THE CATHOLIC TEACHING ON ABORTION
A. IN GENERAL
I What teaching can be drawn from the 5th Commandment, "THOU SHALT NOT KILL"?
"The fifth commandment - non occides (Ex. XX,13) - contains in synthesis the duties concerning life and the integrity of the human body. It is fruitful in lessons, not only for the professor in the lecture hall of the university but also for the medical practitioner. So long as a man commits no crime, his life is intangible and therefore every action which tends directly towards its destruction is illicit ... whether this destruction be the goal intended or only as a means to an end; whether this life be embryonic or in full flower, or already approaching its term. Only God is Lord of the life of a man who is not guilty of a crime punishable by death. The physician has no right to dispose either of the life of the child or of that of the mother and no-one on earth, no individual, no human authority, can give him the right to its destruction. His office is not to destroy life but to save it. In the course of the last few decades, the Church has found it necessary to proclaim repeatedly and in all clarity, these fundamental and immutable principles in opposition to certain opinions and methods." Pius XII, Allocution to the Italian Medical-Biological Union of St. Luke, November 12, 1944. (1)
II What are the Catholic Principles of Morality in regard to abortion?
a) FIRST PRINCIPLE: "Any direct attempt on an innocent life as a means to an end - even to the end of saving another life - is unlawful. Innocent human life, in whatsoever condition it is found, is withdrawn, from the very first moment of its existence, from any direct deliberate attack. This is a fundamental right of the human person, which is of universal value in the Christian conception of life; hence as valid for the life still hidden within the womb of the mother, as for the life already born and developing independently of her; as much opposed to direct abortion as to the direct killing of the child before, during or after its birth. Whatever foundation there may be for the distinction between these various phases of the development of life born or still unborn, in profane and ecclesiastical law and in certain civil and penal consequences, all these cases involve a grave and unlawful attack upon the inviolability of human life." Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, November 26, 1951. (2)
b) SECOND PRINCIPLE: "Every human being, even a child in the mother's womb has a right to life directly from God and not from the parents or from any society or authority. Hence there is no man, no human authority, no science, no medical, eugenic, social, economic or moral 'indication' that can offer or produce a valid juridical title to a direct deliberate disposal of an innocent human life; that is to say, a disposal that aims at its destruction whether as an end or as a means to another end, which is, perhaps, in no way unlawful in itself." Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, November 26, 1951. (3)
III But isn't this doctrine new? No. To prove the contrary, here are a few quotations from authors of the early Church.
a) FIRST TEXT: THE DIDACHE APOSTOLORUM (90 A.D.):
"You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born." (4)
b) SECOND TEXT: TERTULLIAN (150 - 240 AD):
"To prevent birth is anticipated murder; it makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be a man is already one." (5)
c) THIRD TEXT: ST. AUGUSTINE (354 - 430 AD):
"Their licentious cruelty, or their cruel licentiousness, sometimes goes to such lengths as to procure sterilizing poisons and if these are unavailing, in some way to stifle within the womb and eject the fetus that has been conceived. They want their offspring to die before it comes to life or, if it is already living in the womb, to perish before it is born. Surely, if they are both of such a mind, they do not deserve the name of husband and wife; and if they have been of such a mind from the beginning, it was not for wedlock but for fornication that they became united. If they are not both of such a mind, then I will venture to say that either the woman is the mere mistress of the husband, or the man is the paramour of the wife." (6)
d) FOURTH TEXT: HIPPOLYTUS
"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 [A.D. 228]).
e) FIFTH TEXT: 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 [A.D. 314]).
f) SIXTH TEXT : ST. BASIL THE GREAT
"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 die upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees" (First Canonical Letter, canon 8[A.D. 374]).
g) SEVENTH TEXT: 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 [A.D. 391]).
h) EIGHTH TEXT : 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 [A.D. 396]).
i) NINTH TEXT: THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS
"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for He says, 'You shall not suffer a witch to live' [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten; for "everything that is shaped, and has received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed." (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3 [A.D. 400]).
j) TENTH TEXT : POPE STEPHEN V (885 - 891 AD)
"That person is a murderer who causes to perish by abortion what has been conceived."(7)
IV Has the modern science of genetics added something new in the matter of abortion?
"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 man, this individual man 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. The least that can be said is that present science, in its most evolved state, does not give any substantial support to those who defend abortion." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (8)
V But if there were a doubt as to whether the fruit of conception were already a human person?
