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Theology and Abortion

Fr. Frank A. Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life


January 14, 2019
   
 

The nature of theology

To speak of abortion from a theological perspective, it is necessary to understand what the starting point of theology is. Theology (from the Greek "theos," God, and "logos," word) is the study of the word God has spoken to His people. It differs from an examination of ethical questions using reason alone. Yet it is not a substitute for reason, but rather an exercise of reason which starts with an assent to God's word. It is faith seeking understanding. In theology, one starts with an "Amen," saying, "I believe what God has revealed; now I want to explore how that revelation makes sense."

Because theology does not replace reason, its treatment of matters such as abortion incorporates the findings of science on such questions as when human life begins. Where science has spoken clearly, theology does not need to either contradict or prove all over again, for all truth comes from the same God. Yet because theology draws on revelation, which transcends what the mind can reach on its own, it answers questions before which science must remain silent. That human life exists in the womb is a scientific fact. What the ultimate origin, purpose, and destiny of that life is, and what its relationship with God and the rest of God's people might be, are matters for theology.

We treat of abortion in this chapter, furthermore, from the vantage point of Christian theology. Christians hold that God's revelation is based in Scripture and understood by the living Christian community that lives and preaches those Scriptures.

God is Life

"God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being…"(Wisdom 1:13-14). God did not need to create anything. Being perfect, He is perfectly self-sufficient. Yet He freely chose to create, to pour life into His creatures.

That God is God means that He alone has life properly and necessarily. Everything else that has being exists only by His good pleasure. "How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your creatures…. When you take away Your Spirit, they die and return to the dust. When You send Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth" (Psalm 104:24, 29-30). He is the Living God; He is life itself, by definition. The life of everything and everyone else is essentially borrowed from Him.

The commandments of God flow from the nature of God. In the various norms of conduct that God gives His people in Leviticus 19, for example, the precepts are interspersed with the statement "I am the Lord." This is not just to say, "I'm the boss." Rather, it is to say that the people of God are to reflect God in their behavior. They are to be truthful because God is truth; they are to be just because God is justice, and they are to respect life because God is life.

God is Sovereign

The Creator of all things, necessarily, is the owner of all and the Sovereign of all. The fourth chapter of Revelation shows us the liturgy of all creation acknowledging this fact: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev. 4:11).

The question, therefore, about whether one may take life is, theologically, a question about God's sovereignty. The question of human abortion is the question of who is the Lord of human beings. It is not primarily a dispute about when human life begins, but about to whom human life belongs. Dr. James McMahon, who performed the partial-birth abortion procedure, admitted that he had moral qualms about abortion. But, he said, the more important question was, "Who owns the child? It has to be the mother." The Christian assertion, however, is that human beings belong neither to their parents, nor to the State, nor to the doctor, nor to themselves. Rather, we belong to God. "None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants" (Rom.14:7-8). "You are not your own. You have been purchased, and at a price" (1Cor.6:19-20).

The presence of the soul in the human body, therefore, is not the theological basis for rejecting abortion. The basis is the dominion of God over human life and over the entire process by which human life comes into being. It is enough to know that a human life is present or is coming to be. Because God has dominion over that entire process, to interrupt or disrupt it is to presume to act with God's authority.

Moreover, Scripture sees the human person as one, a creature who is just as much a body as a soul. The idea that the human person is really a soul using a body, and perhaps several bodies in successive reincarnations, has been rejected by Christianity. Yet this false doctrine continues to surface among abortion supporters who claim, after all, that they are merely "giving the child back to God."

The Sanctity of Life in the Light of Creation

Human Life: A "Place" to meet God

In the encyclical "The Gospel of Life" (Evangelium Vitae), Pope John Paul II states that human life is "the 'place' where God manifests himself, where we meet him and enter into communion with him"(#38). This statement reveals a profound reason why life is sacred.

When we think Biblically about God "manifesting" Himself, we think of creation, of mighty deeds, and of the death and Resurrection of Christ. Deeper reflections on creation help us to see in what sense human life becomes a meeting place with God.

Created in His Image

"Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God's eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made" (Rom. 1:20). At the height of creation, God manifested His "image" in the creation of man and woman. "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27).

The creation of human life has, essentially and from the beginning, a communitarian dimension. Much has been written about what the "image of God" means. It is far more than simply the fact that human beings can think or that we have a spiritual soul. The "image of God" in the creation of human life includes our whole being, spiritual and physical, and the fact that we find ourselves by a gift of ourselves. "Male and female he created them." This is the "divine image" because within God, there is a giving, a pouring out of self from one person to another. That is reflected in the union of marriage, and in the many other manifestations of human love.

The truth here is so obvious that it is easy to miss. We have the capacity to give ourselves freely to each other and to God. This makes us unique in creation. This makes us a manifestation of God, who is love, and who gives Himself freely to His creation.

In his address to the Consistory of Cardinals (April 1991) which dealt with the sanctity of life, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger noted, "Man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26); the second account of creation expresses the same idea, saying that man, taken from the dust of the earth, carries in himself the divine breath of life. Man is characterized by an immediacy with God that is proper to his being; man is capax Dei and because he lives under the personal protection of God he is 'sacred'…"

Evangelium Vitae develops this theme further in the following passage: 

"Life is always a good. This is an instinctive perception and a fact of experience, and man is called to grasp the profound reason why this is so.

"Why is life a good? This question is found everywhere in the Bible, and from the very first pages it receives a powerful and amazing answer. The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7, 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 103:14; 104:29), is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory (cf. Gen 1:26-27; Ps 8:6). This is what Saint Irenaeus of Lyons wanted to emphasize in his celebrated definition: 'Man, living man, is the glory of God.' Man has been given a sublime dignity, based on the intimate bond which unites him to his Creator: in man there shines forth a reflection of God himself….

"In the biblical narrative, the difference between man and other creatures is shown above all by the fact that only the creation of man is presented as the result of a special decision on the part of God, a deliberation to establish a particular and specific bond with the Creator: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gen 1:26). The life which God offers to man is a gift by which God shares something of himself with his creature" (#34)

The Sanctity of Life in the Light of the Trinity

At the center of Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, that we believe in one God who is Three Persons. This truth shapes all the other Christian teachings, including the teachings on abortion. Let's look first at some of the Scriptural teachings on the Trinity.

The New Testament reveals the fact that the Persons of the Trinity have an intimate sharing of life with each other, and that furthermore, that life is passed on to us in a manner in some way comparable to what happens in the Trinity. In John 17: 20-23 we read, "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me."

The Trinity exhibits the ultimate realities of union and self-giving, which then, not by necessity but by God’s free decision, overflow into our lives. We are caught up in the life of the Trinity, the life of Grace. The Father loves us as He loves the Son. The Son commands us to love one another as He loves us (see Jn.15:12).

Just as the Father shows Himself to the Son, the Son reveals the Father to us. We read in Matthew 11: 27: "All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him." This knowledge, of course, is the eternal life (see Jn.17:3) which is Christ Himself.

The Lord makes the same connection when He speaks of the Eucharist in John 6: 57: "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me."

The Holy Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth" (Jn. 14:16-17). "If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (Jn. 16:7). He is sent by the Father and the Son because He proceeds from them both. The giving of the Spirit to us in history reflects the Trinitarian life of God beyond history.

The link here with the abortion struggle is this: We do not find fulfillment unless we give ourselves away in love. The very existence of the Persons in the Trinity is defined by their mutual self-giving. The same is true, in an analogous way, with us. To see the abortion debate as simply a conflict between the rights of the mother and the rights of the child is to underestimate the depth of this controversy. The abortion debate goes deeper. It is about the question, "Can mother and child find their fulfillment apart from each other?"

Some claim, "Abortion is my right because I have the right to fulfill myself in this society." If one chooses not to marry and raise a family, that is fine. But in that case, there is still no fulfillment unless the person's life is spent in self-giving, whether in service to society or to the Church. Moreover, whether married or not, when a woman carries a child within her, she now faces the question, "Can I really find fulfillment by pushing another human being out of the way?' Our answer is no. We never find fulfillment by pushing another person out of the way. We find it when we push ourselves out of the way.

It is obvious that the preborn child needs the mother to survive, at least for a time. What we also need to draw more attention to is the fact that the mother, as all of us, need to give ourselves away to the child and for the child, not just as a charity or a good deed, but as an essential condition of our own fulfillment. To be fully human involves accepting the call to be fruitful, to give life, in one form or another. After all, human beings were created by the Trinity!

 The Sanctity of Life in the Light of the cosmic struggle between death and life

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). What "works of the devil" does Christ destroy? Christ Himself tells us that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). In one and the same breath, Our Lord calls the devil a liar and a murderer. Lies and murder go together. The only way abortion can continue on such a horrible scale is for it to be covered in lies, sugarcoated with denials and distortions of truth. Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). He is the way to salvation precisely because He is the Truth, shattering the devil’s lies, and because He is the Life, undoing the devil’s work of death.

The war between the culture of life and the culture of death did not begin after Roe v. Wade, although it did enter a new chapter at that point. It is a cosmic struggle, with its origins at the dawn of human history and, in fact, in the history of the angels.

In Revelation 12:7 we read, "War broke out in heaven." War is a terrible thing on earth. What must it mean that war broke out in heaven? This war involved some angels who rebelled against God and became devils. What was it that caused an angel to become a devil? What was the Devil's mistake?

In Isaiah 14, we read a rebuke to the King of Babylon. The passage also has a deeper spiritual meaning and is a glimpse into the thinking of the evil one. It reads, "How you have fallen from the heavens, Oh Lucifer! ... You said in your heart: 'I will scale the heavens; above the stars of God I will set up my throne ... I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!"' (Is. 14:12-14).

There is the Devil's mistake. He thought that he could be God! This is why the angels who fought him in heaven were led by one named Michael, which means, "Who is like God?"

Michael and his angels won, but the war did not end there. Satan and his legion "were cast down to the earth" (Rev. 12:9), and our troubles began.

A Liar and Murderer from the Beginning

We see the devil act in character with lies and murder in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had been told they could eat of any tree in the garden except "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." "In the day that you eat of it," God warned them, "you shall die" (Gen 2:17). What is wrong with knowing good from evil? Aren’t we supposed to know the difference between good and evil? Isn’t that part of our religious and moral education? Don’t so many problems come about when people do not know good from evil? Why, then, is this the one tree of which our first parents were not to eat?

The answer lies in the fact that the "knowledge of good and evil" here does not simply mean "knowing." It means that Adam and Eve would think they could decide the difference between good and evil, that they would be the ones to determine what was right and wrong, that they would be the norm of morality. This is the original temptation. "What’s right and wrong for me is up to me... What’s right and wrong for you is up to you... Do not impose your morality on me. . . I will create my own values... I am accountable to nobody but myself." In other words, it’s all up to my own personal choice. The original sin is to put choice above goodness and truth, to abuse freedom by trying to create what is right rather than submit to it. In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth, August 6, 1993), Pope John Paul II comments on Genesis 2:16-17. "With this image, revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone. The man is certainly free... But his freedom is not unlimited: It must halt before the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ for it is called to accept the moral law given by God" (VS #35).

By rebelling against the truth of the moral law, we die. God had warned Adam and Eve they would die if they disobeyed. The devil had to lie to them to introduce death into the world. So the original liar approached the original woman and offered the original lie: "You certainly will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4-5). Eve bought the lie, as did Adam, and they committed the original sin. Death then entered the world, on the heels of a lie.

The first murder

What is often missed in the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-16) is that before Cain committed the first murder, he denied God's sovereignty, thus falling under the deception of the original lie. Cain did not accept that the Sovereign God had every right to do what Gen. 4:4-5 says: "The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not." Rather than accepting God's sovereign choice, Cain rebelled against it.

Babel: The Lie Continues

The original lie continued at the tower of Babel, in Babylon. It is noteworthy that "bab-ili" means "gate of the gods." Here again, humans tried to exalt themselves to the status of God. "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves" (Gen. 11:4). "Let us make," they said, forgetting that God is the one who said, "Let us make man" (Gen. 1:26).

Seeing their forgetfulness and pride, God said, "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them" (Gen. 11:6). God was not saying here that He felt threatened. He was saying that people who have bought the lie that they themselves are the norm of truth and goodness will think they can do anything, and in trying to do so, will only destroy themselves. The original lie perpetuated will only perpetuate death. It is His infinite mercy and love that move Him to say, "Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech" (Gen. 11:17). Better for them to be scattered by God’s intervention than dashed on the rocks of their own pride! God confused the language only after the people had confused it first by speaking the lie that they could make a name for themselves, rather than submitting to the name (the truth) of God.

Babel Revisited in 1992

This lie continues in our day and, in fact, has become the official policy of America, according to the Supreme Court. In this decision on abortion, in which the error of Roe v. Wade was upheld, the Court stated, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992, [505 U.S.833,851]) This line is incredible! We cannot even decide the weather, and yet we are expected to define existence itself! We live in a universe we did not create, and yet we are declared to be the creators of that universe’s meaning! We did not call ourselves into life, yet we have the liberty to define the meaning of life! Not only is this absurd, but it is frightfully familiar: "You shall be like God, knowing good and evil." "Let us make a name for ourselves." "The gate of the gods." Perhaps the Court’s decision should be re-named "Eden and Babel Revisited."

Abortion Cloaked in Lies

The original lie leads to the ongoing slaughter of babies by abortion. The mother is told, "It’s your choice. It’s your freedom. It’s your body. Nobody can impose their morality on you." It is the lie that choice prevails over life itself.

Abortion continues thanks to many other lies as well. Women are lied to about the nature of the developing baby and about the effects of the abortion procedure. Carol Everett, herself a victim of abortion and once an abortion provider, wrote, "Like many others, I bought the big lie: 'It is only a glob of tissue not a baby.' I was a victim of all the other lies: Abortion is all right. After all, I do them all the time. It will be so simple. It’s only a glob of tissue. There’s really nothing to the procedure; it will only take a little while and then everything will be fine. You can have the abortion on Friday morning and be back to work on Monday." (The Scarlet Lady, p.101 ). The workers at the abortion center were trained to give as little information as possible, so that women would not know the truth.

The Elliot Institute in Springfield, Illinois, does research on the effects of abortion on women, and collects case studies in which women describe what led them to abortion and what consequences followed. Case after case shows how they were victimized by lies and half-truths. The efforts made to initiate widespread abortion in America were marked by lies, as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League, readily admits. Now a strong advocate for the right to life, he writes, "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal... It was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false" (Aborting America, p.193). A growing number of former abortion providers in our country are coming forward to tell how they lied to women before abortions and covered up the tracks of botched abortions by falsifying medical records.

The lies continue and murder continues.

The Splendor of Truth

The solution to the thinking of the evil one is the thinking of the Holy One. As Isaiah lifted the veil to show us the mind of Lucifer, so St. Paul lifts the veil to show us the mind of Christ: "Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. It was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross. Therefore God highly exalted him" (Phil. 2:6-9).

This attitude, which St. Paul says must be ours, counteracts the attitude that we exalt ourselves by our own choices. Rather, our exaltation, our freedom, and our fulfillment come from a humble acceptance of and obedience to a truth that we did not create. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil marks the limit of our choices. True freedom is the power to choose what is right, and to love as Christ did, by giving ourselves away for the good of the other person.

The solution, then, demands that we lift high the truth, so the attitude of Christ permeates our lives and the fabric of our society. Truth is on the side of life. Truth and life go together. Hence Christians proclaim the truth that the preborn child is a human person from the moment of conception; that love for the woman demands love for her child; that there are concrete, life-giving alternatives to abortion; that there are negative physical, psychological, and spiritual consequences of abortion; that choice never takes priority over life itself; and that freedom is found by submitting to the moral truth that comes from God rather than by trying to be God ourselves. Christ provides us the only way of salvation namely, Himself, for He is truth and life.

Ultimately we save the world from the bondage of abortion and every other sin by lifting Christ high. "If you continue in my Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32).

 The Sanctity of Life in the light of the Incarnation

We have already seen how the coming of Christ replaces the radical autonomy that leads to death with the submission to God's sovereignty which leads to life. The mystery of the Incarnation and the Cross, as well as lessons from the earthly mission of Christ, shed further light on the sanctity of life.

