Isn’t it surprising that a large number of people, who ordinarily are not at all interested in the faith and teachings of the Church, suddenly become disturbed when she speaks out against abortion, the pill or in vitro fertilization.
Is it not true that, deep down inside ourselves, we have doubts in our conscience, whenever we are not exactly sure that an act we want to do or which we have done is right. We look, at all cost, for approval, for an official justification that would free us from interior reproach.
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In recent years, the late King of Belgium refused to approve a law which would legalize abortion, at the risk of his being asked to abdicate. Certain Belgian politicians were furious. According to them, the King had nothing to say in the matter, but had simply to pass the law like an automatic stamping machine. Why did these people get so angry in the face of such an extraordinary gesture of courage? Of course, because they wanted to legalize abortion but, most importantly, because they could not bear the fact that someone dared to say that abortion was not ‘alright’.
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The opposite situation happened 400 years ago when Henry VIII, King of England, succeeded in obtaining from the House of Lords and the Commons and even from the bishops of the country, the approval of the annullment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. However, one bishop, John Fisher, and one laymen, the Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, resigned, refusing to say that it was ‘alright’. These two voices prevented Henry VIII from sleeping, and he had both men put to death.
- Today, Pope John Paul II and the bishops are not put to death when they address the people’s consciences, but many people are happy to insult them. Their voices are for some as unbearable as the voices of John Fisher and Thomas More were for the king. Yet the Pope and bishops speak out for the Church. She is the protector of the human conscience. She will give witness unto martyrdom that human beings are worth more than what they are tempted to do.
The Church proposes what Christ teaches
As it’s quite embarassing to attack Jesus Christ in a direct way even in the world, some people prefer to attack the Church. To their question, “With what right does the Church forbid divorce?” – The Church recalls what Christ says in the Gospel. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18). (1)
And Jesus also says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22)
If the Church does not give witness to the light which is Christ, who will find the light?
- Jesus is very severe with those who arrange moral requirements to suit themselves, who try to paint over evil with good: “If anyone of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. (Mark9:42) Following Christ’s example, the Church gives light to the situation whatever it costs. She calls a spade a spade, she calls sin “sin”. But to the sinner, she says with Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” It is God’s forgiveness that the priest gives in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).
The Church does not condemn. In the Name of Christ, she forgives.
The Church says that abortion is wrong. But she forgives in God’s name those who have had an abortion. When a person no longer believes in God, they lose this possibility to receive forgiveness. This is the problem of the time in which we live: No more God, no more mercy. And so, faced with the reproaches of our conscience, we either force ourselves to forget – a suppression which has its consequences – or we call evil “good” and what is wrong “right”.
Why not say with the Church the words of the Psalmist: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of thy salvation…Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” (Psalm 51:9-12)
(1) The Church does not condemn divorced persons. But, because of the words of Christ, she does not accept remarriage of divorced persons. It is different when a marriage receives a declaration of nullity by the Tribunal of the Church. In such cases, it is determined that, from the very start, the marriage never really took place, because of a lack of freedom, of mutual consent, etc.
|Abortion and Bioethics
Life is sacred, and every human being has the right to life. By defending the life of the unborn child, the Church seeks to uphold this right. Laws which legalize abortion transgress this most basic principle, upon which every democracy is founded. (How can a dead person, for example, exercise the right to liberty, free speech or the pursuit of happiness?)
It is interesting to note that the law legalizing abortion is a law established by people to whom it shall never by applied. It is for this very reason a dangerous thing to do. It is essentially an abuse of power by the strong (the born ) over the weak (the unborn).
Furthermore, because many people today equate what is legal with what is good, this law distorts the perception that people and society as a whole have of good and evil.
“But”, we might say, “what about women who may be in distress because of an undesired pregnancy – due to rape, for example?” Experience shows that abortion only makes the situation worse. There are other solutions (see Q.27). By struggling against abortion, the Church seeks to defend not only the child but also the woman and her dignity.
If it has already come to pass that a woman has aborted her child, the Church offers her the message of Jesus Christ: God forgives and is infinitely merciful. However, in proclaiming God’s merciful love, the Church never accepts the act of abortion itself. Contraception is also censured by the Church. Why? On one hand, because the contraceptive attitude is, in itself, “anti-life”. When contraception fails, abortion often follows. Another reason is that contraception reduces sexuality to a mere physical act. Its practice leads men and women to forget that they are persons with souls which give them the potential of living and acting above an animal and instinctive level. Also, contraception separates the sexual act from its intrinsically procreative nature.
The other side of the spectrum involves issues like in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood. Although the Church fully encourages research which aims to solve the problems of sterility, she notes that the scientific discoveries and capacities noted above are open to abuse, especially abuses against human dignity. For example, they reduce the parents to mere “machines of production” and, furthermore, the intimacy of the married couple’s sexual union is lost. If all legitimate efforts to have a child fail, the Church calls the couple to unite themselves to the mystery of Jesus’ cross, the source of spiritual fecundity.
The message which the Church addresses to the contemporary world is demanding, just as is the message of Christ’s gospel. But it is coherent in its defense of the dignity of humanity: “In order to recognize humanity in all its truth and integrity” ( Paul VI).