By Brian Evans, Holy Apostles College
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.” Indeed, the evil of abortion annually “wipes out the equivalent of the population of Houston or the combined populations of Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Miami. There are more abortions than live births in New York City and Washington D.C.” Without a deep understanding of the atrocity of abortion, one will be unable to recognize the harm that this form of infanticide wreaks on the person and on society. In today’s social/political environment, where abortion is celebrated and even sometimes seen as one’s duty (to keep from “overpopulating” the earth, for example), it is imperative for the faithful to understand why the Catechism teaches both that abortion is morally evil and that the killing of the unborn attacks human dignity as well as that this infanticide disorders society as a whole. By answering these questions, the moral evil of abortion will be better grasped, leading to an increased understanding of the dignity of the human person.
Why Abortion is Morally Evil
In order to understand why abortion is morally evil, it is necessary for one to understand the dignity of human life. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, all men are created in the image and likeness of God, all possess rational souls, and all men share the same origin and end. Because of this, “all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.” Thus, man, being a rational being created by God, possesses a dignity and even a sacredness which entails various fundamental rights that proceed from this dignity. Among these rights include the right to life. In speaking about this truth, Pope Pius XI declared that “The life of each is equally sacred, and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it.”
In spite of this, there are those who deny that the unborn child is a human being. To assume this position, however, is to hold that no man is a human. For “it [the unborn infant] would never be made human if it were not human already.” According to Pope St. John Paul II, “the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.” Accordingly, all men whether in a viable state or not, are created by God and each has a supernatural calling. For this reason, all mankind enjoys a dignity with inherent rights which can neither be bestowed nor taken away—these rights are, rather, intrinsic to man’s existence.
At its root, abortion involves the extinguishment of an innocent life—regardless of how abortionist proponents might claim otherwise. This killing of the unborn is undoubtedly a direct violation of the Fourth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill—abortion is simply murder.Upon speaking about abortion, Pope Pius XI declared that “What could ever be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the innocent? This is precisely what we are dealing with here.” Ultimately, abortion involves the rejection of God Himself since it involves the rejection of one of His creatures, which he willed into existence. Each life is a part of God’s divine plan, so by aborting a child, a couple, in a way, actively works to “frustrate” God’s divine plan. By rejecting and destroying children, who are the crowning jewel of marriage, man commits a “shameful and intrinsically vicious” act by frustrating the true end of the conjugal act—namely, the conception of children. By doing this, man elevates himself above God by declaring himself arbiter over life and death itself. Man, then, contends that if it is deemed inconvenient to care for a child who is to be born, he can simply abort an innocent infant. Yet, man’s life is not his own to dispense with; for it is a free gift from God. In speaking to Noah, God declared that “For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting.” (Gen 9:5 NAB)
Moreover, if love is the fulfilling of the law, and if to love is “to will the good of another”, then abortion is a transgression of the law since abortion is an act diametrically opposed to the good of any person since it both blackens the souls of those responsible for the crime and destroys the life of an innocent child. According to Sacred Scripture, the blood of the murdered cries out to heaven. (Gen 4:10) Because of this, it is evident that abortion is a grave moral disorder that “radically contradict[s] the good of the person made in [H]is image.” Because the act of abortion contradicts the good of the person, it is an intrinsic evil which Pope St. John Paul II describes as “an unspeakable crime”. According to the Catechism, “The Church makes clear that abortion is a most serious and dangerous crime, thereby encouraging those who commit it to seek…conversion”.
Why Abortion Attacks Human Dignity
This intrinsic evil of abortion ultimately leads to the notion that infants are mere rubbish, which are to be disposed of or even, in many cases, sold for profit after they have been murdered in the womb. Because of widespread practice of abortion, man begins to view the unborn child as being somehow not human, and man treats the child as such. This has the effect of attacking human dignity in two ways. First, abortion blatantly disregards the dignity of the unborn child; second abortion diminishes the dignity of the parents and “doctors” responsible for the execution by plunging these involved parties into a state of sinful, barbaric savagery. This is because man’s dignity consists in his being a rational animal endowed with a soul by the hand of God. By plunging himself into a state of savagery, man literally tosses away the very thing (reason) which distinguishes him from the animals.
In addition to this, abortion has the regrettable effect of demeaning women. On the eve of the explosive rise of the contraceptive/abortive mentality which was to sweep across the United States in the mid-twentieth century, Pope Paul VI prophetically declared that:
A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires…
This treatment of women as mere instruments of pleasure by men attacks the dignity of both man and woman. This is because the man’s dignity is undermined in his use of woman as an object of pleasure. Ironically, pro-choice advocates argue that abortion has the effect of somehow liberating women, but in all reality, abortion merely has the effect of shackling and hurting women. According to Fr. Frank Pavone, “one cannot love the woman without loving the child. Nor can one harm the child without harming the mother.” When the conjugal act is robbed of its unitive and procreative purpose, the conjugal act becomes disordered and caustic towards the dignity of both man and woman. And if the act results in the conception of a child the unborn human being is seen as a mistake which must be dealt with and eliminated. Yet, as Pope St. John Paul II explained, the “conjugal act deprived of its meaning and purpose is equally repugnant to the nature of man and women.”