"From a moral point of view, this is certain; even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin to dare to risk murder. "The one who will be a man is already one." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (9)
VI Can an aborted child reach the eternal life of heaven without baptism?
"In the present economy there is no other way of communicating this life to the child who has not yet the use of reason. But, nevertheless, the state of grace at the moment of death is absolutely necessary for salvation. Without it, it is not possible to attain supernatural happiness, the beatific vision of God. (a) An act of love can suffice for an adult to obtain sanctifying grace and supply for the absence of Baptism; (b) for the unborn child or for the newly born, this way is not open." Pius XII, Allocution to Midwives, October 29, 1951.(10)
VII What doctrinal conclusion can be drawn at this stage?
"The Magisterium constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (11)
Because "the Catholic Church has always considered abortion as an abominable crime." Paul VI, Allocution to a group of Belgian Catholic Doctors, April 24, 1977. (12)
VIII What ecclesiastical penalty is incurred by the person who actually procures an abortion?
"A person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication (Code of Canon Law, canon 1398), that means "it is incurred automatically upon the commission of an offense." (Canon 1312) (13)
IX Who is excommunicated when an abortion takes place?
"In the case of a latae sententiae penalty (here, excommunication) attached to an offense, accomplices, even though not mentioned in the law or precept, incur the same penalty if, without their assistance, the crime would not have been committed and if the penalty is of such a nature as to be able to affect them." (Canon 1329, 2) (14)
This includes - the mother of the child, except if she is not responsible
- for instance, under constraint or grievous fear. (Cf. canon 1323.)
Also relatives who have influenced her expressly directly in favour of
the abortion, for instance her parents, the father of the child etc. and
all those accomplices without whom the abortion would not have taken place,
i.e. surgeon, nurses ...
B. A FEW PARTICULAR CASES
I What if the life of the mother or of the child to be born is in danger?
"Never and in no case has the Church taught that the life of the child must be preferred to that of the mother. It is erroneous to put the question with this alternative: either the life of the child or that of the mother. No, neither the life of the mother nor that of the child can be subjected to an act of direct suppression. In the one case as in the other, there can be but one obligation: to make every effort to save the lives of both, of the mother and of the child.
It is one of the finest and most noble aspirations of the medical profession to search continually for new means of ensuring the life of both mother and child. But if, notwithstanding all the progress of science, there still remain, and will remain in the future, cases in which one must reckon with the death of the mother, when the mother wills to bring to birth the life that is within her and not destroy it in violation of the command of God - Thou shalt not kill - nothing else remains for the man, who will make every effort till the very last moment to help and save, but to bow respectfully before the laws of nature and the dispositions of divine Providence." Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, November 26, 1951. (15)
II And if she is the mother of a large family?
"But, it is objected, the life of the mother, especially the mother of a large family, is of incomparably greater value than that of a child not yet born. The application of the theory of the equivalation of values to the case which occupies us has already been accepted in juridical discussions. The reply to this harrowing objection is not difficult. The inviolability of the life of an innocent human being does not depend on its greater or lesser value. It is already more than ten years since the Church formally condemned the destruction of life considered to be 'without value'; and whosoever knows the sad events that preceded and provoked that condemnation, whosoever is able to weigh the direct consequences that would result, from measuring the inviolability of innocent life according to its value, can well appreciate the motives that determined that condemnation.
Besides, who can judge with certainty which of the two lives is in fact the more precious? Who can know what path that child will follow and to what heights of achievement and perfection he may reach? Two greatnesses are being compared here, one of them being an unknown quantity." Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, Nov. 26, 1951. (16)
III What if, in order to save the life of the mother, independently of her pregnant condition, a surgical intervention or a therapeutic treatment is necessary which would have as an accidental consequence, in no way desired nor intended, the death of the fetus?
"Deliberately We have always used the expression 'direct attempt on the life of an innocent person,' 'direct killing.' Because if, for example, the saving of the life of the future mother, independently of her pregnant condition, should urgently require a surgical act or other therapeutic treatment which would have as an accessory consequence, in no way desired nor intended, but inevitable, the death of the fetus, such an act could no longer be called a direct attempt on an innocent life. Under these conditions the operation can be lawful, like other similar medical interventions - granted always that a good of high worth is concerned, such as life, and that it is not possible to postpone the operation until after the birth of the child, nor to have recourse to other efficacious remedies." Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, Nov. 26, 1951. (17)
IV What about the 'medical and therapeutic indication'?
"As for the 'medical and therapeutic indication,' We have already said, Venerable Brethren, how deeply We feel for the mother whose fulfillment of her natural duty involves her in grave danger to health and even to life itself. But can any reason ever avail to excuse the direct killing of the innocent? For this is what is at stake. The infliction of death whether upon mother or upon child is against the commandment of God and the voice of nature: "Thou shalt not kill!" The lives of both are equally sacred and no-one, not even public authority, can ever have the right to destroy them. It is absurd to invoke against innocent human beings the right of the State to inflict capital punishment, for this is valid only against the guilty. Nor is there any question here of the right of self-defense, even to the shedding of blood, against an unjust assailant, for none could describe as an unjust assailant, an innocent child. Nor, finally, does there exist any so-called right of extreme necessity which could extend to the direct killing of an innocent human being. Honourable and skillful doctors are therefore worthy of all praise when they make every effort to protect and preserve the life of both mother and child. On the contrary, those who encompass the death of the one or the other, whether on the plea of medical treatment or from a motive of misguided compassion, act in a manner unworthy of the high repute of the medical profession," Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, Dec. 31, 1930.(18)
V What about reasons such as - abortion is approved by a great number of citizens; the application of a law against abortion is difficult; the number of abortions is always increasing; there is a great danger for the life of the mother in clandestine abortions?
"These arguments and others in addition that are heard from varying quarters are nor conclusive. It is true that civil law cannot expect to cover the whole field of morality or to punish all faults. No-one expects it to do so. It must often tolerate what is in fact a lesser evil, in order to avoid a greater one. One must, however, be attentive to what a change in legislation can represent. Many will take as authorization what is perhaps only a refusal to punish. Even more, in the present case, this very refusal seems at the very least to admit that the legislator no longer considers abortion a crime against human life, since murder is still always severely punished. It is true that it is not the task of the law to choose between points of view or to impose one rather than another. One cannot invoke freedom of thought to destroy life." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (19)
VI What is the morality of prenatal diagnosis?
"For prenatal diagnosis makes it possible to know the condition of the embryo and of the fetus when still in the mother's womb. It permits, or makes it possible to anticipate earlier and more effectively, certain therapeutic, medical or surgical procedures. Such diagnosis is permissible, with the consent of the parents, after they have been adequately informed, if the methods employed safeguard the life and integrity of the embryo and the mother, without subjecting them to disproportionate risks. But this diagnosis is gravely opposed to the moral law when it is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion depending upon the results; a diagnosis which shows the existence of a malformation or a hereditary illness must not be the equivalent of a death-sentence. Thus a woman would be committing a gravely illicit act if she were to request such a diagnosis with the deliberate intention of having an abortion should the result confirm the existence of a malformation or abnormality. The spouse or relatives or anyone else would similarly be acting in a manner contrary to the moral law if they were to counsel or impose such a diagnostic procedure on the expectant mother with the same intention of possibly proceeding to an abortion. So too the specialist would be guilty of illicit collaboration if, in conducting the diagnosis and in communicating its results, he were deliberately to contribute to establishing or favouring a link between prenatal diagnosis and abortion.
In conclusion, any directive or programme of the civil and health authorities or of scientific organizations which in any way were to favour a link between prenatal diagnosis and abortion, or which were to go as far as directly to induce expectant mothers to submit to prenatal diagnosis planned for the purpose of eliminating fetuses which are affected by malformation or which are carriers of hereditary illness, is to be condemned." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (20)
VII What is the morality of the research on a human embryo and fetus?
"Medical research must refrain from operations on live embryos, unless there is a moral certainty of not causing harm to the life or integrity of the unborn child and the mother and on condition that the parents have given their free and informed consent to the procedure. It follows that all research, even when limited to the simple observation of the embryo, would become illicit were it to involve risk to the embryo's physical integrity or life by reason of the methods used or the effects induced." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.(21)
VIII What of experiments performed on living human embryos and fetuses?
"If the embryos are living, whether viable or not, they must be respected just like any other human person; experimentation on embryos which is not directly therapeutic is illicit." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (23)
IX What of those already dead?
"The corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings. In particular, they cannot be subjected to mutilation or to autopsies if their death has not yet been verified and without the consent of the parents or of the mother. Furthermore, the moral requirement must be safeguarded that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal be avoided. Also, in the case of dead fetuses, as for the corpses of adult persons, all commercial trafficking must be considered illicit and should be prohibited." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (23)
X What is the morality of the use of 'in vitro' fertilized embryos for the sake of research?