The Second Vatican Council declared, "By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 22). Human life was sacred already by its creation; now, God Himself begins existing in a human nature and there is a new marriage between humanity and divinity.

A new unity is also introduced into the human family. All human beings are one because they come from a single father, Adam, and a single mother, Eve, "the mother of all the living" (Gn 3:20). This oneness of the human race, which implies equality and the same basic rights for all, is solemnly repeated and inculcated again after the flood. To affirm again the common origin of all men, the tenth chapter of Genesis fully describes the origin of all humanity from Noah: "These three were the sons of Noah, and from them the whole earth was peopled" (Gn 9:19).

Both aspects, the divine dignity of the human race and the oneness of its origin and destiny, are definitively sealed in the figure of the second Adam, Christ. He becomes one of us, and then dies for us, to make us sons and daughters of God. And so the common dignity of all men appears with total clarity: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

The Sanctity of Life Manifested in the Cross

In explaining what was manifested on the cross, Paul writes, "It is precisely in this that God proves [shows, manifests] his love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." John puts it this way: "God's love was revealed in our midst in this way: he sent his only Son to the world" (1 Jn. 4:9).

John then develops the insight further: this love is our life. By loving, we become ourselves. Because this love is the very essence of God, then sharing in His life -- and hence the sanctity of our life -- consists of this capacity to love Him and one another.

John's first letter states it this way:

"That we have passed from death to life we know because we love the brothers. The man who does not love is among the living dead. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life abides in no murderer's heart. The way we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers. I ask you, how can God's love survive in a man who has enough of this world's goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?" (1 Jn. 3:14-17)

Notice how the passage related the existence of God's love (eternal life) in us with the response we give, in love, to the other person. It is on this truth that Mother Teresa based her frequent assertion that the meaning of life is "to give and receive love." In Evangelium Vitae, the Holy Father takes this to its ultimate conclusion: By the love He showed us on the cross, "Jesus proclaims that life finds its center, its meaning and its fulfillment when it is given up" (#51).

Where two or three gather

These reflections give new meaning to the familiar passage, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst." Whytwo or three? Isn't God present even when one is alone, or when nobody is there? Certainly, He is.

Yet our Lord's words here constitute another foundation for the assertion that human life is "the 'place' where God manifests himself, where we meet him and enter into communion with him"(#38). After all, it is only when the other(s), the second or third persons, are present, that we can give ourselves away to them. When we are "gathered together," we can "lay down our lives for our brothers." When the other person is face to face with us, we see God in his or her suffering, and can respond to it; we see God in his or her beauty and can rejoice in it; we see God in his or her self-giving and can give ourselves in return.

Christ and Creation

Christ not only saved the world, but made it. The earliest New Testament reference to this is 1 Corinthians 8:6, "For us there is... one Lord, Jesus Christ through Whom all things are and through Whom we exist." Colossians reiterates the theme. "All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all else that is, and in Him everything continues in being" (Col.1:16-17). It is the message of John's Prologue. "In the beginning was the Word.... All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be in Him was life...(John 1:1-3; See also Heb.1:2; Prov.8:30).

Christ is Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13); He is the beginning of life and the purpose of life. He is the answer to the child's question, "Mommy, why are there stars and mountains and people?" To stand for Christ is to stand for creation and for life; to minister Christ to the world is to minister life. The pre-born child exists through Him and for Him. To be silent about that child's destruction is to betray both the child and Christ. To bring salvation to God's people is first of all to defend their very existence.

Christ is the "Yes"

Abortion, essentially, is a "No" to the plan and gift of God. St. Paul tells us, however, that Christ is the ultimate, definitive "Yes" to God (2Cor1:19-20). The Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God's goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendor of that "Yes", that "Amen" who is Christ himself. To the "No" which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living "Yes," thus defending the human person and the world from all who plot against and harm life. Abortion is not only a sin against life; it is a sin against hope. Christ's "Yes" is the basis for the hope that welcomes life.

The Sanctity of Life Manifested in the Church

Abortion is a contradiction to the very nature of the Church. As we have already seen, by His Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, Christ has robbed death of its power, and inaugurated the Kingdom of God. He stands at the head of a new humanity, which all people are invited to join by faith and baptism.

The Bride of Christ

Scripture declares that the Church is the Bride of Christ, and that Christian marriage is a reflection of the marriage of Christ and the Church (see Eph. 5:21-33). Because this marriage can never be broken, and always brings forth new children by the preaching of the faith and the waters of baptism, so the Christian marriage of man and woman is indissoluble and must be open to the gift of children.

The Church, as Bride, receives the seed of the Word. The Church, like Mary the Mother of Christ, constantly nourishes and meditates on the Word she has received (see Lk. 2:51). As Mary gave birth to Christ, so the Church gives Christ to the world each day. The Church is pro-life precisely because she is feminine.

Freedom in Christ

God has given us personal liberty as a tremendous gift that cannot be despised. Scripture not only reveals the existence of such liberty, but shows that its fullness is found precisely in Christ. Redeemed and transformed by Him, we find ourselves sharing a life and liberty, which is no longer merely our own, but Christ's. (See Rom.12:2, Gal.2:20). Far from being separate sources of purely private liberty, we become one Body (Eph 4:15-16, 1Cor12:12). Our union with Christ does not squelch or destroy our personal liberty, but enhances and strengthens it. (Jn.8:31-32;14:12). By this very dynamic, we freely choose the love of Christ and one another, and this involves precisely the rejection of what is contrary to love and to the Gospel (Col.3:5-11). It involves the rejection of acts that destroy others.

Christian worship

It is no accident that surveys reveal that the more frequently a person attends Church, the more likely they are to be pro-life. The reason is that the attitude of "pro-choice" is contradictory to the attitude of worship. "Pro-choice" says, "I am the master of my choices." Worship says, "God is my Master, and I lay all my choices and my very life before Him."

Two lessons each person needs to learn are, "1.There is a God. 2. It isn't me." The Church at worship acknowledges that God is God, and that "it is [His] right to receive the obedience of all creation." (Sacramentary, Preface for Weekdays III). Abortion, on the contrary, proclaims that a mother's choice is supreme. "Freedom of choice" is considered enough to justify even the dismemberment of a baby. Choice divorced from truth is idolatry. It is the opposite of true worship. It pretends the creature is God. Real freedom is found only in submission to the truth and will of God. Real freedom is not the ability to do whatever one pleases, but the power to do what is right.

It is instructive that in our culture of abortion on demand, many of the hymns, prayers, and sermons in Christian worship have made the individual, the "I", the subject of worship rather than God.

Baptism

Abortion is a contradiction to baptism. Consider what the Church does in the celebration of baptism. A child is brought into the congregation, and is welcomed by all who are present as a brother, a sister. Despite the fact that all but a few of the gathered Christians do not know this child, and did not know the child's name, they declare before God that they now accept the child as one of them. Baptism expresses God's unconditional welcome of His people, His call to them to share His life. Baptism expresses the hospitality of God's Church, and theresponsibility incurred by the fact that God has entrusted us to the care of one another.

The Eucharist

Our commitment to defend our pre-born brothers and sisters is also reflected in the Church's celebration of the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist. Despite the differences in Eucharistic doctrine among Christian denominations, we can draw powerful theological insights from this aspect of the Church's life and worship.

The Eucharist is a sign of faith. Some Christians maintain that at the Eucharist, the bread actually becomes the Body of Christ. For these worshipers, the Consecrated Host looks no different after the consecration than before. It looks, smells, feels, and tastes like bread. Only one of the five senses gets to the truth. As St. Thomas' Adoro Te Devote expresses, "Seeing, touching, tasting are in Thee deceived. What says trusty hearing, that shall be believed?" The ears hear His words, "This is My Body; this is My Blood," and faith takes us beyond the veil of appearances.

Christians are used to looking beyond appearances. The baby in the manger does not look like God; nor for that matter does the man on the cross. Yet by faith we know He is no mere man. The Bible does not have a particular glow setting it off from other books, nor does it levitate above the shelf. Yet by faith we know it is uniquely the Word of God. The Eucharist seems to be bread and wine, and yet by faith we say, "My Lord and My God!" as we kneel in adoration.