This notion that one is free to use one’s body as one pleases resounds among abortion advocates; yet this is a distorted idea of freedom. According to the Catechism, “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.” Therefore, man is endowed with the freedom to choose between right and wrong and to choose to act or not to act. Yet, “there is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.” Since abortion is unquestionably neither good nor just, those who engage in the evil deed of abortion cannot be said to be free. Rather, the choice to engage in activities which are contrary to man’s good inevitably lead to man’s enslavement to sin. Because of this choice of evil, man “deforms the image of God in his own person”. Since man’s dignity flows forth from his being created in the image and likeness of God, the deformation of the image of God in man because of man’s sin has the inevitable effect of attacking the dignity of man.
Essentially, abortion involves a misunderstanding of freedom itself. For one believes that by having the power to destroy life in the womb, one is somehow made freer. Yet, according to Pope St. John Paul II, “Freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link to the truth.” Once one believes that it is acceptable for one group of humanity to be exterminated, it is difficult for one to defend the existence of those who carry out such eradications of any other subset of man, for that matter. In other words, the notion that one is free to commit infanticide ultimately leads to the notion that one is free to carry out other atrocities. Thus, this contorted sense of freedom inevitably leads to the destruction of man in both the physical and spiritual senses. That this is the case is not surprising, considering that “When the sense of God is lost, the sense of man is threatened and poisoned.” Thus, by misunderstanding freedom, man attacks his own dignity by essentially becoming a slave to sin, which has the effect of deforming and contorting man. For as Pope St. John Paul II declared “When God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible.”
Why Abortion Disorders Society
Being that society is comprised of man, and since abortion attacks man, abortion has the inevitable effect of disordering society. Societies that function properly by necessity must have a birthrate that at least replaces the previous generation. If this is not the case, it becomes difficult for the needs of the previous generation to be met by the output of the new generation. In other words, if society does not replace itself, society begins to shrink and ultimately collapse. Speaking about this fact, Ryan N.S. Topping declared that “Europe has entered its demographic winter; what China will experience once the full effect of wiping out a generation of girls is felt, one can hardly guess.” In a very real sense, then, abortion is literally a drawn-out societal suicide.
Furthermore, because marriage is ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation of children, spouses who are not open to new life live in a marriage which is not ordered towards the good of the spouses. For abortion essentially attacks the conjugal love between the spouses since it involves the rejection of the living unity between spouses shown forth in a new human being. Thus, by not being open to new life, the sacrament of marriage is fundamentally undermined. Yet, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.” Thus, as both the conjugal life and family life decline, society is bound to follow. Since abortion attacks the conjugal act between the spouses and marriage itself, which is the foundation of the family, abortion inevitably disorders society by undermining the foundation of society itself. For, “Unless things change, the human family and State have every reason to fear lest they should suffer absolute ruin.” A society that kills its offspring cannot be said to be progressing; rather, it is dying.
Ultimately, the acceptance of abortion by society serves to signify the deterioration of a sense of right and wrong among individuals. Indeed, society believes that “An innocent human being can be declared a non-person and deprived of life if his existence is inconvenient to others or if those others consider him unfit to live.” Even the reality of abortion is veiled. Rather than describing abortion as murder (which it is), abortionists describe the evil practice as an interruption of pregnancy, or a treatment for an unwanted pregnancy, or even a service dedicated at promoting health. Even the infant child which is within the mother’s womb is not described as a human being but rather as a “fetus”. Because of this deterioration of a sense of right and wrong, and thus a deterioration of a sense of truth amongst individuals, the nature of man himself and his ultimate end become more and more confused. Because of the prevalence of abortion, man no longer recognizes the truth that society is to function for the good of man; rather, man is obsessed with serving the idols of efficiency and the material world. According to Pope St. John Paul II, “This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic, and political currents which encourage the idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency.” This idea of efficiency inevitably leads to the notion that some life is not worth keeping since it is simply a drain on society. In the name of efficiency, then, infants can be slaughtered merely because their lives are deemed to be of no purpose. Yet if this is the case, then no man can claim the right to life.
For society to function properly, it must be governed by authority. Being that all authority originates from God, “no one can command or establish what is contrary to the dignity of persons and the natural law.” In other words, a governing figure loses his authority when he commands or sanctions that which is contrary to natural law and the dignity of human persons. In addition to this, abortion necessarily results in the unequal treatment of persons under the law. For the unborn are denied the same rights that those outside of the womb possess. Indeed, “the moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation must accord them, the State is denying the equality of all before the law.” A society can never flourish, nay even function, when justice is unequally applied. Thus, it is not surprising that Pope St. John Paul II declared that abortion has the effect of “poison[ing] human society.”
Each life is a sacred being brought into existence by the breath of God and called to communion with Him in eternity. With an understanding of the sacredness of human life, one better understands not only the dignity of man but also the end of man which ultimately translates into how man conducts himself in society. Sadly, however, many individuals regard the infant child in the womb as mere rubbish and a hindrance to the material progress of the spouses; sentiments like these, which flagrantly dismiss any respect for human life, are tragically shared by a shocking percentage of Catholics. Yet, one cannot both support abortion and be called a Catholic. For, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, “[The Magisterium] constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and is unchangeable.” Abortion is not only an attack on life, but it is also a grave threat to civilization itself. For as Venerable Fulton J. Sheen declared, “If we give to mothers the right to destroy a child because it may have ‘defective traits,’ than someday a child may claim the right to destroy the mother because she has the ‘defective trait’ of poverty or senility.” Catholics, then, must work to combat this odious evil which permeates culture today, and as Pope John Paul II points out, “We need now more than ever to have the courage to look truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name…” Thus, the first step in ending the mass holocaust of the unborn is to call abortion by its real name: murder. For society must recognize that it is “not a matter of when life begins, but who it comes from.”
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