"It is immoral to produce human embryos destined to be exploited as disposable 'biological material.' In the usual practice of 'in vitro' fertilization, not all of the embryos are transferred to the woman's body; some are destroyed. Just as the Church condemns induced abortion, so she also forbids acts against the life of these human beings. It is a duty to condemn the particular gravity of the voluntary destruction of human embryos obtained 'in vitro' for the sole purpose of research, either by means of artificial insemination or by means of 'twin fission.' By acting in this way, the researcher usurps the place of God; and, even though he may be unaware of this, he sets himself up as the master of the destiny of others inasmuch as he arbitrarily chooses whom he will allow to live and whom he will send to death and kills defenseless human beings." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (24)
XI What about the direct destruction of a so-called 'life without value'?
"The direct destruction of the so-called 'life without value' whether born or yet to be born, such as was practiced very widely a few years ago, cannot in any way be justified. Hence when this practice began, the Church formally declared that it was against the natural law and the divine positive law, and consequently, unlawful to kill, even by order of the public authorities, those who were innocent but, on account of some physical or mental defect, rendered useless to the State and a burden upon it. The life of one who is innocent is untouchable, and any direct attempt or aggression against it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which secure human society is impossible. We have no need to teach you in detail the meaning and the gravity in your profession of this fundamental law. But never forget that there rises above every man-made code and above every 'indication' the faultless law of God." Pius XII, Allocution to Midwives, October 29, 1951. (25)
XII What about the abortion motivated by 'social and eugenic indications'?
"It is permissible and even obligatory to take into account the evidence alleged in regard to the social and eugenic 'indications' so long as the legitimate and proper means are used and due limits observed; but to attempt to meet the needs upon which it is based by killing of the innocent is an irrational proceeding and contrary to the divine law; a law promulgated also by the Apostle when he says that we must not do evil that good may come." (Rom. III, 8) Pius XI, Encyclical 'Casti Connubii' Dec. 31, 1931. (26)
XIII Can abortion be seen as a means of birth control?
"We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of controlling the birth of children." Paul VI, Encyclical 'Humanae Vitae,' July 25, 1968. (27)
XIV Other reasons given that favour abortions.
"It may be a serious question of health, sometimes of life or death, for the mother; it may be the burden represented by an additional child, especially if there are good reasons to fear that the child will be abnormal or retarded; it may be the importance attributed in different classes of society to considerations of honour or dishonour, of loss of social standing, and so forth." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (28)
XV What are we to think of these reasons?
"We proclaim that none of these reasons can ever objectively confer
the right to dispose of another's life, even when that life is only beginning.
With regard to the future unhappiness of the child, no-one, not even the
father or mother, can act as its substitute, even if it is still in the
embryonic stage, to choose in the child's name, life or death."
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (29)
C. THE VARIOUS DUTIES IN RELATION TO ABORTION
I What are the duties of the State towards the unborn?
"The State then, should, as it were, in virtue of the instinct of self-preservation, fulfill that which, essentially according to the design of God, Creator and Saviour, is its first duty, namely guarantee in full measure the values which ensure to the family order, human dignity, health and happiness. These values, which are also the very elements of the common good, may never be sacrificed for what may apparently be the common advantage. Let Us point out, as an example, some of these benefits which are greatly threatened today - the indissolubility of matrimony; the protection of prenatal life." Pius XII, Allocution to the Fathers of Families. Sept. 18, 1951. (30)
II What is the role of State Law towards the unborn?
"The law cannot tolerate - indeed it must expressly forbid - that human beings, even at the embryonic stage, should be treated as objects of experimentation, be mutilated or destroyed with the excuse that they are superfluous or incapable of developing normally." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (31)
III What are the duties of government and legislators towards the innocent and especially towards the unborn?
"Governments and legislatures must remember that it is the duty of public authority to protect the lives of the innocent by appropriate laws and penalties, especially when those whose lives are attacked and endangered are unable to protect themselves, as is particularly the case with infants in their mother's womb. If the State authorities not only fail to protect these little ones but by their laws and decrees, suffer them to be killed, and even deliver them into the hands of doctors and others for that purpose, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of the innocent blood that cries from earth to heaven." Pius XI, Encyclical 'Casti Connubii,' Dec. 31, 1930. (32)
IV What are the duties of parents in the natural process of child bearing?
"Nature places at man's disposal the whole chain of the causes which gives rise to a new human life; it is man's part to release the living force and to nature pertains the development of that force, leading to its completion. Once man has fulfilled his part and set in motion the marvelous evolution of life, it is his duty to respect religiously its progress and the same duty forbids him either to halt the course of nature or to prevent its natural development." Pius XII, Allocution to Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951. (33)
V What are the duties of the legal representatives of children I who have not reached the use of reason?
