August 7, 2017:
For the pedestrian there is no moral conundrum regarding abortion. It is easy to take the high road and say Abortion (as a general rule) is wrong and immoral. Some would disagree with me – but for argument sake, lets accept this is as a safe premise with the natural order of things supporting pregnancy and natural birth.
Where I have difficulty is when I drive by Planned Parenthood and see protesters with numerous signs attacking anyone who walks into that building without any knowledge of the totality of the situation the person is facing who is seeking guidance from Planned Parenthood. These are not happy, compassionate people pacing the side-walk. They do not beam with the aura of the Holy Spirit. They do not at all seem Christ like.
Their answer to promoting God and saving the unborn child does not resonate with me. I strongly question if their passion is serving God or serving self-righteous and self-affirming religious prestige.
I do not see sad protesters – demonstrating solemnity for the cause they are representing. I do not see hope or compassion. I see anger and searching eyes – who is seeing me fight the good fight.
At the same time. the value on Human life in our society is clearly in dire straights and Christians have a moral obligation to participate and help be shape a culture that embraces life.
These protesters have deep convictions and are out there discussing and demonstrating against a terrible tragedy. In 2014 there were over 926,000 abortions in the United States and only 9 countries had a higher per Capita abortion rate. Nearly 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion? (http://abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/)
This says more about our values as a society concerning culture, sexuality, education, and a meaningful life that goes beyond the pleasure of physical intimacy with another human being that may lead to an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. The issues are so far upstream from the day a women walks past angry protesters into planned parenthood wondering where these holy rollers get the time to pace the sidewalk judging me.
I have returned to the abortion issue many times over the years as it is used as voter magnate for politicians who do not support social justice and equality issues that reflect many Christian values in many other areas – many of which directly reduce unwanted pregnancies when present in a community.
It is not a condundrum for me to vote for a candidate regardless of their abortion position. I would rather not vote at times but feel it is my civic duty acknowledging that whatever lever I pull or button I push – negative moral consequences will likely transpire in my name (at least as represented by my government). My one vote will not terminate death row executions, prevent abortions, stop wars, address in totality access to education, healthcare, employment and housing. No candidate has the spiritual conscience that mirrors all of my beliefs and maybe that is a good thing. Who knows what errors I would make if given unlimited authority and power to define moral and spiritual law across the land.
On this issue I can only pray for the Holy Spirit to be present with any women, unborn child, family members, and health care practicioners facing this issue. I do not have an anwser. I will say it is not best addressed by an all male judiciary, male politicians, or the angry pedestrian on the walkway with the bloody sign.
November 6, 2016: Update: I am of this world and most of the below is “of this world” through the lens of reality of our world today. I do not support or recommend abortion. I recognize the limits of my role to enforce anti-abortion stance, judgement of others, support criminality efforts, and know with any degree of certainty what is best for others when faced with this terrible decision. Through the lens of God my church teaches it is a mortal sin. I have posted on this issue in my blog. Below is my original review.
Original Post: The advocacy position of my church proposing “appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights” for women having an abortion has vexed my conscience. I have on most social policy positions voted according to my faith as the Democratic Party is closely aligned with Catholicism on many issues except Abortion and the pro-choice movement. This is a pretty big exception. Does my vote for a pro-choice candidate, who in every other issue (income inequality, social justice, anti-death penalty, and pro society conditions that support human dignity), amount to me supporting murdering a baby?
I do not support or advocate abortion. It is physically traumatizing for women (and girls). It is psychologically traumatizing for women (and girls). It is spiritually traumatizing for women (and girls). It is vicariously traumatizing for the partners and families of these women (and girls). It also in most cases is a misapplication of medical practices utilized to address a grave societal issue. Namely, as clearly delineated by Pope Paul John II and by Christian tradition, abortion is considered by our faith to be murderous:
“Christian Tradition-as the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out so well-is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practiced, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache mentioned earlier. Among the Greek ecclesiastical writers, Athenagoras records that Christians consider as murderesses women who have recourse to abortifacient medicines, because children, even if they are still in their mother’s womb, “are already under the protection of Divine Providence”. Among the Latin authors, Tertullian affirms: “It is anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born; it makes little difference whether one kills a soul already born or puts it to death at birth. He who will one day be a man is a man already”. (http://m.catholicnewsagency.com/resource.php?n=5)
However, pro-choice advocates have a compelling argument that is opposed to our beliefs. Their viewpoint has gained wide acceptance in contemporary times. Although our beliefs are not a popularity contest, it is important that we analyze some of the issues raised. Our church has to be wary of being “self-referential” without testing our beliefs against current knowledge. The entire New Testament would not be if 12 apostles did not test Jesus Christ salvation message against standing Jewish doctrine and the Old Testament.
Scripture Dignity of Life
The first issue often raised is “the texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mother’s womb that they require as a logical consequence that God’s commandment “You shall not kill” be extended to the unborn child as well.” (http://m.catholicnewsagency.com/resource.php?n=5)
While it may be a logical conclusion, Abortion is reported to have been widely accepted in Jesus’s time, a time when “You Shall Not Kill” was accepted Jewish law, and there is not one reference from Jesus Christ on abortion. He clearly gave us other priorities on the poor, on accepting Jesus Christ, and other moral imperatives. He did not address the unborn at all or the act of abortion. This is a very weak theological argument that took hold in the early church sometime between the third and fourth centuries. Prior to that there were ambiguous terms of the unborn baby having “delayed ensoulment.” The certitude with which our church asserts its position is historically on shaky foundations. Despite this, I believe the Catholic Church has it generally right; abortion is contrarian to Divine will and God’s way. I reach this conclusion mostly on John Paul II’s teaching on the culture of death that we embrace in our society on many issues. However, his teachings also speak to the dignity of all human life.
Until our society embraces dignity of all human life (the rich, the poor, the hungry, women, children, unborn) seamlessly in our economic and social systems (housing, employment, food, clothing, healthcare, spirituality) and embraces a culture of inclusion and meaningful life for the all, we will have a culture that re-enforces death: literal death and death by living souls being treated without dignity. Let’s place this first issue on the side and agree that abortion contributes to a culture of death for argument sake (negating countless opposing views and situational issues that may make abortion an ethically correct decision when analyzed outside the prism of Christianity).
Social Determinates & Legal System
This brings me to “appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of a child’s rights.” Women (and girls) suffer violations of dignity in our world systematically, historically, and un-equivocally universally. These violations themselves have placed countless women in positions where they are incapable of making a “deliberate” decision. Deliberation means to use one’s powers of conception, of judgment to reach a decision carefully and cogently. Our society has pervasively documented unfair and unjust systemic oppression throughout history of women (and girls) as well as various groups of people that have minimized their access to the full dignity of human life. In sociological terms this can be understood by studying “social determinates” such as quality and access issues to education, poverty, health care, housing, and other systemic issues that undermine people’s dignity, power, and ability to respect life.
Is our legal system able to with any competency sit in judgement of a women’s (or girls) capacity to deliberately conceptualize getting pregnant, deliberately and cogently conceptualize the meaning of abortion, ability to utilize their own power to cope with the consequences of carrying the unborn full-term? Will these penal sanctions hold accountable men who partnered to create an unwanted child, or sanction meaningfully men who do not support women who brazenly raise children without support? In essence, penal sanctions of women who have abortions will victimize women (and girls) that have already been victimized by a system that minimizes their access to and understanding of a meaningful life. The frequency and number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions is evidence that our society is failing women (and girls) in vast droves to be adequately prepared for and participate in a meaningful, dignified life. How are our politicians and legal system addressing sanctions for themselves for vast systemic failures in our educational system, economic system, and legal system? Deliberate implies power and cognition – and in many cases women (and girls) lack that power and cognition. Our government and our system have the levers of power to make significant changes that would drastically improve the dignity of life for our poor and conversely improve women’s ability to deliberately choose life. Let’s place this collective condemnation argument aside as well and agree that abortion in any civil society should be against the law (again negating countless opposing views and situational issues that may make abortion an ethically correct decision when analyzed outside the prism of Christianity).
Penal System and Effectiveness
This brings us to legal execution of criminalizing abortion. How will our legal system assess sentencing? If abortion is murder of an innocent baby what is a just sentence? I could see constituents calling for a literal execution (capital punishment) at the other extreme. And if not capital punishment, what higher penalty can be assessed than the penalty already assessed by God? Additionally, one of the main reasons pro-choice advocates state is that criminalization has been ineffective and only moved the act of abortion to the black market, resulting in Women (and girls) who lacked decent deliberation abilities and power to begin with, ending up getting medical surgeries in back alleys. Let’s agree that we cannot justify abortion legally as a society despite valid precipitous events or circumstances (individually or institutionally imposed) and assume our legal system can apply the law justly and fairly (again negating countless opposing views and situational issues that challenge our underlying Christian beliefs and values and the competency of the legal system).
Will we as Christians be able to share and engage a pro-life position to women (and girls) considering abortion if we have come to represent the legal system and have criminalized the action? Who will they turn to when they are “deliberating” this decision? Will it be us who have criminalized those with the least power to effect improving the dignity of life for all or the non-believer who has access to the butcher in the alleyway, who recognizes their suffering and fear, and is all too ready to accept the $450 dollars? I have doubts that criminalizing abortion will foster the results that our church desires.
The church is without a nation and stands outside nations. Unfortunately, our church leaders and body of believers have come to rely on and expect the states to impose our values and beliefs rather than appealing to people to share our faith. This also calls on us to share the compassionate and merciful messages of Christendom and set by example the Word of God.
“The Church forms a spiritual unity of which Christ is the divine head. It is animated by one Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. It professes one faith, shares one hope, and serves one King. It is the citadel of the truth and God’s agency for communicating to believers all spiritual blessings.” We have to be able to reach believers and non-believers outside the reference point of nation’s laws to embrace the truths that we hold so dear. Our God embraces free will and determination and as hard as this maybe, we have to as well when it is clear the universal society does not value our beliefs. People’s free will if exposed to the gospel should provide them with the deliberate capacity to avoid the “abominable crime” of abortion on their own accord. When they do not see abortion as sin, we share in their guilt and their sin even if non-believers do not share in our belief. Condemn them and condemn ourselves as we own a portion of every evil insult to the dignity of human life and to God.
How do we do that?
I have avoided extensive deep dive and references to various decrees, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see abortion: 2270-2275) , Church Councils, and the vast trove of Catholic preaching against abortion. It is not debatable for Catholics that abortion is morally wrong. Also, while we may struggle to defend our position to non-believers, enough evidence exists to object to abortion as a routine birth control procedure.
Christological Ontology and the evolution of church doctrine are quite complex spanning two thousand years since Jesus Christ. Theologians, philosophers, and historians can through reductive analysis strip away and create ambiguity for the faithful in basic fundamental truths of faith. Our belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation, for example, has intrinsic unknowable mysteries yet truths that hold to be definitive church doctrine. Read the incarnational ontology of the Nicene Creed. The fundamental belief of Jesus Christ being both man and wholly the son of God is a sacrosanct belief that requires a leap of faith and the ability to understand metaphysical concepts and live with a certain degree of uncertainty. It is important to note our history as a church and that we do have fallibility.
However, with abortion, after weighing the absence of direct reference in the gospels, the development and elaboration of abortion being an abominable crime in church tradition and decrees, the wider systemic issues of social determinates, frail legal system, ineffective penal system, and examination of my conscience, I can say the following:
- I am against criminalizing abortion,
- I am pro-life,
- And I am pro fostering universal human dignity (including pro-life).
Nonetheless, it is still vexingly uncertain that I pull the democratic lever (pro-choice) or the republican lever (pro-capital punishment). (In God’s eyes, neither is deserving of death). Perhaps the answer is to not vote? No, I cannot do that as I believe, however miniscule my vote is, it stands for all the social determinate issues that I believe need to be addressed and if addressed will also ultimately lower abominable crimes. I also believe that as science progresses our church and each of us will have to weigh what would Jesus Christ really want in each situation. He befuddled the Jewish nation with unexpected suffering salvation ministry. What would he do today?
In a sense, if you believe in the trinity, Jesus Christ is here in word, in the Holy Spirit, and in the church. He is with us as we experience suffering and with us when we witness what we believe to be grave sins. He is with us when we commit sins. For us, we have been given the sacrament of reconciliation that we can use often for our own sins, and for our collective sins.
There is a metaphysical mystery in the Trinity, in the church, in the hearts and souls of believers that we can give to God the impossible in our prayers, seek reconciliation often for ourselves and for the church
(as one being), and be active in our church and receive the Eucharist. The means that I see for addressing abortion are far grander than criminalizing the marginalized. I know this not to be possible now and have to give it to my God. After much reflection, here are more personal commitments for this societal issue, some of which can be utilized by non-believers, pro-choice advocates, and yes, even Christians:
- We can pray and give to God what we don’t understand, give to God what we think is impossible, and continue to do what we can to improve our love for each other here on earth.
- We can be merciful and forgiving to those who have offended us or committed grave sin.
- We can work proactively to serve, especially the poor and try to improve access and quality of services related to “social determinates” to improve human dignity and decrease our de-sensitized value of every human being.
- Have and pray for Mercy: “Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” (http://www.sndchardon.org/2015/04/17/year-of-mercy-pope-francis-vision-of-compassion-forgiveness-merciful-love/)
- Avoid futile debates and protracted semantic slander (see number one). Share your wisdom, but if it is not heard, shake the dust of your feet and keep going. Not with attitude of grandeur for that same person may after reflection (and perhaps the work of the Holy Spirit) come running down the street after you when your continence demonstrated genuine caring, compassion, and respect.
- Demand social policy to be pro-active rather than re-active.
- Of course, hopefully our influence and faith helps people before they get into an unwanted pregnancy. However, how many times have we met people after the horse left the barn? Given the chance, provide wise counsel and support to a person who is deliberating abortion in a non-shaming way. Assuming the women (or girl) is, after gentle counsel, not moved by your support and options, perhaps she may want to consider helping a childless couple achieve what their biology could not provide. Divine providence can work in unexpected ways. Below are resources and questions that one might ask a person thinking of sacrificing by experiencing the challenge of delivering an unwanted baby for the reward of avoiding grave sin and enriching the lives of two other people. Not to mention many biological parents these days are able to stay connected to the foster family.
- Look at this issue thru the lens of God, the lens of the trinity, not thru the lens of political parties or slogans.
- Seek reconciliation and the Eucharist often.
- Repeat number one.
- Planned Parenthood has trained counselors that can walk people through options that include options that are against our values and tradition. As Catholics we maybe unequipped to be able to convey a message that allows an individual to seriously consider adoption and/or keeping the baby. Our lack of neutrality may push our loved one away towards abortion. Free will is a tremendous responsibility. All of the resources available will probably discuss all options.
The Alternative Pathway:
“Who Can Help Me with Adoption?
An adoption agency can help you answer any questions you might have. When you look for an adoption agency, ask questions to make sure they are a good fit for you.
You might want to ask:
- Will using your services cost me anything?
- Do you offer counseling or support groups for birth mothers and birth fathers?
- How do you screen the adoptive families you work with?
- Will I be able to meet with adoptive families?
- If I choose an open adoption, will you help me stay in touch with the adoptive family?
- Can your agency help with prenatal care or delivery costs?
- Do you work with families looking for babies of different races and ethnicities? Are there families interested in adopting babies with special medical needs?
- What are the birth father’s rights in my state?
- If I choose adoption, when is my decision final?
If you are interested in an independent or family adoption, you can contact your state, county, or local department of family or child services, or your local Planned Parenthood health center for resources. They may be able to help you locate a social worker or other adoption counselor who can guide you through the adoption process.”
Letter to the editor template The vicious, inflammatory attacks between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups have stolen the attention for too long. Without much debate, everyone can reduce unwanted pregnancies by supporting a massive societal reframing of the availability of adoption services for pregnant women who recognize they cannot manage the awesome gift of life and the corresponding responsibility.
We have to change the conversation. “We want You, the bearer of life, who has decided that raising a child is not possible now, but is willing to sacrifice suffering the pain and joy of carrying your baby thru to delivery, to join us in finding a loving home with a family who desperately desires to raise your child.”
Replace the shame and stigma of unwanted pregnancy with pride and sacrifice for fulfilling the dreams of another family and finding a home for the unborn child. We do more for stray cats and dogs than we do for the unborn child and the conflicted mother. Let’s give these women the support, without shame, to make this brave choice.
Pregnant women of the world: We support you in choosing life. We support you for the magnificent sacrifice of carrying life within you, suffering months of medical care, the pain of labor and delivery, and the grief and joy of finding your baby a home. “Adoptions for the Heart” is a program that does this type of work. They can be reached at 1-888-960- 6729 or on the web at http://afth.org/http://ichooseadoption.org/category/birthmothers
Other information can be found at: https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/#.
Sent to News Journal 07/23/2015
Counter opinion noted 2/26/2016: http://mediamatters.org/research/2016/02/23/washington-post-cited-bogus-post-abortion-syndr/208747
“AUL President and CEO Charmaine] Yoest’s personal view on women made pregnant by rape or incest is this: “It doesn’t solve one tragedy to effect another.” She says “many friends” in the pro-life movement who have been victims in such cases agree. “They are the ones who are qualified to speak about this,” she said. [The Guardian, 5/25/12] This article undermines undermines one of my beliefs that abortion is akin to physical and psychological trauma for women. Perhaps even more strongly stated, and inconsistent within the whole argument is Charmaine says “they (meaning women who have been victims of rape) are the ones qualified to speak about this.”
That is an excellent point. One of my views has been women and medical professionals are the ones qualified to make the decision. (At the very least, it should not be left up to the states that cannot even care for tap water and men who cannot bear children or get abortions). Has my choose life position been wrong with one of its tenants being abortion creates physical, psychological and spiritual trauma to the women who choose it? Have I not given weight to the physical, psychological and spiritual trauma of carrying an unwanted baby full-term and giving birth and presumably caring for and raising the baby for 18 years? I have given this issue plenty of thought as one of the spiritual and ethical dilemmas of our time and came down on the side of choose life and social democrat policies. All this article did was further elaborate for me how unqualified I am (as a male, as a catholic, as a non-medical doctor, as a social worker without extensive data and evidence mental health impact) to define what is best and/or judge what is best for women in this predicament. I have not judged – but I have implied what is best for women based on assumptions mentioned above that may not be accurate. In the end I remain choose life – which returns the power to those qualified to make the decision (pregnant women and medical doctors). (They have the processes that give both the chance to weigh the spiritual, physical, emotional, and circumstantial issues that outweigh the wisdom or lack there of, the pundits of our political system and chaotic legal morass that we see today). .