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Living the Gospel of Life -- Study Guide

Paragraph Twenty-five


We do know what is right.

As this paragraph indicates, there is a "false pluralism" that pretends that each person can have "whatever moral convictions they please." This attitude actually consists of a "moral agnosticism," the idea that we cannot really know what is good and right for the human person or for society. The "common good," for which public officials are to strive, becomes a matter of opinion.

The Church stands strongly against this idea, proclaiming instead that we are capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong, between the common good and that which is destructive of society. The fact that we can know moral truth and are therefore responsible for applying it in political life is one of the key themes of a special document that was issued by the Vatican in November of 2002 called the "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life." The document states, "Political freedom is not – and cannot be – based upon the relativistic idea that all conceptions of the human person’s good have the same value and truth." Hence, as Living the Gospel of Life says, "Democracy is not a substitute for morality." What is right and wrong is not something we vote on. The Vatican "Note" goes on to say, "The Church recognizes that while democracy is the best expression of the direct participation of citizens in political choices, it succeeds only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person… In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

To put it another way, a people cannot govern themselves if they cannot tell the difference (or pretend they cannot tell the difference) between right and wrong. When, in June of 2003, the Vatican issued another notification telling legislators that they could not vote to legitimize homosexual unions, a United States legislator complained that the Pope was "interfering with democracy." Actually, in teaching the moral law, the Pope was fostering democracy. Freedom is always found only when it points to truth, and self-governance works only when people clearly discern the common good and can distinguish it from evil.

Opposing all violence

The pro-life movement, and the bishops, reject violence as a means to ending abortion. This, however, does not impress abortion advocates, who claim that by calling abortion "killing," we fuel a climate of violence against those who do it. This, of course, echoes the objections brought about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who exposed the evil of segregation and was accused of thereby fostering violence. Reformers and prophets must expose injustice and call it what it is.

But whose rhetoric really fuels violence? It is the rhetoric of "choice" that fuels violence. By exalting "choice" and "freedom," even when the free choice is the killing of a human being, this rhetoric degrades the value of all human life. "Abortion on demand - no apologies." That is the rhetoric of violence. It does not deny that abortion kills children. It simply says, "I don't care. My choice is more important than the child's life."

It is the "pro-choice" rhetoric that promotes violence. A pro-abortion demonstrator in Little Rock, Arkansas in the summer of 1994 held a sign saying, "Keep Baby-Killing Legal." He was serious. That's the message of their rhetoric.

The idea that one can kill an abortionist is actually cut from the same cloth as the pro-choice argument. After all, for decades the "pro-choice" movement has been telling us that sometimes it's OK to choose to end a life to solve a problem. If people believe the end justifies the means, they did not get that from the pro-life movement, but from our opponents.

Dr. Gary Romalis, an abortionist who was physically attacked, said, "No matter what people’s beliefs are with regard to the abortion issue, the shooting of a doctor is a violent act. It’s a terrorist act." We agree. Beliefs never justify violence, and it's time the pro-choice movement heeds its own words, and ends the violence against the unborn, despite what they "believe" about them.

Discussion Questions

Why does democracy require virtue in order to succeed?

How does the use of violence to promote the pro-life cause contradict the Gospel?

Further Reading

Click here for the full text of the Vatican Doctrinal Note

Click here for more about why violence is not a solution to abortion.

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