This is the month of October, a month which is traditionally observed as Respect Life month, a time for us to become more knowledgeable about and sensitive to the respect life issues we face in the world today. And, to gain strength and courage in challenging those whose attitudes, actions, and beliefs do not adequately respect the dignity of every person, as demanded by the gospel and by the teaching of the Church.
At the base of this is respect for all human life, from the moment of conception until natural death. Every living person, unborn and born, will die. Everyone will die either a natural death or an unnatural death. On the occasion of a natural death there is no moral concern. If we live we will die. However, there is a moral concern anytime there is an unnatural death, that is, a death caused by or inflicted by another individual. If person A shoots and kills person B, and there is no legitimate reason for this action, then person A is committing a moral crime (and possibly a civil crime). If however, person A is police officer and person B is a fleeing suspect in a serious crime, then the death by shooting which was caused by Person A is not likely to be a moral crime, as that was a justified killing to protect the common good. However, if Person A could have restrained Person B without having to resort to a fatal gunshot, that would be morally preferable.
In recent months Pope Francis has refined Catholic moral teaching regarding the death penalty. The Church now teaches that the death penalty is always immoral. The state itself ought not engage in violence, and ought to respect the dignity and life even of those who have committed terrible acts.
Not surprisingly, all this leads in this October Respect Life month to address the matter of abortion. Abortion is always an act of evil and an act of violence, perpetrated against one who is always entirely innocent. What crime has the child has committed for which it deserves the death penalty? There is no such crime! The child is not culpable for any action.
Abortion is such a serious crime against God and humanity that serious penalties are applied to it. A Catholic—who while knowing that this penalty applies to the act— nevertheless provides direct assistance to a completed abortion—incurs the penalty of excommunication from the church.
We all know that Roe v. Wade issued by the Supreme Court in 1973 interpreted the civil law in such a way that made abortion legal in the USA. That civil law ruling of course has no impact on the moral law teaching of the Church. Abortion was and remains a heinous crime against God and humanity.
The Roe v.Wade decision answered only one question, is it legal to abort an unborn child. There are other attendant issues which are not addressed by Roe v. Wade. Such as, “Is it right to abort a child?” and “Is it just to abort a child?” Of course, the answer is a resounding “No.” It is neither right nor just to kill an unborn child.
In addition there are other paradigms of decency which need to be applied to those who perform abortions, to those who chose to commit abortion, and to those who support the abortion industry.
One should rightly ask the question, “Is it decent to be involved in abortion?” Does a decent person promote the killing of unborn human life? Another term to consider is “honorable.” Does an honorable person approve of ripping off the arms and legs of an unborn child in anticipation of destroying the remainder of that unborn life? Of course not! That is not an honorable thing. A decent or honorable person does not do or support such things!
Is it noble to be associated with the insertion of a scissors or other surgical instrument into the back of an unborn child’s head prior to inserting a suction tube to remove the child’s brain? No, it is not noble to be associated with the willful destruction of innocent human life.
We should want to support people whose actions and beliefs are consonant with what is right and just regarding the sanctity of human life. We should want to support those whose actions, attitudes, beliefs and practices are honorable, decent and noble in regard to the precious gift of human life. Those who dishonor the sanctity of human life— particularly unborn life—ought not receive our honor or support.
Fr. Bill Reynolds
Iowa Knights of Columbus