Sunday, January 22, 2006

Catholics and Abortion: Civil Laws

Catholics and Abortion: Civil Laws
(Number 3 in a series)

This post is out of order from my original plan but it fits to address these issues now based on the issues and questions being raised by commenters to this blog.

The Catholic Church has no power to legislate civil laws anywhere in the world (except within the Vatican city-state).

The Catholic Church makes rules for its own members. I will cover that issue in a separate post.

The Catholic Church believes in advocacy for just civil laws. The Church encourages it members to apply the morality which they have learned through the Church to laws of their civil society.

According to the Church's own theology its role must be based on the Gospel messages. For example this passage from the Gospel of John (13:34-35): "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

From that, showing "love for another" can mean promoting just laws.

Almost all human societies have seen the necessity to have laws prohibiting and punishing acts of murder. Certainly the Catholic Church would promote such civil laws when new territories are formed and need to create their initial codes of law. Not much controversy there.

Since the Catholic Church believes that abortion is indeed murder of a human life, it should be expected that the Catholic Church would promote laws to criminalize acts of abortion.

The difference with the issue of anti-abortion laws is that people on both sides of the issue have had such very strong opinions, feelings, and emotions.

Normally the Catholic Church promotes that its members take active involvement in civil legislative matters to promote their moral values. Sometimes the Catholic Church as a church will issue public statements, even public appeals. However, in the issue of anti-abortion legislative support Church leaders themselves, including priests and bishops, have actively gotten involved in promoting their positions claiming that they are representatives of the Catholic Church. Again, as a church they have no authority in relation to civil laws except as private citizens.

Situations involving children cause people to become very emotionally involved. Since the Catholic position on abortion claims that abortion affects a human life, a very small human life. The emotions that it evokes in some people are similar to a harmful act upon a small child. Thus Catholics involved in promoting anti-abortion legislation often get very emotional. One commenter to this blog pointed out that they also may get very angry. I would say that such anger is itself contrary to the teachings of the Church.

I was going to make a separate post about fanatics. But some Catholics (and even non-Catholics) promoting anti-abortion laws have gone much further in violating Catholic principals. Some have resorted to violence and even themselves committing murder claiming to support their cause for just laws. Such acts should are not in accord with the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Though the Catholic Church does not support murder, it does permit killing under certain circumstances, such as immediate defense of self or another person and in just wars. Though the definitions of those permitted cases can be rather technical, none of them approach justifying the use of violence or murder to support the promotion of anti-abortion legislation.

However, based on the belief that violence or killing might be permitted to defend oneself or another person in imminent danger, it might be possible to understand how some Catholics would take action against an abortion clinic or staff in the belief that they are attempting to prevent murder. I am not justifying those actions but I am pointing to how they might feel justified and feel that they are following Catholic teaching.

Now, my next post is planned be about the Catholic Church's implications of what is meant by "grave moral evil." It will also deal with how the Catholic Church attempts to punish its own members who violate its principals regarding abortion.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Legal stuff:

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. ( )


At Sunday, January 22, 2006 9:41:00 PM, Blogger L. said...

A priest I knew in Tokyo (a Franciscan) said he thought the church started to get itself in trouble when it came up with the concept of sanctioning "just wars." I guess he meant that it opened itself up for all kinds of different exceptions and interpretations.

At Sunday, January 22, 2006 10:02:00 PM, Blogger jw said...

I would have to agree with him. The "just war" doctrine tries to be helpful in a very difficult area. However the world changes, technology that was never envisioned changes, and thus it is impossible to have a clear doctrine that covers all of the possibilities.

The other side can be just as bad. I've quoted the "love one another" commandment frequently. But even that is just too general to cover even day-to-day living.

At Sunday, January 22, 2006 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Andrea said...

I need to think honestly before commenting properally. Dont want to say things I dont really mean.

At Monday, January 23, 2006 2:47:00 AM, Blogger Granny said...

Still lurking with this one.


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