Friday, January 22, 2021

Pretecting Life: From Beginning to End--Just Not that Simple


   This morning, as required by the US liturgical calendar, our community prayed for the legal protection of the unborn. Fine. I'm in favor of that, but I've for a long time been  uncomfortable with praying for only that. I am also in the uncomfortable position of believing that neither major political party gets it right. What is my point?  My point is that you cannot protect the unborn if you do not protect and meet the needs of the woman who is carrying the child. 

   It is easy to attempt to ban abortion.  Even if that effort succeeds abortion will not do away.  It has been with us throughout human history, legal or otherwise. My belief is that focusing only on abortion will not accomplish anything even if our goals are lofty.  

   Early on in my nearly fifty years of ministry as a priest I discovered that simply quoting morals at people does not work.  Good pastoral care begins with listening to people's pain. I have listened first hand to the stories of women who have been raped and abused by men, of women who could not afford health care, and thus pre-natal care.  I'm not saying that these sufferings make abortion just OK.  I am saying that trying to illegalize it without providing for the legitimate needs of the pregnant mother is short-sighted. Too many legislators at both national and local levels are guilty of that.

   Then there is the issue of the father of the unborn child.  So many of them abandon the pregnant woman and do not take responsibility.  I realize that it can be a complicated issue but maybe we should at least look into the issue of making them pay for childcare as well as the medical care of the mother.

   Some will object and say that the permissiveness of the times is a big factor in unwanted pregnancies. It indeed is.  It may be fine to encourage virginity before marriage.  We should. But let's be real--How likely is that effort to succeed in a widespread way?

    The other issue is answering the question, "What does it mean to be pro-life and not just pro-birth? When I bring up issues such as rights of immigrants, racism and  capital punishment too many people dismiss that because of arguments such as "Criminals are not innocent." or "These other issues don't invole the actual taking of life." There is some truth there but you cannot dismiss them because to do so is to attack life.  Also, the Church has now said that capital punishment is not right. Please don't holler for the death penalty and say that you are pro-life.

   This is a short article. More nuance may be needed.As the title suggests it's just not that simple. I welcome suggestions by comment or e-mail. If, however, you just want to call me a name or condemn me or say that I am against the Church please pause and take a deep breath.  You have not read this piece carefully.


  1. To your point near the end, John, indeed, I was appalled at the silence of US Catholics at the string of state murders since last summer. The Church teaches that the death penalty is inadmissible in all cases. Yes, that is a teaching that developed, but didn't come out of nowhere. Why are the bishops not denouncing this? Why did the majority Catholic Supreme Court facilitate it, not even looking closely at the cases? I wrote to several bishops whom I know asking them to speak, but not a single one responded.

  2. There is no question a pro-life view (of persons of good will) is concerned with the welfare of all human beings, at all stages of human life. Ultimately, this view is rooted in the grace of divine love. Yet, when one denies the God given right to life - that person is not trustworthy to lead. Political leaders must be unequivocally informed that protection of unborn life is a prerequisite for a just society and any support is intrinsically evil. Natural Law informs all people (regardless if one is even an athiest) of this through reason. There is NO excuse. The teaching on the death penalty has developed and it's use no longer morally acceptable. Saying this, the death penalty should not be confused with an intrinsic evil - since God and the Magisterium of the Church confirmed its liceity in the past (Cardinal Avery Dulles


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