We are pro-life people in a pro-life Church
letter to the people of the Archdiocese of Omaha regarding the obligation of
Catholics to actively oppose direct abortion in all circumstances.)
--Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss
Archbishop of Omaha
The Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines the official teaching of
the Church regarding the evil of abortion and the responsibility of Catholics to
protect beginning human life:
#2270: Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment
of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be
recognized as having the rights of a person among which is the inviolable right
of every innocent being to life.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I
consecrated you." (Jeremiah 1:5)
#2271: Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of
every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.
Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or means, is
gravely contrary to the moral law.
"You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to
perish." (Didache 2,2).
#2272: Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The
Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to the crime against
human life. A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication
latae sententiae by the very commission of the offense (canons 1314-1398)
and subject to the conditions provided in the Code of Canon Law (canons
1323-24). The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy.
Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm
done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the
whole of society.
#2273: The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a
constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by
civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on
single individuals nor on parents: nor do they represent a concession made by
society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the
person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin.
Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human
being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until
death. (Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae III 1987).
"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the
protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying
the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at
the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more
vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined...As a
consequence of the respect and protection which must be insured for the unborn
child from the moment of conception the law must provide appropriate penal
sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights." (ibid.)
#2274: Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must
be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like
any other human being.
Practical implications of this official teaching
To dissent against the official teaching of the Church regarding the
serious evil of abortion creates a breach between Catholics and the Church
and causes a serious scandal when it becomes public. Catholics who actually
participate in a woman's decision to have an abortion share in her
alienation from the Church because they share in the destruction of a
beginning human life, which is forbidden by divine law and the natural law.
Consequently, I ask the people of this archdiocese to join me in challenging
any Catholic who claims to be an active member of the Church and at the same
time supports the right of a woman to have an abortion (pro-choice means
essentially support for the right of a woman to terminate the life of her
pre-born or partially-born baby). Such a person either does not know the clear
teaching of the Church or is indifferent to it. This means an incorrectly formed
conscience or ignorance of the law or rejection of Church teaching. In any case,
these people are at loggerheads with the Church over a major doctrine of faith.
They need conversion and reconciliation with the Church and a new heart.
I ask all our people to pray and fast in reparation for all the innocent
lives that are destroyed daily by abortion.
I ask all our people to pray for the women and their families who suffer the
personal tragedy of abortion. Pray for their reconciliation with the Church,
with Jesus. Support Project Rachel and all similar efforts to help women
overcome the impact of abortion in their lives.
I ask all our people to pray for abortionists and those who assist them so
that their hearts of stone may be turned into human hearts before they face the
God of life.
The Catholic Church is the main supporter of human life from conception
to natural death in the world today. Despite public media, which for the
most part support abortion as the right of women over their own bodies
without any concern for the rights of their pre-born babies, despite massive
opposition from a multimillion dollar abortion industry that has Planned
Parenthood as a front, despite Supreme Court decisions which continue to
leave pre-born and partially-born babies vulnerable to painful deaths, we
Catholics must not cease our efforts to declare abortion a moral blight and
a national scandal. We must not cease our efforts to confront the evil of
abortion in our cities and neighborhoods. We must not cease our efforts to
pray for an end to abortion on demand and the barbaric procedure called
If we are constant in our prayer and steadfast in our opposition to abortion
privately and publicly, if we continue to make our case for the continuum of
human life from conception until birth from the scientific evidence, if we
continue to proclaim the sacredness of human life from the Scriptures and the
long tradition of the Church, then we will be able to change the minds and
hearts of many people who are hesitant to grant inalienable rights to pre-born
babies because of cultural pressure.
We must never give up on this sacred crusade to protect innocent human life
in the womb. If we grow tired of the struggle or want to be free of the hassle,
then the culture of death will continue to spread across our nation. It is up to
us to make the case for the rights of pre-born babies based on God's revelation
to us about the sacredness of human life. It is a duty no Catholic can shirk.
Opposition to abortion a priority
The Church is consistently pro-human life from conception until natural
death. This is the reason that we oppose the death penalty as well as
euthanasia and abortion. However, Catholic teaching does not weigh
opposition to capital punishment the same way it weighs opposition to
The thousands of innocent pre-born babies killed every year by abortion
constitute a greater evil than the execution of a few convicted felons by the
state not only because of sheer number of deaths, but because of the gravity of
the act itself.
Therefore opposition to abortion must be a priority for Catholics who support
the Church's teaching about the sacredness of all human life.
Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss