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Abortion remains the central moral issue

By Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI

Diocese of San Angelo, TX

January 1, 2006

Abortion is the central moral issue at this moment in our nation’s history. January 22, 1973 for us who are pro-life, was a day filled with grief and sorrow, as that was the day that the highest court of our land in the Roe v. Wade decision gave the right to kill the unborn at any stage of their development. Sadly, the Supreme Court failed to recognize in the Constitution the primary right given to every human person, the right to life, the right for an unborn child to celebrate a birthday. Regrettably, 33 years later, the court still has not found in our Constitution the most basic right to life for these precious pre-born citizens. The Justices of the highest court of this land failed to capture the mind and spirit of the founders and framers of our Constitution who surely meant the right to life to apply to the born and unborn, as abortion was rightly considered when the Constitution was approved to be an abhorrent evil. On this anniversary of the tragic death decision of our court, we call on the Justices of our court, on all of our government leaders, to recognize the flaw in the Roe v. Wade decision which took away the self-evident truth that all people are created with an inalienable right to life. We are committed, no matter how long it takes, no matter the sacrifice required, to bring about a reversal of this death decision of the Supreme Court.

Sadly, for many in our American culture, the legality of abortion also affirms its morality. They take the legality of abortion as the ultimate standard, and overlook the basic law of life as given to us by God and in the natural law itself. Many so-called "pro-choice" Catholics have been duped into believing that the legality of abortion makes it a legitimate moral choice for those who seek it. We state, however, that Catholics and all Christians and all people have a moral obligation to protect the first legal right which is given to us by God, which is the right to life.

Abortion is not just one issue among many. Abortion is the central moral issue, the conflict issue, of this moment in our nation's history. Abortion is separated from other important social issues like a just wage, affordable housing, and even the debate over war, by a difference in kind, not a difference in degree. Every abortion deliberately kills an innocent, unborn human being-every time. No matter what kind of mental gymnastics we use, elective killing of the unborn is a grave moral evil and has no excuse. We only implicate ourselves in this abominable act by trying to invent an excuse. In the debate about abortion, Catholics should remember that they are first called to be citizens of God's kingdom, and secondly, kingdoms of this world. Catholics have a grave moral responsibility to follow the teaching of the Church about abortion which is based on Divine law. This is a time to establish our priorities as regards our commitment to life, and to follow the words and example of the martyr, St Thomas More, who gave his life for truth when he stated, "I am the king's good servant, but first God's." We need to follow the lead of this courageous man. Abortion harms our entire culture in ways not even begun to be imagined.

Our Catholic belief about the sacredness and dignity of all human life, is based on the Bible, and a long standing Judeo-Christian tradition, and the constant teaching of our beautiful Catholic Church. The Fathers of the Vatican II Council said almost 40 years ago: "This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age....It is not a matter of one opinion versus another opinion... as the Catechism states in its section on abortion, when the unborn are not protected, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined."

When the judicial part of our government allowed abortion, our government became a different kind of government than what it was founded to be. There are only two forms of government. The first acknowledges that God gives us our rights, and that government exists to secure those rights. In such a framework, government can not tamper with the right to life, and can never authorize its destruction.

The second form of government says that government is that source of those rights, and that therefore has full dominion over life and death. However, Pope John Paul II comments on this error in Evangelium Vitae stating the following: "In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves toward a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the common home where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but it is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members. When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human coexistence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun. This is the death of true freedom" (No. 20)

Most abortions are performed for elective reasons, not for medical or health reasons. The Catholic Church's position against abortion is based on Divine and natural law and the constant teaching of the Church going back to the Apostles and continuing into our present time. While we must have a consistent ethic of life and rightfully care about all the life issues of our day, abortion and euthanasia are pre-eminent. Pre-eminent, by definition, means "greatest in importance, degree, or significance; superior to or notable above all others." This teaching is further enforced by these words of the Holy Father, in his September 1987 visit to America: "The dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival -- yes, the ultimate test of her greatness -- is to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn." More than 44 million unborn children have been killed by abortion in our land since 1973. The hemorrhage must end if we are to survive as a society.

There are fundamental Life Principles which each America has a duty to uphold. They are based on the time-honored moral and civil law that no state and no human may intentionally kill an innocent human or consent to the evil deed. So, in summary, the Life Principles provide that the unalienable right to life endowed by our Creator given to each human at fertilization, also grants equal protection and care for each born and prebom human. When in doubt each human must opt for life, and when two or more humans are in a situation in which their lives are mutually endangered, all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts shall be used to preserve and to protect the life of each born and prebom human so endangered.

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