Alright, back to basics. What is the Catholic doctrine on abortion?
Has the Catholic Church defined its teaching on abortion? If you listen to poorly-catechized, supposed Catholics like Nancy Pelosi you might have the wrong idea.
To demonstrate that the Catholic Church has, in fact, made a moral judgment on the grave sinfulness of abortion, I will now cite for you the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd edition) (CCC). Although a number of different sources could be used as evidence to answer what is Catholic doctrine on abortion, sections 2270-75 of the CCC have a direct and rather precise summation of the Church’s teaching on such a matter.
(All bold emphasis below is my own. All italics emphasis is original.)
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life [cf. CDF, Donum vitae I].
[“]Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you[”- Jeremiah 1:5].
[“]My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.[” Psalm 139:15].
Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
[“]You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish[” – Didache].
[“]God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes[” – CIC, canon 1398].
Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” [CIC, canon 1398] “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law [CIC, canon 1323-24]. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents ; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death[” –CDF, Donum vitae III].
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights[” –CDF, Donum vitae III].
Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence[” –CDF, Donum vitae I, 2].
“One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival[” –CDF, Donum vitae I,3].
“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material[” –CDF, Donum vitae I,3].
“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity” [–CDF, Donum vitae I,6,] which are unique and unrepeatable.
I hope that answers the question of what is Catholic doctrine concerning abortion.
Have any thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment!