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Living the Gospel of Life -- Study Guide

Paragraph Thirty-three


The arena for defending life, the bishops indicate here, is not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well.

In the "halls of government," legislators must work to defend life, and citizens must lobby. The nation's top lobbying group on abortion and euthanasia is the National Right to Life Committee ( and they offer a wealth of information for others who lobby. The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (, which is a lobbying arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is also a valuable resource. Many other resources are available as well.

For tips on visiting and writing to your legislator, see

Regarding the voting booth, there is an urgent need to re-activate Christians to get involved. Over the last decade there has been a decline in Christian participation in the electoral process. Yet at a time when more and more policies and laws are contrary to the Gospel, Christians need to be more involved, not less.

As we saw earlier in the study, Alexander Hamilton expressed a view shared by our other Founding Fathers that God's law is the highest law, and "No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this." That theme is taken up in this paragraph, and echoes the Holy Father's teaching in The Gospel of Life, as well as numerous Biblical examples. The Pope sums it up in this way:

"Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity… Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.

"Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God—to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty—that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10).

"In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it'"(n.72-73).

An interesting question arises when we consider that the law does not require a person to have an abortion; how, then, do Christians "not obey" the laws permitting abortion? Essentially, this consists in not acquiescing in or accommodating ourselves to such laws. In other words, we are not to change our behavior in any way out of respect for such laws, or cooperate with the evil that such laws allow. We are to have no respect for such laws, because ultimately, they are no laws at all.

One way this is manifested is in the refusal of service personnel to perform any services for abortion facilities. [See].

Discussion Questions

How do we "acquiesce" in laws that allow abortion, when they don't require us to have abortions?

What are ways that we can "work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change" unjust laws?

Why do you think many Christians do not vote? How can we encourage them to do so?

Click here to listen to a homily by Fr. Frank Pavone on "Conscientious Objection" to laws permitting abortion.

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