March for Life…

Today hundreds of thousands of people participated in the March for Life nationwide, garnering news coverage and even solidarity via Twitter from the Holy Father himself.  I know it is popular to paint the Catholic Church as old fashioned, out of touch, and backwards in light of secular sensibilities.  I’m not going to go into intense theological debate here, I’ll just state some facts:

The CDC reports just under 49 million abortions performed in the United States between 1970 and 2008 (more recent years have not been released yet).  I saw someone refer to abortion as “the silent Holocaust”, and this caused me to look up those numbers as well.  The estimated number killed during that time was 11-17 million.  I think applying the silent Holocaust term is appropriate.

Now there will be some people that cry out “how dare you compare these two events?”  It is simple.  I know the value of one unborn life.  Just one.  You cannot quote me a scientific fact to convince me that the child we lost last year to an ectopic pregnancy wasn’t a child.  If you place each one of those pregnancies even one second after birth and then kill them in the numbers cited above, I strongly suspect you would have a war-causing outrage from any rational society.  To live at a time when we have rejected the fundamental notion that a pregnancy causes a person to be born, I don’t see any rational way that you can argue that society isn’t completely backwards on this topic.  This is in no way intended to minimize the Holocaust, that was also a grisly and unfathomable act of murder the same as this situation.

So what’s to be done about it?  Prayer for one.  Marches, protests, speeches, and rallying to continue to fight against this Culture of Death that we live in.  My job prevented me from marching today, but I did get to spend part of my workday discussing our recent ectopic pregnancy (interestingly, a coworker came up and wanted to talk to me about it) and why the March for Life was important to me.  Because it is important.

Last Sunday, Archbishop Aquila gave a truly amazing homily that outlined why, as Catholics, we must build a Culture of Life.  He explicitly warns Catholics that have bought in to the secular status quo against continuing in this vein:

Those Catholics who take a pro-choice position, those Catholics who support a so-called “right to abortion,” those Catholics who support same-sex unions, those Catholics who reject the truth about the nuptial meaning of the human body put their souls in jeopardy of eternal salvation, and we cannot ever forget that.

They are strong words, but ones we must hear and act upon.

My personal prayer for today is for all of those unborn souls that they might find eternal happiness with God, for the healing of the families affected by this grave issue, for the souls of the medical practitioners that they might have a conversion of heart and refuse to perform this grisly act, and for our country and our society to come to it’s senses and respect life.

Still confused as to why this is such a big issue for Catholics?  Read my Five Facts about Abortion article published last year.


Five Facts: The Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate

This Five Facts article focuses on objections to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, a portion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). This crosscuts a great deal of Church teachings previously mentioned this week, so I will focus more closely on the objections.

Five Facts: The HHS Mandate

  1. The primary objection revolves around the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  2. The HHS Mandate requires religious employers and insurance companies to provide contraception, abortificants, and sterilization with extremely narrow exceptions.  This violates Catholic moral teachings and requires Catholics materially cooperate in evil.
  3. Should an employer or insurance agency drop their policy and refuse to participate, they will be fined $100 per employee per day.  In many cases this would amount to enough to shutter these organizations.
  4. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released several statements uniformly opposing this mandate.
  5. In addition, the USCCB corrected (with breakneck speed) false statements made by Vice President Joe Biden during the vice-presidential debates, where he claimed that no Catholic individual or organization would be required to pay for or offer contraception.

So why does this matter to you?

Honestly, I get a lot of eye-rolling from my liberal friends when this topic comes up.  They think the heart of the issue is the Catholic Church trying to legislate their agenda regarding contraception, and the religious freedom argument is a line-item overreaction.  In reality, the Church is just asking for it’s Constitutional Right to free exercise of religion.  My personal argument is that the government is forcing me to pay for things that violate my conscience.

I don’t want to pay for someone else’s abortion.  I don’t want to pay for someone else’s contraception or sterilization.  Availability isn’t a problem either – all of these things are available enough via the private sector, often at subsidized rates for those with low-income.  While I don’t want anyone to use these products and services, they are able to already  without government intervention.

