Is it possible for the Catholic Church to declare abortion morally acceptable someday?
The Church, as it is, seems out of step with so much of the rest of the world. Does the appeal of “getting with the times” attract the Church’s hierarchy?
After all, the Catholic Church remains the most steadfast, ardent defender of life known to the Western world. It is unpopular for its hardline stance against the murder of the unborn.
Could the pope or the bishops decide one day to reverse Church teaching?
Pope Saint John Paul II explains in his 1995 papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae the basis for the Church’s teaching and whether it could ever change.
MORAL DEPRAVITY OF ABORTION: A MATTER OF THE TRADITION OF THE CHURCH
Picking up in section 62 of Eangelium Vitae, the late Holy Father recounts Church teaching (all emphasis is my own). He begins by reviewing recent papal declarations over the moral depravity abortion remains.
“The more recent Papal Magisterium has vigorously reaffirmed this common doctrine [opposing abortion]. Pius XI in particular, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, rejected the specious justifications of abortion. Pius XII excluded all direct abortion, i.e., every act tending directly to destroy human life in the womb ‘whether such destruction is intended as an end or only as a means to an end.’ John XXIII reaffirmed that human life is sacred because ‘from its very beginning it directly involves God’s creative activity.’
Pope Saint John Paul II adds that the most recent Church council reiterated the immorality of procuring an abortion. “The Second Vatican Council, as mentioned earlier, sternly condemned abortion: ‘From the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.’”
The Polish Pontiff follows up by reviewing the seriousness in which the Catholic Church takes the crime of murdering the unborn. He reviews the canonical teaching of the Church on this topic.
“The Church’s canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion. This practice, with more or less severe penalties, has been confirmed in various periods of history.
“The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication. The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that ‘a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.’
Did you catch that? If you are Catholic and you procure an abortion, you earn an automatic excommunication. You are barred from Communion and community from the Church until you repent and receive absolution in Confession.
But that is not all, Pope Saint John Paul II continues on the topic of excommunication: “The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.”
Indeed, folks. What the pope has just stated not many people realize. You do not have to be the one having the abortion performed on yourself to be excommunicated. If you aid in the procurement of the abortion, then you too are excommunicated. This means if you drive the person to the mill, or if you pay for the homicidal procedure, or you coerce a woman into getting one, you have cut yourself off from community with Christ and His Church.
The pope explains the reason behind the excommunication penalty. “By this reiterated sanction, the Church makes clear that abortion is a most serious and dangerous crime, thereby encouraging those who commit it to seek without delay the path of conversion. In the Church the purpose of the penalty of excommunication is to make an individual fully aware of the gravity of a certain sin and then to foster genuine conversion and repentance.
COULD THE CHURCH SOMEDAY PROCLAIM ABORTION MORALLY ACCEPTABLE?
So, could the Catholic Church ever declare abortion morally acceptable?
Pope Saint John Paul II answers, “Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, [Pope] Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable.”
So, the short answer is no. The Church knows the truth on this matter and has no authority to change its teaching. It wouldn’t want to waiver from the truth anyway.
Pope Saint John Paul II then makes a pronouncement of his own:
“Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops—who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine— I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”
He then states what he is basing his pronouncement on: “This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
Pope Saint John Paul II then concludes this section on the immorality of abortion by stating this:
“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.”
Therefore, he is saying everyone can know abortion remain morally grave by use of their faculty of reason. This truth is written on their hearts by means of the Natural Law. You don’t even have to be religious, let alone a Catholic, to know the serious moral depravity of murdering the unborn.
Thus, the Church is not declaring abortion to be immoral and using God’s name to defend her ruling. Rather, the Church serves merely to point out the obvious here and to make it known to all those who are willing to listen.
What do you make of those wondering if the Catholic Church could ever announce abortion morally acceptable?
Please add your thoughts below!