The Division in the Body of Christ that Attacks the Mission of the Church and the Children in the Womb: Franciscan Fr. David Couturier’s Response to Sr. Deirdre Byrne’s Speech at the Republican National Convention

The Division in the Body of Christ that Attacks the Mission of the Church and the Children in the Womb: Franciscan Fr. David Couturier’s Response to Sr. Deirdre Byrne’s Speech at the Republican National Convention


By Kevin Burke, LSW

Franciscan Father David B. Couturier is the Executive Director of the Franciscan Institute. In his response to the dynamic prolife speech made at the Republican National Convention by Sr. Deirdre Byrne, POSC, Fr. Couturier said the following:

First, I am pro-life. I am pro-life across all its dimensions: unborn, mothers’ health, health care, children’s rights, immigrant rights, against the death penalty, etc. I think [Sr. Byrne] is absolutely wrong on her conclusion that Trump is pro-life…Trump is not pro-life. He may be anti-abortion (and that is doubtful) but that does not mean that he is pro-life in the fullest sense of Catholic social and moral teaching. The reasons are clear and his policy arguments and actions indicate this.

Fr Couturier begins his response to Sr. Deirdre by proclaiming, “I’m pro-life.”  

Fr Couturier then qualifies his pro-life commitment as inexorably linked to other issues of social justice.  Because the Trump Administration has what he considers immoral “policy arguments and actions” on issues such as healthcare and immigration, the prolife accomplishments of the administration are therefore invalidated. 

I appreciate Fr. Couturier respectfully responding to Sr. Deirdre.   It presents us an opportunity to explore an issue that is at the heart of the division in our Church, and between prolife and social justice Christians, in this volatile election year.

What is the Catholic Church’s position on abortion? 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion… abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.

The teaching is quite clear.

What does the Catechism say about other social justice issues?

Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance. (2288).

People of good will have different opinions about the best way for a society to respond to these issues.  What is the responsibility of individuals and families?  What is the best policy and legislative response of local, state and federal government to advance these social goods?  Our political parties, and experts in their fields, propose varied solutions; we work this out within our democratic process. 

For a faithful Catholic, there is no debating the intrinsic evil of abortion.

Fr Couturier, and other well-meaning religious and clergy, link the prolife position to what they consider equally valid issues of social justice.  This leads them to advocate for a party with the most radical pro-abortion platform in history; tax-payer funded abortion, through all nine months of pregnancy, and for babies born alive in botched abortion, even after birth.   

This has enabled the Democratic Party to continue to rely on the “Catholic Vote,” while becoming more aggressively pro-abortion. It has compromised the Church’s mission, and fractured her unity.  

Many of us have also been personally complicit in the now over 60 million abortions since the legalization of abortion in 1973.  We have not done enough to advocate for the children in the womb, and support women facing unplanned pregnancy.  We are in need of Christ’s mercy, forgiveness and healing.  

This compromise with death has also led to the polarization of our political process.   Those who understand that abortion is an abominable crime, and the right to life is the foundation of all human rights, only have one party to which they can entrust their vote.  

“It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.

….Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.”    (St. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae – The Gospel of Life)

In Part II of this series, we will examine two populations served in abortion healing programs like Rachel’s Vineyard that can help us better understand the relationship of abortion and social justice:

  1. Minority female victims of sexual abuse and other trauma
  2. The Male Prison Population

Social justice Christians and public servants of all denominations and political parties fail to understand the dynamic connection that exists between abortion and the challenges faced by those suffering poverty and oppression.  Pro-life advocacy, abortion prevention, and healing after abortion are essential in communities ravaged by violence, family breakdown and social and economic injustice.

Here’s an original song and video about a couple re-visiting an abortion experience from their past:


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