James 2:10 states, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” In some way, then, abortion breaks all of the commandments. It violates love, which sums up the commandments. We continue in this and the following column to reflect on how each Commandment illumines and strengthens our pro-life commitment.
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor your father and mother.” The Lord worked through our parents to bring us into being; he asked for their collaboration, for their generosity, in bringing about a plan that he had decided on from all eternity – that we should exist to love and serve him. This commandment points to the dignity of human procreation. It also points to the profound privilege and responsibility that parents have in being open to life and in being ready to protect the lives that God entrusts to their care. Those who claim a right to abortion are violating the fourth commandment. No parent is the owner of his or her children. God alone owns and rules human life. And he entrusts to parents the awesome gift of welcoming that life with joy.
The Fifth Commandment states, “You shall not kill.” The literal translation of this commandment forbids murder. This is not about a prohibition on killing cattle for food or on killing bugs for our safety. Nor is it an absolute prohibition on repelling an aggressor. The commandment means that we do not have authority to murder the innocent. Babies are always in that category. The commandment against directly, deliberately killing a baby or any other innocent person is absolute.
From this commandment comes the prohibition on abortion, at any stage of pregnancy and for any reason whatsoever. The commandment is based on God’s absolute dominion over human life. He alone gives and takes the lives of human beings; he alone governs who comes into the world and who goes out, and when, and how.
The Sixth Commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” In keeping with the understanding that commandments are like chapter headings, and that there are many other actions included under each one of them, this commandment prohibits us from abusing the gift of human sexuality and marriage -- and with good reason. These gifts are given to us for our good as a human family. When we use them as God intends, they serve life. But when we abuse them, they lead to death, not just spiritually, but physically. When we speak to our nation about the tens of millions of children ripped apart by abortion, let’s challenge them to realize that one of the ways we arrived at that holocaust is that we ripped apart the very meaning and purpose of human sexuality.
We will continue our reflections on the Commandments in the next column. Meanwhile, those who want to nourish their pro-life spirituality with reflections like this for every day of the year can obtain my book Pro-life Reflections for Every Day at priestsforlife.org/store.