As if that was not bad enough, the fines imposed by the HHS Mandate make it impossible for Catholic (or other religious) organizations to disobey this unjust law… the fines would be enough to cause them to shut down.  In the past, mandates of this kind would employ an exemption process that Churches, hospitals, and other faith-based organizations could apply for and receive.  Not so in this case.

Don’t misunderstand me: I think the overall goal of getting affordable health care to everyone is noble.  I just think in this case they went too far.  If the HHS Mandate were to allow a broad, easy-to-receive exemption for anyone who morally disagreed with the policy I probably wouldn’t be writing this article right now.  The fact of the matter is that they do not, and misinformation abounds to try to make the argument go away.

To underscore how serious the threat of eroding religious liberty is, I am reminded of a quotation from His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago:

“I expect to die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

I pray it doesn’t come to that.


Five Facts: Abortion

In the “Five Facts” series, I will present five key facts about Catholic teachings on a variety of topics as well as my thoughts on the matter.

Five Facts: The Catholic Stance on Abortion

    1. “Human life must be respected absolutely from the moment of conception.” (Catchism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2270)   Read that simply as “life begins at conception.”
    2. The Church teaches that all forms of abortion to be a grave matter and a violation of the 5th Commandment – thou shalt not kill.
    3. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, because the life of the baby and the life of the mother are considered equal.  The rationale is that you are simply compounding a grave act (rape/incest) with the murder of an innocent and this does nothing to improve the situation.
    4. Formal cooperation in an abortion incurs the penalty of a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication (CCC 2272).  This includes having an abortion or enabling/encouraging someone to have an abortion.
    5. Emergency medical procedures can be performed that would terminate a pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, only if there were no other options that included protecting the life of the unborn and the intent of the procedure was not to terminate the pregnancy.  Example: emergency surgery involving removal of a ruptured Fallopian tube, if the fate of the unborn child is unknown and no other options were present to protect both mother and child. This is known as the principle of double effect.

My thoughts

This is a very difficult topic to talk about, but the Church’s teaching is very clear: abortion is a grave matter to all those involved.

I never really gave this matter much thought until a friend experienced an unexpected pregnancy, and confided in me that she was thinking about having an abortion.  At that time, I wasn’t armed with good refutation as for why it was wrong, nor was I particularly familiar with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the matter… but I certainly had a gut reaction against terminating the pregnancy.  Honestly, this reaction was so strong that it surprised me.  At this time all of my arguments were not from a religious standpoint, but I do recall making the point that the child did nothing to warrant being killed and that adoption was always an option.  Ultimately, my friend stopped talking to me about it and did lose the baby.  I never found out if it happened on purpose or by natural causes.

This election cycle has seen this issue become more and more politicized.  There has been a bright spotlight on Catholic moral teaching in general this year, but abortion has taken a special prominence due to the pro-life/pro-choice debate.  The Church’s teachings are a hierarchy with life at the very top. All other issues fall below it in relative importance. To me, this translates down to a simple statement: it is never morally permissible to provide someone a casual, state-approved choice to kill someone.  Because I believe that life begins at conception, that’s really about all there is to the discussion.  It’s an objective truth to me, and a fairly easy one at that.

Recently, I got into an argument with some friends about whether or not you can be pro-choice and Catholic.  I don’t see how this is possible given the fact that supporting a pro-choice stance provides someone the option to destroy innocent life, which seems like formal cooperation as defined by the Church.  For that matter, so-called Catholic politicians that make exceptions for cases of rape and incest are playing a dangerous game of politics trying to win votes. The Catechism makes clear the penalty for supporting and enabling abortions, and I want no part of it.

Here’s what you can do. First and foremost, we must always remember to have compassion for those that have had abortions and their unborn children. In addition, all Catholics should read and understand the Church’s teachings about abortion and vote our Catholic conscience this year. Lastly, PRAY. Pray the rosary novena for life and liberty. Attend Eucharistic Adoration and pray for the unborn. Pray that the government learns to respect life as the inalienable right that it is. Prayer is one of the strongest weapons that we have as Catholics, and now is the time to use it.

Further Reading

For further, more detailed discussion on this challenging issue I strongly recommend:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 2270 – 2275 on Abortion
Straight Talk About Abortion, a pamphlet from Catholic Answers

Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer