Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Catholic Basics--Moral Issues of Life and Death 5

As promised, I am following up my answers about pro-life issues with excerpts from Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft. This is the book I read that cleared up many of my objections to Catholic teachings. The excerpts for this series began here.

I must stress that this book does not substitute for the Catechism and is best read as an accompaniment to it. Also, I must stress that this book is best read from the beginning as Kreeft, in following the Catechism, provides a logical construct for the reason the Church's teachings exist. That is just precisely the Catechism does, but this book is somewhat easier to understand, especially in its application to specific examples of modern life and the faith. Although this section necessarily addresses other issues such as capital punishment, euthanasia, suicide and more, I will be focusing primarily on abortion and the right to life.
11. The universal agreement in the Catholic tradition about abortion
“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion [as distinct from miscarriage or spontaneous abortion]. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable” (C 2271).

The earliest Christian document we have after the New Testament, the first-century “Letter to Diognetus,” mentions abortion as one of the things Christians never
do, as a distinctive visible feature of their faith. The latest Ecumenical Council,Vatican II, reaffirmed this teaching in totally uncompromising terms:“‘. . . abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes’76” (C 2271).

The presence of “dissenters” or of heretics who reject some certain, essential Catholic (“Catholic” means “universal”) teaching does not make that teaching uncertain,
unessential, or non-universal. The Church’s teaching did not come from human opinion, so it cannot be changed by human opinion.

12. The Church’s policy on abortion
Catholic tradition distinguishes “formal”and “material” cooperation in any evil. “Formal cooperation”means direct, deliberate doing of the evil – for instance, a mother freely choosing to pay a doctor to abort her baby, the doctor performing
the abortion, or a nurse directly helping the doctor to perform it.“Material cooperation” means indirect or nondeliberate aid – for instance, contributing money to a hospital that performs abortions. Material cooperation is a “gray area.” Even paying taxes can be material cooperation in abortion when the government uses tax money to finance health insurance that covers abortions. It is not possible to avoid all material cooperation with evil. But it is possible, and necessary, to avoid all formal cooperation with evil, for any reason. No good reason can justify an intrinsically evil act.

“Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical [official Church-law] penalty of excommunication to this crime
against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,’77 ‘by the very commission of the offense’78 . . .” (C2272).

This does not mean that all who commit this sin are damned. Excommunication is not automatic damnation. But it does mean they have broken their communion with
the Body of Christ. For Christ cannot commit such a crime, and to be a Catholic is to be a member of his very Body, to be his hands and fingers. It is not Christ’s hands that abort Christ’s children.

“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy” (C 2272). Forgiveness is always available for any sin, if sincerely repented, and ministries of reconciliation like “Project Rachel” deal compassionately with women who have had abortions.

Mother Teresa says: “Every abortion has two victims: the body of the baby and the soul of the mother.”The first is beyond repair, but the second is not; and the Church
does everything possible to repair and restore souls and lives torn by sin – which in one way or another is true of all of us. The Church does not judge the individual soul,nor should any of us. She says, as her Master did, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” She is not in the business of stone-casting. But she is in the business of the accurate labeling of human acts, just like her Master, who said not only “neither do I condemn you,” but also “go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11).
Coming next, the basic arguments for and against abortion.

(Note: you can also find the book as a series of pdfs or podcasts here. My series of excerpts would be found in Lesson 27.)

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