for the Choice to have an abortion. In that sense, they are contravening Catholic teaching which holds that every human life is sacred regardless of its ability, age or social standing.
      2. It is true that certain people use the pro-life cause to advance extremist positions which often turn violent. Pro-choice advocates are often guilty of similar offences. Neither is acceptable. The truly pro-life position advocates protection for life and certainly does not engage in any actions that would endanger it.
      3. The Bible contains a lot of information! CFC however, focuses its attention specifically on Catholic teaching and as such it is fair to hold it accountable in terms of what Catholic teaching tells us about abortion – namely that it is unacceptable as it ends a human life (and may also damages other lives as a side-effect). This is not to say that the Bible advocates or allows for abortion in anyway. My point about the quote from Jeremiah is to draw attention to the fact that CFC ignore the fact that the Bible recognises each human life as existing pre-birth; each life merits individual attention and recognition from God. I would like to hear from CFC regarding their basis for claiming the authority to end those lives.
      4. Of course there are more differences than time between a grown adult and a foetus. But the same could equally be said of an adult and a toddler, or an adult and a teenager. Time and experience are the differing factors in every case. Science tells us that a human life begins at conception. At that stage, the unique and individual human life begins its first step on its journey as a human being. That journey is a continuum and no-one has the right to end it unnaturally.
      5. Regarding your point about partial birth abortion, it may be that you are not familiar with this practice. If so, please look it up. Unfortunately “partial birth” is an appropriate description for this very inhumane practice and there is nothing sensationalist about it. It is simply the end result when a society loses respect for unborn life.

      Regards,
      Cora

  3. There are now 124 results for god on the catholics for choice site. So there was something wrong with the search engine or since your post they have gone to town and put up 124 articles. You got a reaction regardless.

    • Hi Carlos,

      Just to clarify – when I did my search, I carried it out over a number of weeks to make sure the result was correct. Only then did I publish the post.

      Regards,
      Cora

    • Hi Carlos,

      I am not interested in picking a certain group out and dissecting it. CFC is one which deserves special attention in my opinion, due to the fact that it tries to distort the message of the Catholic Church regarding the fact that unborn human life is just as worthy of protection as born human beings. As I said in my post, no-one should come across this site and draw the conclusion that it represents the views of the Catholic Church.

      Regards,
      Cora

  4. I never use the term pro-choice. To do so is to dignify the stance. Use of the term pro-choice presupposes that we are dealing with two equal positions. Prochoice is a euphemism for support of the killing of the innocent unborn child. It is sanitised language designed to camouflage murder. Pro -life is something pure and wholesome. Without life we are nothing. How can both stances be treated as equals? Any Catholic who supports the provision of abortion in any way is automatically excommunicated under Canon Law.
    “Catholics” for Choice is an Obama front. Its supports the most liberal pro-abortion President of all time. This is the man who voted for partial birth abortion and whose administration is busy pressurising Third World countries to introduce abortion.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I appreciate your position, and I agree that the “choice” which is being supported is usually a choice for abortion, because those of a pro-life persuasion are not “anti-choice”, just opposed to the choice which results in the ending of a human life.

      I do believe that the vast majority of people who consider themselves “prochoice” do so from a position of good faith because they genuinely believe that this is the option which will most benefit society, or that abortion is needed for medical reasons (it never is), or due to some experience in their life which has led them to draw the conclusion that they must support the choice of abortion.

      There are many different issues in society that contribute to this mindset. We all need to work together and contribute to a healthy and open debate so that we can unravel how best to protect life at all its stages, born and unborn.

      It is this very fact which means that CFC’s failure to engage in any sort of debate is so very damaging and irresponsible.

      Regards,
      Cora

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