The same dynamic of faith that enables us to see beyond appearances in these mysteries enables us to see beyond appearances in our neighbor. We can look at the persons around us, at the annoying person or the ugly person or the person who is unconscious in a hospital bed, and we can say, "Christ is there as well. There is my bother, my sister, made in the very image of God!" By the same dynamic we can look at the pre-born child and say, "There, too, is my brother, my sister, equal in dignity and just as worthy of protection as anyone else!" Some people will say the child in the womb, especially in the earliest stages, is too small to be the subject of Constitutional rights. Is the Sacred Host too small to be God, too unlike Him in appearance to be worshipped? The slightest particle of the Host is fully Christ. Eucharistic Faith is a powerful antidote to the dangerous notion that value depends on size.

The Eucharist is also a sign of Unity. "When I am lifted up from the earth," the Lord said, "I will draw all people to myself" (Jn.12:32). He fulfills this promise in the Eucharist, which builds up the Church. The Church is the sign and cause of the unity of the human family.

Imagine all the people, in every part of the world, who are receiving Communion today. Are they all receiving their own personalized, customized Christ? Are they not rather each receiving the one and only Christ? Through this sacrament, Christ the Lord, gloriously enthroned in heaven, is drawing all people to Himself. If He is drawing us to Himself, then He is drawing us to one another. St. Paul comments on this, "We, many though we are, are one body, since we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). When we call each other "brothers and sisters," we are not merely using a metaphor that dimly reflects the unity between children of the same parents. The unity we have in Christ is even stronger than the unity of blood brothers and sisters, because we do have common blood: the blood of Christ! The result of the Eucharist is that we become one, and this obliges us to be as concerned for each other as we are for our own bodies.

Imagine a person who receives Communion, accepts the Host when the priest says, "The Body of Christ," says "Amen," and then breaks off a piece, hands it back, and says, "Except this piece!" This is what the person who rejects other people may as well do. In receiving Christ, we are to receive the whole Christ, in all his members, our brothers and sisters, whether convenient or inconvenient, wanted or unwanted.

As St. John remarks, Christ was to die "to gather into one all the scattered children of God." Sin scatters. Christ unites. The word "diabolical" means "to split asunder." Christ came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn.3:8). The Eucharist builds up the human family in Christ who says, "Come to me, feed on My Body, become My Body." Abortion, in a reverse dynamic, says, "Go away! We have no room for you, no time for you, no desire for you, no responsibility for you. Get out of our way!" Abortion attacks the unity of the human family by splitting asunder the most fundamental relationship between any two persons: mother and child. The Eucharist, as a Sacrament of Unity, reverses the dynamic of abortion.

The Eucharist is the sign of Life. "I am the Bread of Life. He who eats this bread will live forever. I will raise Him up on the last day." (See Jn.6:47-58) The Eucharistic sacrifice is the very action of Christ by which He destroyed our death and restored our life. Whenever we gather for this sacrifice we are celebrating the victory of life over death, and therefore over abortion. The pro-life movement is not simply working "for" victory; we are working "from" victory. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided. Our work is to apply the already established victory to every facet of our society.

The Eucharist is, finally, the sign of Love. St. John explains, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1Jn.3:16). Christ teaches, "Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn.15:13). The best symbol of love is not the heart, but rather the crucifix.

Abortion is the exact opposite of love. Love says, "I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion says, "I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself." In the Eucharist we see the meaning of love and receive the power to live it. The very same words, furthermore, that the Lord uses to teach us the meaning of love are also used by those who promote abortion: "This is my body." These four little words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with totally opposite results. Christ gives His body away so others might live; abortion supporters cling to their own bodies so others might die. Christ says "This is My Body given up for you; This is My Blood shed for you." These are the words of sacrifice; these are the words of love.

In Washington in 1994 Mother Teresa said that we fight abortion by teaching the mother what love really means: "to be willing to give until it hurts...So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child."

Human happiness and fulfillment are never found by pushing other people out of the way. They are found when we push ourselves out of the way. Pope John Paul II says as much in Evangelium Vitae #51: "He who had come "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45), attains on the cross the heights of love: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). And he died for us while we were yet sinners (cf. Rom. 5:8). In this way Jesus proclaims that life finds its center, its meaning and its fulfillment when it is given up. At this point our meditation becomes praise and thanksgiving, and at the same time urges us to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pt. 2:21).

We too are called to give our lives for our brothers and sisters, and thus to realize in the fullness of truth the meaning and destiny of our existence."

Gustave Thibon has said that the true God transforms violence into suffering, while the false god transforms suffering into violence. The woman tempted to have an abortion will transform her suffering into violence unless she allows love to transform her, and make her willing to give herself away. The Eucharist gives both the lesson and the power. Mom is to say "This is my body, my blood, my life, given up for you my child."

Everyone who wants to fight abortion needs to say the same. We need to exercise the same generosity we ask the mothers to exercise. We need to imitate the mysteries we celebrate. "Do this in memory of me" applies to all of us in the sense that we are to lovingly suffer with Christ so others may live. We are to be like lightning rods in the midst of this terrible storm of violence and destruction, and say, "Yes, Lord, I am willing to absorb some of this violence and transform it by love into personal suffering, so that others may live."

Indeed, the Eucharist gives the pro-life movement its marching orders. It also provides the source of its energy, which is love. Indeed, if the pro-life movement is not a movement of love, then it is nothing at all. But if it is a movement of love, then nothing will stop it, for "Love is stronger than death, more powerful even than hell" (Song of Songs 8:6).

The Holy Spirit and Abortion

"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life." How does Biblical doctrine about the Holy Spirit illumine the abortion issue?

No new gospel. The Holy Spirit is God, and all He does and speaks to us is consistent with what God the Father and God the Son have done and spoken. "He will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears…because he will have received from me what he will announce to you" (Jn. 16:13-14) "The Holy Spirit…will…remind you of all that I told you" (Jn.14:26). No disciple can claim the "freedom of the Spirit" to contradict the commandments, including that which forbids the killing of the innocent.

Creator blest. The creation account in Genesis 1 tells us that "a mighty wind," the "breath" or "spirit" of God hovered over the waters and brought life and light out of chaos and darkness. The Holy Spirit is proclaimed in the Creed to be "the Lord and Giver of Life," and this is true both on a natural and supernatural level. To worship the Holy Spirit, then, demands that we stand against all that destroys life.

On the first Easter night, Jesus breathes His Spirit upon the apostles (Jn.20:22), that they too might bring new life out of the chaos and darkness of sin. A second Creation account is taking place here. God indeed "has sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins" (Prayer of Absolution). The same Spirit who causes sin to flee will cause death to flee as well. "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will bring your mortal bodies to life also, through his Spirit dwelling in you" (Rom.8:11).

The Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth (see Jn.15:26), and His gifts enable us to understand created realities, their value, and their relationship to the Creator and to our own happiness. We can therefore ask the Holy Spirit to give us an understanding of the value of the human person. The Spirit enables us to cry out, "Abba! Father!" "The Spirit himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom.8:16). Abortion, on the other hand, sees the human person as a disposable object.

The Spirit of Truth likewise shows us the truth about our sins (see Jn.16:8). In Him we come to understand the difference between good and evil. This works directly against the dynamics of the abortion movement, which identifies a moral evil as a "right." "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!" (Is.5:20). Devotion to the Holy Spirit is a key element in praying for the conversion of mind and heart necessary for those who defend and perform abortions.

The Advocate. St. John declares, "If anyone should sin, we have, in the presence of the Father, Jesus Christ, an intercessor who is just" (1Jn.2:1). Our Lord referred to the Holy Spirit as another advocate (Jn.14:16), and St. Paul writes that he "makes intercession for us" (Rom.8:26). Because we cannot save ourselves, we need an advocate to speak up on our behalf and plead for our forgiveness and salvation. We know we have precisely that.

What, then, does the Holy Spirit do to his people when he comes to them? He makes them advocates! He gives speech to the tongue, not only that we may tell who God is, but that we may defend those among us who need advocates. The Pentecost Sequence invokes the Spirit as "Father of the Poor." Just as the Messiah will defend the poor and helpless (see Is.11), so do the people of the Messiah, filled with his Spirit.