"Such legal representatives, appointed by a private decision or by public authority, do not possess over the body and the life of their subordinates, any other rights than they themselves would have, if they were capable of it and to the same extent. They cannot then give the doctor permission to dispose of them outside of these limits." Pius XII, Allocution to the First Congress of Histopathology, Sept. 13, 1952. (34)
VI What are the duties of doctors in regard to abortion and propaganda on it?
"However, as doctors, conscious of the scientific and ethical requirements of your profession, you have a special and very important role of information and of formation to fulfill, according to your various specialties, to show the grievous errors on which the pro-abortion propaganda relies. Who better than you, can often denounce the manipulation of statistics; rash statements in the biological domain, disastrous repercussions in the physiological and psychological sphere." Paul VI, Allocution to a group of Belgian Catholic Doctors, April 24, 1977. (35)
VII What are the duties of doctors towards the use of exploration techniques on embryos?
The doctor "above all ... must carefully evaluate the possible negative consequences which the necessary use of a particular exploratory technique may have upon the unborn child and avoid recourse to diagnostic procedures which do not offer sufficient guarantees of their honest purpose and substantial harmlessness. And if, as often happens in human choices, a degree of risk must be undertaken, he will take care to assure that it is justified by a truly urgent need for the diagnosis and by the importance of the results that can be achieved by it for the benefit of the unborn child himself." John Paul II, Discourse to Participants in the Pro-Life Movement Congress, Dec. 12, 1982. (36)
VIII What are the duties of chemists in regard to the sale of abortifacient products?
"The duty and, likewise, the special glory of pharmacists is to have a mastery of their science and to stray not one hair's breadth from the straight path of conscience... but in this age when, because of the widespread corruption of morals, it is so easy to sin against justice, consideration for human and Christian dignity weighs more heavily upon you (i.e. the chemists) to keep you from failing in your duty. Meanwhile customers too, can approach you and importune you to become accomplices in their crimes. But you above all must not put aside the dictates of the eternal law in favour of gain or false, so-called humanitarianism or carelessness, when you know that you can sell something that might injure health, life or limb when used improperly, or can snuff out a life within the mother's womb. Let no-one imitate the notorious medical practitioner who promised Fabricius - if such a promise could ever have been made to him - that he would arrange for the speedy death of King Pyrrhus. Rather let all seek that same praise which Pyrrhus showered on Fabricius after he had disclosed the evil plot to the King; "Fabricius, what a man! The sun is more likely to deviate from its course than he from the way of honour." Pius XII, Allocution to the International Congress of the History of Pharmacy, Sept. 11, 1954. (37)
IX What are the duties of midwives towards the parents of an unborn child?
"The urgent object of your apostolate will be to strive to sustain, to re-awaken and stimulate the mother's instinct and the mother's love. When spouses value and appreciate the honour of producing a new life, and await its coming with a holy impatience, your part is a very easy one; it will be sufficient to cultivate this interior sentiment in them; the readiness to welcome and cherish that growing life follows automatically. Unfortunately, however, it is not always the case; the child is often not wanted, worse still, its coming is often dreaded. In such conditions, how can there be a ready response to the call of duty? Your apostolate in this case must be both powerful and effective; primarily, in a negative way, by refusing any immoral co-operation; then also in a positive way, by deftly applying yourselves to the removal of pre-conceived ideas, various fears or fainthearted excuses; and as far as possible, to remove also the external obstacles which may cause distress where the acceptance of motherhood is concerned.
You may come forward unhesitatingly where you are asked to advise and
help in the bringing forth of new life, to protect it and set it on its
way towards its full development. But, unfortunately, in how many
cases are you rather called upon to prevent the procreation and preservation
of this life, regardless of the precepts of the moral order? To accede
to such requests would be to abuse your knowledge and your skill by becoming
accomplices in an immoral act; it would be the perversion of your apostolate.
It demands a calm but unequivocal refusal to countenance the transgression
of God's law or the dictates of your conscience. It follows, therefore,
that your profession requires that you should have a clear knowledge of
this divine law, so that it may be respected and followed without excess
or defect." Pius XII, Allocution to Midwives, Oct. 29, 1951.
D. GENERAL CONCLUSION
I Doctrinal conclusion.
"One cannot effectively safeguard morality unless one takes the fight on to the field of doctrine. A way of thinking or, rather, an emotional prejudice against large families - seeing them as an evil - cannot be allowed to go unchallenged." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (39)
II Practical Conclusion.
"It must in any case be clearly understood that a Christian can never conform to a law which is in itself immoral and such is the case of a law which would admit, in principle, the licity of abortion. Nor can a Christian take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it. Moreover, he may not collaborate in its application." Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (40)
III Lastly, can a Catholic withdraw himself from this teaching of the Popes by saying that ultimately, it is up to one's own conscience?
"For dogmatic doctrine as well as for the Catholic moral order, the application of an almost radical revision is being advocated, with a view to deducing a new scale of values from it. The primary step, or rather the first blow, against the edifice of Christian moral canons should be - as is pretended - the redeeming of these rules from the narrow and oppressive guardianship of the authority of the Church so that, freed from the sophistic subtleties of the casuistic method, morality may be brought back again to its original form and left to the individual's intelligence and determination.
"Omitting to point out the obvious inexperience and immaturity of judgment of those who maintain such opinions, it will be well to bring into light the central flaw of this 'new morality.' By leaving all ethical judgment to the conscience of the individual, jealously closed in itself and made sole arbiter of its determinations, this morality, far from smoothing the way for it, would make it stray from the main road which is Christ. The Divine Redeemer has given His revelation, of which moral obligations are an essential part, not to individual men but to His Church, with the mission to lead men faithfully to accept the sacred deposit. Likewise, divine assistance, intended to preserve revelation from errors and distortions, was promised to the Church and not to individuals. A wise provision, because the Church, a living organism, may thus illustrate and probe truths, even moral truths, with certainty and flexibility and apply them the variable conditions of times and places without altering their substance.
"How then is it possible to reconcile the Saviour's providential
disposition, through which the Church was entrusted with the Christian
moral heritage, with a sort of individualistic autonomy of conscience?
The Church wishes - and this is expressly emphasized with regard to the
forming of consciences - that a Christian should be introduced to the infinite
riches of faith and grace in a persuasive manner, so that he may feel inclined
to penetrate deeply into them. The Church, however, cannot give up
admonishing the faithful that these riches cannot be acquired and kept
without observing some precise moral obligations. A different behaviour
would only end by putting into oblivion a dominant principle which Jesus,
its Lord and Master, always insisted upon. Jesus did in fact teach
that it is lot enough to say 'Lord! Lord!' in order to enter the Kingdom
of Heaven, but that it is necessary to do the will of our Heavenly Father.
He spoke of the 'straight gate,' of the 'narrow way' which leads to life
and added: 'Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many shall seek to
enter and shall not be able.' He gave us a touchstone and hallmark
of love for Himself, Christ, the observance of the commandments."
Pius XII, Radio Message, March 23, 1952. (41)
(1) The Human Body, (subsequently HB) Papal Teachings, by the
Monks of Solesmes, St. Paul Editions 1979, No. 58.
(2) HB 322.
(3) HB 254.
(4-5) Declaration on Procured Abortion, (subsequently DPA) by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Nov. l8, 1974 in Abortion and Law, Dominican Publication, 1983, II, 6.
(6) HB 17.
(7) DPA II, 7.
(8-9) DPA III, 13.
(10) HB 262.
(11) Instruction on Respect of Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation (subsequently RHL) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Feb. 22, 1987, Catholic Truth Society, London 1987 I,1.
(12) In Documentation Catholique, Bayard Presse, May 15, 1977, p. 456.
(13-14) The Code of Canon Law, in English translation, Collins, 1983.
(15) HB 323, 324.
(16) HB 325.
(17) HB 326.
(18) HB 16.
(19) DPA V 20.
(20) RHL I, 2.
(21-23) RHL I, 4.
(24) RHL I, 5.
(25) HB 254.
(26) HB 18.
(27) Catholic Truth Society, London, 1970, No. 14.
(28-29) DPA IV, 14.
(30) Matrimony, Papal Teachings, by the Monks of Solesmes, St. Paul Editions, 1963, No. 581.
(31) RHL III.
(32) HB 19.
(33) HB 246.
(34) HB 365.
(35) In Documentation Catholique, Bayard Presse, May 15, 1977, p. 456.
(36) RHL Footnote 27.
(37) HB 534.
(38) HB 266-7.
(39) DPA V, 27.
(40) DPA V, 22.
(41) The Teachings of Pope Pius XII, compiled by Michael Chinigo, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1958, pp. 103-105.