Every Catholic is Obliged to Oppose Abortion
John Cardinal Krol
Former Archbishop of Philadelphia
Through the centuries, it has been the constant teaching of the supreme
doctrinal authority of the Church that human life is sacred and must be
protected both in its beginnings and at every stage of its course. There call be
no licit dissent from the Church's clear teaching on abortion, and anyone who
would make an exception to permit some direct abortion does not reflect
authentic Church teaching.
The Second Vatican Council expressed this teaching in these words: "From the
moment of its conception, human life must be guarded with the greatest care,
while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes" (Gaudium
et Spes, 51). Speaking at the Mall in Washington,
D.C., Pope John Paul II said: "All human life is sacred -- a precious
gift from God. And so we will stand up every time that human life is
threatened, when the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand
up and proclaim that no one has the authority to destroy unborn life."
Yes! Every Catholic is obliged in conscience to oppose abortion both as a
personal decision and as a policy in society.
This authentic teaching is not a debatable view or opinion. It is all
undeniable truth based on the fact that the right to life is a primordial right
of every human being and on the fact, established by genetic scientists, that
from the very first moment of conception there exists a unique, individual human
being. Those who question these truths and the teaching of the Church on the
sacredness of all human life are like those to whom the Lord said: "I
speak the truth, and for that very reason you do not believe me. ....If I speak
the truth, why do you not believe me?" (John 8:45-46).
The Church has no proper mission in the political, economic or social order.
Her mission is a religious one. But out of this religious mission itself
comes a function, a light and an energy which can serve to structure the human
community according to God's law. As Catholics and as citizens, we have the
right and the duty to participate fully in the democratic processes of our
country. We have the right and duty to promote equal justice for all, and to
defend human dignity and human rights. We must not be intimidated by the canard
"No religious group has the right to impose its personal moral values on other
people in a pluralistic society." Religious toleration does not mean religious
sterility. Ours has been a religious nation in origin, history, tradition and
culture. Yes, we must respect the religious convictions of all other believers
and even nonbelievers, but it does not follow that the latter are not obliged to
respect the convictions of the religious majority, or are free to force that
majority to give up its history and traditions.
Nor should we be cowed by the metaphor of "the wall of separation between
Church and state." Jefferson, who coined this metaphor, also asserted: "The care
of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the just and only
legitimate object of good government." Both statements of Jefferson should be
heeded. Granting the separation of Church and state, the legitimate object of
government is to protect and not to destroy human life.
The right to life is at the heart of all morality, and morality is the
ultimate foundation of legality. Abortion is a justice issue, and all citizens
in a democratic society are obliged to use the democratic process to work for
justice for all. The Church upholds the rights of the unborn to life, not as
sectarian doctrine, but as a right essential for the good of secular society
itself. To assert and defend this right no more enshrines one religious
viewpoint than do laws against murder, child abuse, racial discrimination or
pornography. For this reason the statement "I am personally opposed, but . . ."
is not logical or acceptable any more than would be a statement of personal
opposition to child abuse while allowing others the option to abuse their
children. Abortion is the ultimate form of child abuse. No commitment to promote
other human rights can outweigh a refusal to help end the legalized killing of
the innocent and helpless unborn child.
As Catholics and as citizens, we have the right and the duty, as Pope John
Paul II said, to stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority
to destroy unborn life. We must stand up and use the democratic process to
restore legal protection to our inalienable and God-given right to life.
May the Lord of life help us to carry out His laws and protect His precious
gift of life by eliminating the unspeakable crime of abortion from our society.
Statements of Other Cardinals and Bishops about Abortion