Spirit of Love. Jesus Christ made the sacrifice of Himself "through the eternal spirit" (Heb.9:14). It is in the Holy Spirit that we too have the power to love, which consists in giving ourselves away for the good of the other. "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn. 15:13, see also 1Jn.3:16). Such is to be our response to the unborn.

The Spirit Himself is the bond of love between the Father and the Son. He unites the human family, whereas abortion divides it.

Confidence. The same Holy Spirit who created the universe, descended upon the womb of Mary, came as tongues of fire at Pentecost, and leads the Church on her mission, is the one who calls and equips us for our pro-life work. Those who build a Culture of Life should not lack for a moment the confidence and the joy that come from Him.

Scriptural Themes

The Bible clearly teaches that abortion is wrong. This teaching comes across in many ways and for many reasons. Some people point out that the word "abortion" is not in the Bible, and that is true. Nevertheless, the teaching about abortion is there. This is the case with many teachings. The word "Trinity" is not in the Bible, but the teaching about the Trinity is there. In any case, a person who wants to deny the teaching about abortion would deny it even if the word were there.

Let’s look at some of the Biblical reasons why abortion, the deliberate destruction of a child in the womb, is very wrong.

1. God has absolute dominion over human life.

This theme is reflected in the creation accounts and in all the Scriptural passages declaring God to be Lord of the universe. Because God has made us, our lives and bodies are not our own, nor are our choices absolute. "None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants" (Rom.14:7-8). "You are not your own. You have been purchased, and at a price" (1Cor.6:19-20).

2. The Bible teaches that human life is different from other types of life, because human beings are made in the very image of God.

The accounts of the creation of man and woman in Genesis (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-25) tell us this: "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).

The word "create" is used three times here, emphasizing a special crowning moment in the whole process of God’s making the world and everything in it. The man and woman are given "dominion" over everything else in the visible world.

Not even the original sin takes away the image of God in human beings. St. James refers to this image and says that because of it we should not even speak ill of one another. "With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the image of God . . . This ought not be so, brothers" (James 3:9-10).

The image of God! This is what it means to be human! We are not just a bunch of cells randomly thrown together by some impersonal forces. Rather, we really reflect an eternal God who knew us from before we were made, and purposely called us into being.

At the heart of the abortion tragedy is the question raised in the Psalms: "Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man that you keep him in mind? . . . With glory and honor you crowned him, giving him power over the works of your hands" (Psalm 8:5-7).

There is the key. Not only did God make us, but He values us. The Bible tells us of a God who is madly in love with us, so much so that He became one of us and even died for us while we were still offending Him (see Romans 5:6-8).

All of this clearly contradicts the statement abortion makes, that is, that human life is disposable.

3. The Bible teaches that children are a blessing.

God commanded our first parents to "Be fertile and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Why? God Himself is fertile. Love always overflows into life. When the first mother brought forth the first child, she exclaimed, "I have brought forth a man with the help of the Lord" (Genesis 4:1). The help of the Lord is essential, for He has dominion over human life and is its origin. Parents cooperate with God in bringing forth life. Because this whole process is under God’s dominion, it is sinful to interrupt it. The prophet Amos condemns the Ammonites "because they ripped open expectant mothers in Gilead" (Amos 1:13).

"Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3).

4. The Bible teaches that the child in the womb is truly a human child, who even has a relationship with the Lord.

The phrase "conceived and bore" is used repeatedly (see Genesis 4:1,17) and the individual has the same identity before as after birth. "In sin my mother conceived me," the repentant psalmist says in Psalm 51:7. The same word is used for the child before and after birth (Brephos, that is, "infant," is used in Luke 1:41 and Luke 18:15.)

God knows the preborn child. "You knit me in my mother’s womb . . . nor was my frame unknown to you when I was made in secret" (Psalm 139:13,15). God also helps and calls the preborn child. "You have been my guide since I was first formed . . . from my mother’s womb you are my God" (Psalm 22:11-12). "God… from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace" (St. Paul to the Galatians 1:15).

5. Scripture repeatedly condemns the killing of the innocent.

This flows from everything that has been seen so far. God’s own finger writes in stone the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) and Christ reaffirms it (Matthew 19:18 - notice that He mentions this commandment first). The Book of Revelation affirms that (unrepentant) murderers cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 22:15). (The commandment, literally translated, is "Thou shalt not murder." It concerns taking the lives of the innocent, leaving aside the authority of the state to execute convicted criminals or to conduct a defensive war against aggressors.)

The killing of children is especially condemned by God through the prophets. In the land God gave his people to occupy, foreign nations had the custom of sacrificing some of their children in fire. God told His people that they were not to share in this sin. They did, however, as Psalm 106 relates: "They mingled with the nations and learned their works…They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and they shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, desecrating the land with bloodshed" (Psalm 106:35, 37-38).

This sin of child-sacrifice, in fact, is mentioned as one of the major reasons that the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians and the people taken into exile. "They mutilated their sons and daughters by fire…till the Lord, in his great anger against Israel, put them away out of his sight" (2 Kings 17:17-18).

Notice that this practice was a religious ritual. Not even for "religious freedom" can the killing of children be tolerated.

6. The Bible teaches that God is a God of justice.

An act of justice is an act of intervention for the helpless, an act of defense for those who are too weak to defend themselves. In foretelling the Messiah, Psalm 72 says, "Justice shall flower in his days…for he shall rescue the poor man when he cries out and the afflicted when he has no one to help him" (Psalms 72:7,12). Jesus Christ is our justice (1 Corinthians 1:30) because He rescued us from sin and death when we had none to help us (see Romans 5:6, Ephesians 2:45).

If God does justice for His people, He expects His people to do justice for one another. "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). "Love one another" (John 15:17).

Abortion is the opposite of these teachings. It is a reversal of justice. It is a destruction of the helpless rather than a rescue of them. If God’s people do not intervene to save those whose lives are attacked, then the people are not pleasing or worshiping Him.

God says through Isaiah, "Trample my courts no more! Bring no more worthless offerings…Your festivals I detest…When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean…learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow" (Isaiah 1:13-17).

Indeed, those who worship God but promote abortion are falling into the same contradiction as God’s people of old, and need to hear the same message.

7. Jesus Christ paid special attention to the poor, the despised, and those whom the rest of society considered insignificant.

He broke down the false barriers that people set up among themselves, and instead acknowledged the equal human dignity of every individual, despite what common opinion might say. Hence we see Him reach out to children despite the efforts of the apostles to keep them away (Matthew 19:13-15); to tax collectors and sinners despite the objections of the Scribes (Mark 2:16); to the blind despite the warnings of the crowd (Matthew 20:29-34); to a foreign woman despite the utter surprise of the disciples and of the woman herself (John 4:9, 27); to Gentiles despite the anger of the Jews (Matthew 21:41-46); and to the lepers, despite their isolation from the rest of society (Luke 17:11-19).

When it comes to human dignity, Christ erases distinctions. St. Paul declares, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

We can likewise say, "There is neither born nor unborn." Using this distinction as a basis for the value of life or the protection one deserves is meaningless and offensive to all that Scripture teaches. The unborn are the segment of our society which is most neglected and discriminated against. Christ Himself surely has a special love for them.

8. Scripture teaches us to love.

St. John says, "This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the evil one and slaughtered his brother" (1 John 3:11-12). Love is directly contrasted with slaughter. To take the life of another is to break the command of love. To fail to help those in need and danger is also to fail to love. Christ teaches this clearly in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and in many other places. As the Christian Church, webelong to the new life that is love, because we belong to Christ, not the evil one.

No group of people is in more serious danger than the boys and girls in the womb. "If someone…sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in Him?" (1 John 3:17). Love, then, is what fuels the pro-life movement, impelling us to save the lives of children and provide life-giving alternatives to their parents. Love likewise demands that we reach out with compassion and healing to all wounded by abortion. If the pro-life movement is not a movement of love, it is nothing; but if it is a movement of love, nothing can stop it, for "Love is more powerful than death" (Song of Songs 8:6).

Abortion, in short, is the opposite of love. Love means, "I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person." Abortion means, "I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself."

9. Life is victorious over death.

This is one of Scripture’s most basic themes. The victory of life is foretold in the promise that the head of the serpent, through whom death entered the world, would be crushed (see Genesis 3:15).

Isaiah promised, "He will destroy death forever" (Isaiah 25:8). At the scene of the first murder, the soil "opened its mouth" to swallow Abel’s blood. At the scene of the final victory of life, it is death itself that "will be swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Abortion is death. Christ came to conquer death, and therefore abortion. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

The final outcome of the battle for life has already been decided by the Resurrection of Christ. We are not just working for victory; we are working from victory. We joyfully take a victory that has already been won, and proclaim, celebrate, and serve it until He comes again to bring it to its fullness. "There shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4). "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).

Expanding upon Some Specific Passages

1. Gen. 4:8-16 Am I my Brother's Keeper?

"Let us go out into the field," Cain said to his younger brother Abel. When they were in the field, Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4:8). The Lord then asked Cain, "Where is your brother?" This was the most uncomfortable question Cain had yet faced in his life. How could he stand up to God and explain the murder of his own brother? It was an issue he wished would go away; it was a truth too hard to deal with. So, in a desperate attempt to dodge the issue, he claimed ignorance. "I do not know," was his response to God.

It is interesting to note that the United States Supreme Court, in its 1973 abortion decision Roe vs. Wade, faced the same question and gave the same answer. "Where is your brother?" The Court responded, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." [410 U.S. 113, 159] In other words, "I don't know."

Then Cain went on to challenge God for asking the question in the first place. "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9) With these words, he tried to absolve himself of responsibility for his brother. Abel's whereabouts, his safety, his very life were not the responsibility of Cain! This response is mirrored today by those who claim they are just "minding their own business" rather than getting involved in the effort to end abortion.

God, however, called Cain back at once to take responsibility for his own actions against his brother. "What have you done?" God demanded. Cain wanted the issue to go away, but it wouldn't go away. The issue was as close to Cain as Cain himself. It was his own action that took his brother's life. Yes, he is his brother's keeper by the very fact that he is his brother. His brother has rights which he must "keep;" that is, respect and, if necessary, defend. Cain had done the opposite. He held his brother's rights in contempt. He had no regard for his brother's very right to life. He tried to conceal his action by taking his brother into the field, where nobody else would see them. Yet God confirms that the deed cannot be covered over. "Listen," God tells Cain, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil!" (Gen. 4:10) The issue just won't go away.

We are our brothers' keepers; this is not an option. Rather, it flows from our very existence as sons and daughters of one God in one human family. We do not only have responsibilities toward those we choose. Rather, we have responsibilities towards one another even before we choose. We have responsibility especially for the weakest and most defenseless ones in our society, the unborn, who are daily ripped apart in their mothers' womb by abortion.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is ultimately the one who answers Cain's argument, "Am I my brother's keeper?" and our arguments about "minding our business" and about "privacy." Christ is the one who teaches us in clear terms that we do have responsibility to each other, and that we cannot make the issue of injustice to our neighbor go away. For Christ declares to us, "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12). How did he love us? St. Paul tells us, "It is precisely in this that God shows his love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). In other words, Christ took the initiative. He came to us and died for us before our asking him and without our deserving him. We were totally helpless. He acted out of pure love when he saw our need. He made our plight his business. He didn't hesitate for one minute; he didn't ask His Father, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

As Christ loved us, so must we love our pre-born brothers and sisters. We do not love them because they ask it or merit it. We love them because they are our brothers and sisters in need. Abortion is an issue that is solved not by wishing it away or ignoring it. It is solved only by active love. We are our brother's keeper.

2. Ex.20:16 Abortion and the Eighth Commandment

We usually think of abortion as a violation of the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," and that is true. But abortion is wrong for many reasons. It breaks all the commandments.

The Eighth Commandment says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." This is not only a matter of falsely testifying that somebody did something wrong, as we see, for example, in the Old Testament story of Susanna (Daniel 13). This commandment also forbids false testimony about who our neighbor is, about what value and dignity our neighbor possesses, and about what our obligations to our neighbor are.

The question in abortion is not only, "When does life begin?" but more deeply, "What does life mean?" What are the implications of being human? Is human life disposable when it is unwanted, or inconvenient, or not recognized by a government? Is there anything about human existence that cries out for recognition and protection apart from what a particular society decides to bestow? What is the truth about humanity? What is the human person destined for? Are we made for the grave or for the skies?

Abortion not only takes a life; it makes a statement about life, and not only about the life it takes, but about the lives of all of us. Abortion says we are disposable. Abortion says our value is determined by others. Abortion says there is no intrinsic dignity in human life that requires its absolute protection, and no destiny that reaches beyond this world or even beyond this Supreme Court.

Do not bear false witness against your neighbor! Abortion lies about the human person. Christ, on the other hand, reveals the truth about human life (see Vatican II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World #22.) Particularly by His Ascension, He shows that we are made for the heights of heaven. "I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne" (Rev.3:21). One can hardly believe that and at the same time allow human beings to be thrown in the medical waste bag.

"Lord, what is man that You care for him?" (Ps.8:5). The psalmist asked the question, and God Himself answered it in Christ. Christians are to faithfully echo that answer in their treatment of human life.

3. Mt.7:12 The Golden Rule

When we come close to Christ, He makes it very clear how we are to respond to our neighbor. These, in fact, are the first two Commandments of Christ's Law: love God above all; love your neighbor as yourself. Two sayings of our Lord make it clear how we must love our neighbor. One is the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The other is, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to Me."

These words of Christ help us deal with abortion. Our response to abortion is a response to a tiny, helpless child and his/her mother. Apply the Golden Rule. Put yourself in the child’s place. (We were all in the womb at one point ourselves.) Would you want to be cared for and nourished and brought safely to birth, or aborted? How easily the child is forgotten, because he/she is not seen and cannot protest the abortion decision. But who would want to be killed in his/her mother's womb? The Golden Rule also applies to the mother. If you were afraid because you felt you could not handle a pregnancy, what would you want? Help! We need to commit ourselves to help mothers raise their children, not kill them. There are over 3,000 helping centers throughout the country, but they need more assistance from all of us.

Our Lord also tells us, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me." After we put ourselves in the position of the pre-born child and the mother, we then put Christ Himself there! Surely the pre-born child is the "least" of His brothers and sisters! The preborn have the least power, the least protection, the least voice. They cannot speak, vote, protest, or even pray! The mothers also are often so alone, and cast aside by those who don't understand their problems. Christ makes it clear: by helping both mother and child, we are helping Him! By rejecting the mother and child, we reject Him! To love one another as Christ taught us demands that we reject abortion completely, and work for better, life-giving choices.

4. Lk.16:19-31 The Lazarus of the 20th Century

We learn many lessons from those who go to heaven. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we learn a lesson from one who went to hell.

Why was the Rich Man condemned? Was it because he had so much? Was there something inherently sinful about the purple and linen in which he dressed, or the feasts in which he indulged? No. The rich man went to hell because he ignored the other man. He was not condemned for what he did, but for what he did not do. He did not recognize or treat Lazarus as his equal, his brother. Instead, he thought that because Lazarus' possessions were less valuable than his, that Lazarus was less valuable than he. The beggar's cries went unheeded.

The story causes us to wonder what we would do if we were there. Yet as Christians we acknowledge that we are there. The Lazarus of the 20th century is in our midst. He is in our midst in the poor, the troublesome, the annoying, the person who is smaller and weaker than we are, and the person who seems different and less valuable.

In particular, the Lazarus of the 20th century is our preborn brother or sister, rejected thousands of times a day in our country.

The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned if we do not treat the preborn as our brother or sister. Many oppose abortion and would never have one, but they then ask, "Who am I to interfere with a woman's choice to abort?" The Gospel tells you who you are. You are a brother, a sister of that child in the womb! "Who am I to interfere with her choice?" You are a human being who has enough decency to stand up and say "No!" when you see another human being about to be killed. "Who am I to interfere with her choice?" You are a person who has enough wisdom to realize that injustice to one human being is injustice to every human being, and that your life is only as safe as the life of the preborn child. "Who am I to interfere with her choice?" You are a follower of the One who said, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to Me." Do we not believe that if we allow a person to die of starvation, that we are allowing Christ to die of starvation? Do we not believe that if we leave the sick untended, that we are leaving Christ untended? Must we not then also believe that whenever a child in the womb is ripped apart, burned, crushed, and then thrown away, that Christ is ripped apart, burned, crushed, and thrown away? It is Christ in the womb! When we stand up for life we stand up for Him!

5. 1 Jn.4:7-10; Jn. 15:9-17 Love Leads to Life

The basis of Christianity is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christians rejoice in the Resurrection, because it is the victory of life not only for Christ but for each person who believes in Him. Christ's rising from the grave means that we too will rise from the grave!

The victory of life is also the victory of love. From the first page of Scripture to the last, it is clear that love leads to life. These two realities cannot be separated, because they are rooted in the one God, who cannot be divided. Scripture tells us that God is love (1Jn. 4:8). Scripture also tells us that God is life (see Jn.14:6). Love and life always go together.

We see this in creation. Where were you 100 years ago today? You were nowhere; you did not exist. So why are you here today? How were you rescued from that nothingness you were once in? Certainly you did not ask to be born. You weren't there to do the asking. Certainly you did not earn it because you weren't there to do anything that could earn it. What accounts for the fact that you are here? We can say that your parents came together and you were conceived and born, and that is true. But that doesn't fully answer the question of why you are here. When your parents came together, there could have been millions of possible people conceived and born, who would have been your brothers or sisters. It didn't have to be you!

The only ultimate explanation of why you are here is that God loves you. He chose you to be! In fact, at each moment He is literally loving you into existence. If He stopped loving you for one instant, you would fall back into the nothingness you were in 100 years ago. Love leads to life.

This is clear also in the mystery of salvation. St. John tells us, "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his only Son into the world that we might have life through him" (1Jn 4:9). Christ's love for us brought Him to the cross, and this led to the victory of life. The crucifix is the best symbol of love. Love is self-giving for the good of another person. Christ gives His life for us, without complaining and without counting the cost. His concern is that we might have life.

Having shown His love for us in this way, He instructs us, "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn. 15:12). He does not say, "Love one another in whatever way you want," but rather, "as I have loved you." We are called to love in a way that brings forth new life. We are called to give ourselves, without counting the cost, that others may live.

Parents, therefore, cooperate with the work of God when their love for each other becomes a new human being. The child they bear belongs to God first. Only God can create. Mother and father are participating in the work of God. Parents do not own their children; God does. In fact, parents do not own themselves. Many people today say, "This is my life, my body, my choice." But we are not our own masters. We belong to God. "Nobody lives as his own master and nobody dies as his own master" (Rom.14:7). "You are not your own" (1Cor. 6:19).

The choice to be a mother or father is not merely a human choice. It is God's choice first. Our Lord tells us, "It is not you who have chosen Me. I have chosen you, to go forth and bear fruit" (Jn.15:16). A parent becomes a parent before s/he knows it. One is a father or mother as soon as his/her child begins to exist, and it is scientific fact that the child begins to exist at the moment of conception. Parents discover that they have become parents several weeks after the fact. A pregnant woman should not say, "I'm expecting a child." The child already exists. Nor should she say, "I'm going to be a mother." She already is. And the man is already a father.

There is nothing comparable to having a child. Everything that a person owns is less valuable than himself. Even if someone owns a multimillion dollar corporation, all that money is ultimately a pile of rocks. Even gold will eventually fade away into nothing. But a child, given an immortal soul and the call to eternal life, will never go out of existence. For all eternity, as long as God is God, the child, the person, will always exist. A child is equal to his/her parents. He is not equal in age, nor in knowledge, nor in experience, but the child is equal in dignity, in value, in worth as a person created in God's image and redeemed by Christ.

A parent is called to love his/her children as Christ has loved us. "Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). A mother who demonstrates this in a particularly striking way is Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla, who died in 1962 and was declared "blessed" by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994. She was a doctor and mother of three children. When she became pregnant with her fourth, it was discovered that she had a tumor near her uterus. She made it very clear to her doctor and her family that she wanted everything done to save the life of her baby. The baby was born healthy but despite efforts to save her, Gianna died several days later at the age of 39. "This is absurd," some may say. But look again at the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. "Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn.15:13).

Most parents will not be called to face what Gianna Molla faced, but all parents, and all Christians, are called to lay down their lives for the sake of others in so many ways every day.

Partial List of Individual Scripture references

Gen. 1:1-2,26-28 Creation of man

Gen. 2:7-8,18,21-24 Creation of man and woman

Gen. 4:8-16 The first killing of the innocent

Ex. 20:1-17 The Decalogue

Lev. 19:15-18 Love of your neighbor’s life

Deut. 30:15-20 Choose Life!

Jeremiah 7:27-31 The rebuke of child sacrifice

Ezekiel 23:36-39 Child sacrifice

Wisdom 1:12-15 God did not make death.

Wisdom 7:1-6 I was formed in the womb.

2 Kings 24:1-4 The exile occurred because innocent blood was shed.

Proverbs 6:16-19 The Lord hates six things.

Jeremiah 1:4-8 I called you from the womb.

Isaiah 49:1-6 The Lord called me from the womb.

Isaiah 49:14-17 Can a mother forget her infant?

Isaiah 1:10-17 Do justice!

Amos 5:21-24 Let justice roll down like a river!

Psalm 72 He will save the weak from violence!

Psalm 82 Rescue the weak!

Psalm 139 You knit me together in the womb!

Proverbs 24:8-12 Rescue those taken to death!

Matt. 18:1-6,10-14 Do not despise the little ones.

Matt. 25:31-46 Whatsoever you do to the least...

Mark 10:13-16 He blessed children.

Luke 1:39-45 The babe leapt in the womb.

Luke 6:20-26 Beatitudes and woes

Luke 10:29-37 The Good Samaritan is neighbor to anyone in need.

Luke 16:19-31 The Lazarus of the 20th Century: The Unborn Child

John 1:1-5 All things, all life, comes through Christ.

John 10:7-15 The Good Shepherd came to give us life.

John 11:17-27 Christ is the Life.

John 14:1-6 Christ is the Life.

1 Cor. 15:51-58 The victory belongs to life; you do not labor in vain.

Eph. 6:10-20 Be strong in this battle!

James 1:22-27 Religion requires us to help the helpless.

1 John 3:11-18 Love rather than kill.

Rev. 4:8-11 You have created all things.

Rev. 21:1-5 Death shall be no more!

The doctrine of "Bloodguilt"

Deuteronomy 21:1-9 describes a ritual that God's people had to carry out whenever anyone was found slain and it was not known who did the killing. Scripture reads, "[Y]our elders and your judges shall come forth, and they shall measure the distance to the cities which are around him that is slain" (v.2). Those from the nearest city then needed to sacrifice a heifer, and their elders were to pray these words: "Our hands did not shed this blood, neither did our eyes see it shed. Forgive, O Lord, thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and set not the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of thy people Israel; but let the guilt of blood be forgiven them" (v.8).

What is happening here? Obviously, when innocent blood is shed, something happens in the land; something happens to the people in the land in their relationship to God, even if they are not the ones who shed the blood. As the account of the first murder makes clear, the innocent, though slain, still speak. "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground" (Gen. 4:10).

The people of God are bound up in an inescapable mutuality, a responsibility for one another that transcends their own choosing. We see again, in Isaiah 1:10-20, that God tells His people "Your hands are full of blood" (v. 15). They were not doing the killing, but because the killing was occurring in their midst, they had a responsibility to intervene. Hence the passage continues with the instructions, "Seek justice, correct oppression" (v.17).

What of us? Our land is polluted with the innocent blood of tens of millions of aborted children. Is it enough in the sight of God that we ourselves have not done the killing? Scripture says this is not enough. We know where the killing is occurring, we know how, and we know who is doing it. Abortion is publicly advertised and advocated. Because it occurs in our midst, we are inescapably involved.

What, then, are we to do? We are to repent. We need to see abortion not just as somebody else's sin, but as our sin. Even if we have never participated in an abortion, we must ask forgiveness for it. It is easy to blame abortion on those who do it and support it. But we must also blame ourselves. This is a spiritual dynamic which has to undergird all of our other activities to end abortion. Usually, people think that the spiritual thing to do about abortion is to "pray." Truly, we must pray. But first and foremost we are called to repent, to take responsibility for the innocent blood that has been shed, and then to intervene to save the helpless.

Fortunately, the blood of another innocent victim also speaks. Jesus' blood "speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:24). Christians, then, are called to repent of abortion, wash themselves in Jesus' blood, and get to work defending the innocent.

The distortion of theology and faith, in favor of killing

The existence of such groups as the "Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice" (www.rcrc.org) make it clear that pro-abortion people do not hesitate to distort the Gospel to defend child-killing. Ginette Paris, in fact, has written a book called "The Sacrament of Abortion," in which she defends the act as a sacred sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. Abortion providers describe some people coming to the abortion facilities with candles and other objects to make a ritual of it, and one bumper sticker declares, "Abortion is a woman's rite."

As pro-abortion forces continue to lose all basis for asserting that the unborn child is not human, or that abortion somehow will solve the problems of society, they take refuge in religious beliefs in order to justify what is wrong. The following words of the Catholic bishops regarding terrorism can likewise apply to the killing of the unborn:

"We are particularly troubled that some who engage in and support this new from of terror seek to justify it, in part, as a religious act. Regrettably, the terrorists' notion of a religious war is inadvertently reinforced by those who would attribute the extremism of a few to Islam as a whole or who suggest that religion, by its nature, is a source of conflict.

"It is wrong to use religion as a cover for political, economic, or ideological causes. It compounds the wrong when extremists of any religious tradition radically distort their professed faith in order to justify violence and hatred. Whatever the motivation, there can be no religious or moral justification for what happened on September 11. People of all faiths must be united in the conviction that terrorism in the name of religion profanes religion." (US Catholic Bishops, November 2001: A Pastoral Message: Living with Faith and Hope After September 11).

Conclusion

Christians proclaim a Gospel of Life. This "life" is sacred because it takes its origin in God, belongs to God, and returns to God. At every stage, this life has the unique capacity to relate to God, and to receive His own eternal life. The defense of earthly life, then, and the acknowledgement of its value, is -- in the full light of the Gospel -- of one piece with the proclamation of eternal salvation. Simply put, the sanctity of life is best understood the more one sees the three words, "God," "love," and "life" as synonyms. They are multi-faceted synonyms, to be sure, and bear multi-faceted distinctions. But in the end, and to find one's way through the challenges of this brief life, one must come to terms with the fact that to touch human life is to touch God, and therefore the only way to touch human life is with love.

 

Bibliographic References

For more information on the internet on the theology of abortion, consult Priests for Life at www.priestsforlife.org, and the National Pro-life Religious Council at www.nprcouncil.org. The following books are also helpful:

Thinking Theologically about Abortion

Edited by Paul T. Stallsworth

In 1998, the National Pro-life Religious Council held an ecumenical conference for pastors on the topic "Building a Ministry for Life." This book contains the texts of four of the presentations made that day.

ISBN Number 1-885224-30-3

Published in 2000 by Bristol House, LTD,PO Box 4020, Anderson, IN 46013-0020

Phone 765-644-0856, 1-800-451-7323; Fax 765-622-1045

The Right Choice

Edited by Paul T. Stallsworth

This collection of sermons and talks brings together an outstanding array of advocates for the pro-life position from many denominations. It will help pastors who want to preach about abortion bur don't know how to begin. The editor and a number of the contributors belong to the National Pro-life Religious Council.

ISBN Number 0-687-05079-0

Published in 1997 by Abingdon Press, PO Box 801, 201 Eighth Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37202-0801

The Church & Abortion

Edited by Paul T. Stallsworth

Is much of American Protestantism out of step with historic Christian teaching on abortion? The contributors to this book, while writing from the vantage point of United Methodists, provide valuable theological and pastoral perspectives for all Christians.

ISBN Number 0-687-07852-0

Published in 1993 by Abingdon Press, 201 Eighth Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37203

Not My Own: Abortion and the Marks of the Church

This book provides a challenge to Christian churches that have grown lax in their opposition to abortion. It shows that our pro-life convictions are not an optional "add-in," but rather are rooted in the very nature of the Church.

by Terry Schlossberg and Elizabeth Achtemeier

ISBN Number 0-8028-0875-1

Published in 1995 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co, 255 Jefferson Ave. S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life

by William May

This book gives a detailed overview of Catholic teaching on major bioethical issues, including contraception, abortion, reproductive technologies, experimentation, euthanasia, assisted suicide, organ transplantation, and the definition of death.

ISBN Number 0-87973-683-6

Published in 2000 by Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750

Phone 1-800-348-2440; Email osvbooks@osv.com; Website www.osv.com  

The Identity and Status of the Human Embryo: Proceedings of the Third Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life

This book, just published in English at the Vatican, contains the papers of Vatican Officials, bishops, and various experts on the status of the human embryo. 

ISBN Number 88-209-2470-6

Published in 1998 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 00120 Vatican City State, Phone 39-06-6988-5003, Fax 39-06-6988-4716 (If calling from the US, add 011 before dialing).

Human Genome, Human Person and the Society of the Future: Proceedings of the Fourth Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life

ISBN Number 88-209-2645-8

Published in 1999 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 00120 Vatican City State, Phone 39-06-6988-5003, Fax 39-06-6988-4716 (If calling from the US, add 011 before dialing).

The Dignity of the Dying Person: Proceedings of the Fifth Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life

ISBN Number 88-209-2874-4

Published in 2000 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 00120 Vatican City State, Phone 39-06-6988-5003, Fax 39-06-6988-4716 (If calling from the US, add 011 before dialing).

The Culture of Life: Foundations and Dimensions: Proceedings of the Seventh Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life

ISBN Number 88-209-7221-2

Published in 2002 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 00120 Vatican City State, Phone 39-06-6988-5003, Fax 39-06-6988-4716 (If calling from the US, add 011 before dialing).

The Gathering of The Lambs

by Fr Norman Weslin

No matter what you may think of its controversial author, this book contains 528 pages of history and spirituality that all who are concerned about abortion should read. It traces how today's disciples have laid down their freedom for their unborn brothers and sisters, inspired by a spirituality of the "victim-soul."

Published in 2000 by Fr. Norman Weslin, 12203 E. Ilif, Unit L, Aurora, CO 80014

Phone 1-877-299-9459; Fax 303-751-6815

Catholics for a Free Choice Exposed

by Brian Clowes, Ph.D

As the US bishops have declared, "Catholics for a Free Choice" is not Catholic. This book analyzes the group's aggressive program of infiltration and subversion, and its goal of the legalization of abortion worldwide.

ISBN Number 1-55922-047-3

Published in 2001 by Human Life International, 4 Family Life, Front Royal, VA 22630

Phone 540-635-7884; Fax 540-636-7363; Email hli@hli.org; Website www.hli.org  

Their Blood Cries Out

by Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger

This brief book gives the Biblical basis for the doctrine of "Bloodguilt." Abortion is not only a sin; it is our sin. The first spiritual response we need to have to abortion is to repent of it ourselves, because innocent blood shed on the land implicates every person on the land.

Published in 2001 by Restoration Press/Operation Rescue West PO Box 601150, Sacramento, CA 95860

Website www.operationrescue.org 

Am I Now Your Enemy For Telling You The Truth?

by Troy Newman & Cheryl Sullenger

This book, in question and answer format, is a sequel to Their Blood Cries Out. Published in 2002 by Restoration Press/Operation Rescue West, PO Box 601150, Sacramento, CA 95860; Website www.operationrescue.org 

 

About the author: Fr. Frank Pavone is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of New York, and has been a pro-life activist since 1976. In 1993 he was named by Cardinal John O'Connor as National Director of Priests for Life, a ministry that assists the clergy and the entire Church to address the abortion tragedy. Fr. Pavone is an internationally known author and speaker on pro-life issues, and worked for a time at the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, which coordinates the pro-life activities of the Catholic Church. Fr. Pavone may be reached atmail@priestsforlife.org.

   
 
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