Monday, June 18, 2007


Anon asked, “I had an interesting question from my eldest son who is quite politically active. He was reading about politicians who are considered to be excommunicated from the church as a result of their pro-choice support. He wanted to know if they were formally excommunicated or were they considered to have excommunicated themselves? In addition, if he were to support those politicians, does he, then, excommunicate himself? He also wanted to know if other politicians were also considered excommunicated as a result of their support of the death penalty and support of the war.”

Tom responded, “No American politicians have been formally excommunicated for their support of legal abortion.More common than the argument that they have excommunicated themselves is the argument that they should be denied Communion. (Excommunication and denying Communion are two different things, though they're often confused.)There is a fundamental difference between abortion and things like the death penalty and the war. Catholics may legitimately hold the opinion that the death penalty and the war are moral; they may not legitimately hold the opinion that abortion is moral.”

Also, our summer seminarian, Jim, helped to offer this about excommunication, Canon Law, and the Eucharist:

To start with, one can assume that everyone who is excommunicated excommunicates themselves, because it is their actions that incur the penalty of excommunication. Formal excommunications are public, and are imposed after determination of either the negligence or the malicious intent of the person committing the offense. Automatic excommunication occurs when someone knowingly and maliciously commits one of the offenses enumerated in the Code of Canon Law. Secondly, excommunication is a punishment that the Church imposes through the authority granted by Christ and it is used as a “medicinal” penalty, with the hope that the offender will cease his wrong behavior. Thirdly, excommunication means removal from communion with the Body of Christ, the Church, and, as such, means that the person can no longer receive the sacraments, the sources of sanctifying grace, and also loses the spiritual support that flows from them.

This should not be confused with the spiritual punishment for the offense itself, the separation from God that is the result of mortal sin, a result that is incurred automatically by the person’s willingness to commit a serious sin. Excommunication is the Church’s way to draw special attention to the offense, to encourage the person to change his ways, because his soul is at risk of eternal punishment. It is actually a loving action, although the way it’s portrayed is more often as an act of revenge.

While Canon Law states “a person who procures a complete abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication” (Canon #1398), it does not specify that those who advocate abortion, vote for laws making access to abortion easier, or campaign for abortion rights are excommunicated. The person (e.g., a politician) who advocates abortion can be guilty of scandal, and as such is also responsible for all evil that he directly or indirectly causes. Also, this person, by presenting himself to receive the Eucharist, again risks causing scandal, because believers might see the giving of the Eucharist to such a person as either a desecration of the Eucharist, or tacit approval of that person’s advocacy, or as a sign of weakness of the Church and its clergy. Canon Law dictates that the Eucharist may be denied to an individual for their own protection, because their actions have demonstrated a disregard for the teachings of the Church. St. Paul cautions the Corinthians that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, that is, not in a state of grace, is a profaning of the Sacrament and invites judgment on the person receiving. In general, extreme caution is taken when denying someone Communion because we never know what it in a person’s heart; only God and the person knows.

Support of the death penalty or any war is not included in the eight types of offenses which under Canon Law incur the penalty of excommunication. One can, in good faith, disagree over the need for the death penalty in individual cases or whether the conditions for a just war are met. But to willingly go against the Church on a grave matter of dogma can incur the penalty of separating one from the love of God and condemning that person to eternal punishment. For example, voting for someone who advocates abortion because that person advocates abortion is a grave sin, and if it is done with full knowledge and full consent, it is a mortal sin.

There are many other considerations involved in the matter of either excommunication or the withholding of the Eucharist, but the most important thing to remember is that each of these are evidence of the Church’s loving concern for the souls entrusted to her, and her desire to lead all to eternal union with God.


At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that if Cardinal McCarrick struggles with the issue of withholding communion from pro-choice politicians, than it is not as clear cut as this message makes it sound. Even the Vatican Secretariat of State changed the Pope's statement regarding the Mexican bishops back in May. It seems to me that politicians are not directly "procuring" abortions and to have this issue trickle all the way down to voters seems inappropriate given that we, as voters, have limited choices. So, what is the answer. Are you saying we should not exercise our consitutional right to vote if given the option between 2 pro-choice candidates? Are you saying that we must always choose the pro-life candidate even though he may have committed grave sins himself?

It does seem that the Catholic church has not been a leader on this issue at all, which makes it all the more confusing and upsetting.

While I am pro-life, I must say that I find the church's position on capital punishment and a "just" war to be completely wishy washy. Take a stand for life in ALL circumstances so that there will be no confusion. That's my opinion.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I don’t understand how “in good faith” one could argue for the death penalty.
The Catechism #2267 says, “... the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor....” Maybe in times when isolation wasn’t really possible, and the only means of safeguarding the populous was execution, the argument could stand. But now- in our day- it is possible to safely remove someone from society, so how could the death penalty be the only possible effective way? I cannot see capital punishment as anything more than an eye for an eye, and haven’t we been taught that this is wrong? Furthermore, how can we make strong our argument that life is valuable and precious in our pro-life stance, if we denigrate the value of life by deeming ourselves worthy executioners? Are only those who have an absolute requirement for our protection (the unborn, children, the elderly) deserving of it? I do not understand.

Furthermore, if the church has declared a war “unjust”, isn’t our support of that war and our support of those in office who support that war also called into question? How do we pick and choose our issues and vote, when so many candidates fall on “this” side of one argument but on “that” side of another?

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, we have our pope being a strong critic of the Iraq war, stating over and over again that it is not a just war, and yet where is the Catholic leadership when it comes to our soldiers being sent to fight an unjust war?? Perhaps the church should stand up and say, "No more." Why must I sit in church and listen to homilies about how courageous our soldiers are when they are fighting in an unjust war? Who are the enablers of this grave sin?

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

The anon 1:52' s statement made me think about something I was told. I had asked a question about whether or not it was considered a sin to fight in an "unjust" war. I was told that it is for each soldier to decide if he thinks the war is just and act in accordance with his conscience. Wouldn't that mean that what the Pope advocates wouldn't really matter? Doesn't that open the door for people to think, if that's true for this situation, then why not others?

In one sense, I do understand that soldiers, who had been enlisted in the service, did not have ultimate control of the situations around them, and so, perhaps, there was some need for leniency here. But- what of the church taking a stand about not enlisting or re-enlisting to fight in this war? Or- what of the church taking the stand to call Catholic soldiers to be conscientious objectors? (or maybe they have and I'm unaware-??) Wouldn't that seem to better response to the Pope?

However, we should pray for those in harm's way, and our soldiers are in harm's way. Their mention and even praise in church doesn't offend me. There is great honor in service, and I do think our soldiers operate from the place of thinking to do good.

It's just confusing when messages from the church seem mixed- it is wrong, but if YOU, the soldiers, don't think so, then it's okay(???). It's wrong, but if you, the politicians support its funding (but do NOT support stem cell research), we, the church, will still support you(???). We should stand for ALL that we believe clearly, concisely and firmly.

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Anon 1:12 pm wrote: "It seems to me that politicians are not directly "procuring" abortions and to have this issue trickle all the way down to voters seems inappropriate given that we, as voters, have limited choices."

If there were politicians running for public office who supported the intention of landowners on our southern border to shoot dead on sight any illegal immigrants coming into this country, would you say, "I don't support their support for such shootings, but, after all, it's not a sin for me to vote for such a politician"?

My two cents: The hand of any God-fearing individual, Catholic or otherwise, should automatically jump away from the lever next to the name of such a candidate, as if it had received a powerful jolt of electricity.

And similarly, away from the name of a candidate who dares to call abortion and infanticide "rights".

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom wrote that the death penalty and war are moral. Where does this statement appear in Catholic theology? I don't read this statement in the Catechism that Mindy quoted.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I only cited one very small part, but there is much more- maybe Tom (or Jim) will add more...

At 5:23 PM, Blogger fran said...

To all, with questions regarding what the Catechism states on issues such as war, the death penalty and abortion, you can view the entire section under the heading, "Article 5/ THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT," by going to
Hopefully this will address some concerns.

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

Tom wrote that the death penalty and war are moral.

No. I wrote, "Catholics may legitimately hold the opinion that the death penalty and the war are moral."

The Church teaches that neither capital punishment nor warfare is necessarily immoral. The particular circumstances determine whether a particular instance of capital punishment, or a particular war, is moral.

Where does this statement appear in Catholic theology?

Start with the Catechism, nos. 2257 and 2309. Go on to the statements made on the subjects by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point is that humans need help understanding the particulars. The church should be offering more guidance on these issues. How is it that our pope can tell us that this war is not a just war, but Catholics worldwide are not moved by this knowledge.

Marion, there is no need to describe hypothetical scenarios. On a daily basis, we are encountered with meaningless killings. Why just today, seven innocent children were killed in an Afghan air raid and countless children died in Darfur. Do those children count when November elections roll around?

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone be posessed or is it all mental illness?

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Catholics may legitimately hold the opinion that the death penalty and the war are moral."

The word "may" is key- it doesn't mean Catholics can, "in good faith", hold that opinion in any given time. Maybe in extreme circumtances these could be moral.

It just seems that there are issues over which the church is rather tepid. When we are talking about issues that regard the preservation of life (all life), people should be given firm guidance.

I hear the argument from my non-Catholic friends that we, the Catholic community, are hypocrites because we don't seem to stress the values we claim to be so important when dealing with certain issues.

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Marion said...

Anon 5:23 wrote, "Marion, there is no need to describe hypothetical scenarios. On a daily basis, we are encountered with meaningless killings. Why just today, seven innocent children were killed in an Afghan air raid and countless children died in Darfur. Do those children count when November elections roll around?"

Dear Anon,

Thank your for your response, but I'm afraid I couldn't disagree more vigorously about the value of hypotheticals. I find hypotheticals enormously helpful in formulating and discussing distinctions about complex issues.

Making distinctions is everything in thinking clearly and precisely. I respect, however, the fact that you have told me that you do not find them helpful. Others, however, may do so, and I very much hope that you will indulge us on that point.

So, with regard to making distinctions: In response to your mention of the children dying in Darfur, someone else might mention the tens of thousands of Kurds - including children - who died under Saddam.

And in response to that mention I might mention that the tragic reality is that hundreds of thousands of people have killed millions of other people - including children - all over the world for centuries down to this very day . . . and that tragic fact should inform our voting decisions in the next election exactly how?

Where do all these facts leave us?

Forgive me, I need to make the distinctions between who is doing what to whom, where, why, how, and when, and what I personally can do about it all come next November.

In any case, the Church isn't in the business of telling American Catholics precisely whom to vote for, as in "vote for this candidate or vote for this party." The Church can't do that. It's up to the conscience of the individual to choose how to vote.

Instead, the Church properly restricts herself to speaking to the faithful about priniciples and morals. The Church distinguishes between acts that are intrinsically vs. non-intrinsically evil. Some wars in the past have been justifiable, and some may be again in the future. We cannot rule out war across the board as always and everywhere evil. For example, the U.S. G.I.s who liberated the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps were conducting war, but they were doing a good thing. And that was And it might reasonably be argued that the death penalty for SS guards who murdered innocent Jewish prisoners was probably morally justifiable.

As for the future: I think it would be consistent with Church teaching to say say that if another country attacked U.S. soil, we would be justified in defending ourselves in accordance with the just conduct of war.

On the other hand, there can certainly be instances of morally unjustifiable war. Many Catholic bishops have pointed out that the one we are in now is such a one.

With direct abortion the Church teaches something quite different, however, that the evil of direct abortion is of a different nature - it is intrinsically evil, that is, there has never been a non-evil direct abortion, and there never can be. No circumstances whatever, however seemingly noble or wonderful the motive, can justify directly killing an infant, before or after it is born. And that any candidate or party who supports and defends the promotion of direct abortion is supporting intrinsic evil, the worst kind of evil that there is. No Catholic in good conscience can support one who promotes intrinsic evil.

Yet where the Church insists that abortion is an abomination, certain political candidates with a Catholic background insist that abortion is a "right." So, not only are they supporting the worst kind of evil that there is, these candidates are saying, in effect, to the Church, and thus to Jesus Christ, "I defy you to your face."

Well, it's a free country. Vote for whomever you want. But to ask what is the problem with voting for someone who essentially thumbs his nose at Christ, and says, "it's my right to support the worst kind of evil that there is"?

. . . Speechless. I just can't go there at all. . .

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Today, Catholics risk cooperating in a false pluralism. Secular society will allow believers to have whatever moral convictions they please - as long as they keep them on the private preserves of their consciences, in their homes and in their churches, and out of the public arena. Democracy is not a substitute for morality. Its value stands - or falls - with the values which it embodies and promotes. Only tireless promotion of the truth about the human person can infuse democracy with the right values. This is what Jesus meant when he asked us to be a leaven in society. American Catholics have long sought to assimilate into U.S. cultural life. But in assimilating, we have too often been digested. We have been changed by our culture too much, and we have changed it not enough. If we are leaven, we must bring to our culture the whole Gospel, which is a Gospel of life and joy. That is our vocation as believers. And there is no better place to start than promoting the beauty and sanctity of human life. Those who would claim to promote the cause of life through violence or the threat of violence contradict this Gospel at its core.”
- Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics the Bishops of the United States

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Marion,
I'm sorry if you misunderstood. I was not speaking on the value of hypotheticals. I was simply stating that there is enough killing each and every day that unfortunately we don't even have to speak in hypotheticals on this issue.

What I like about being Catholic is the consistency in the message. Thou shall not kill. Killing is wrong whether it is flipping a switch of electricity, shooting a fellow human being with a gun, or killing a baby by means of an abortion. When I ask myself, "What would Jesus do?" I am constantly reminded that he would never find killing to be morally justifiable and he certainly wouldn’t do it himself.

Unfortunately, our politicians are not good with consistencies for the sake of principle (neither democratic nor republican). So we are left with very difficult decisions. Therefore, when I go to the voting booth, I am not only considering a candidate's record and belief system, I am also considering his or her impact on decisions that affect me and my Catholicism. For example, the president, as Commander in Chief, has the ultimate power in deciding what he will do with our soldiers and who they will be killing. He also has a great deal of impact with regard to the execution of a prisoner. With regard to abortion, our legislators and the Supreme Court Justices have much more impact.

The bottom line for me is that I won't be relinquishing my right to vote because each and every candidate doesn't fit my every belief. I pray on this matter and pray that someday there will be a person of high and consistent morals running for office.

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In one sense, I do understand that soldiers, who had been enlisted in the service, did not have ultimate control of the situations around them, and so, perhaps, there was some need for leniency here. But- what of the church taking a stand about not enlisting or re-enlisting to fight in this war? Or- what of the church taking the stand to call Catholic soldiers to be conscientious objectors? (or maybe they have and I'm unaware-??) Wouldn't that seem to better response to the Pope?

However, we should pray for those in harm's way, and our soldiers are in harm's way. Their mention and even praise in church doesn't offend me. There is great honor in service, and I do think our soldiers operate from the place of thinking to do good."

Thanks for praying for the soldiers. My point is we are hardly fit to judge their actions. They might carry the guns, but the politicians fire them. That is why I will be voting to fire (by my vote)them in the next election.

When an enlisted soldier kills his enemy, it is almost always in complete self defense or defense of his comrades. As a matter of fact, if an enemy is wounded, soldiers are to supply medical care in the field as well as take to medical facilitiy. We are the most humane military on earth.

YES. There are accidents. Yes there are soldiers who "lose it," and take the lives of those who are not a threat to them. These are rarities in a HUGE war and the liberal media LOVES to talk about it.

Lastly, most enlisted soldiers are barely men. They are 18 or 19 years old or so. They are usually patriotic and view going to war as a way of defending this country's founding fathers' values. Sometimes recruiters convince them it is their only way out of poverty.

They come from all walks of life but mostly from the poor and the weakening middle class.

When sent into the battlefield, if they do not immediately defend themselves against enemy fire, they will die. Many freeze up the first time a bullet is fired at them. They are then smacked by commanding officers back into reality and told to shoot or die themselves.

They then carry the wounded and see their families come out of the country side and cry over bodies.

This is the reality of war. The politicians in power make decisions and they place our soldiers in harm's way.

As you can see by my post, I have listened to the experiences of those who fought in this ongoing war on terror.

The soldiers are there due to this country's political decisions. They need prayers. We all need to pray for an end to this war and pray for peace.

Visiting Walter Reed is another huge shock. Soldiers injured in the most horrific of ways.



At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

I’ve been thinking for quite awhile today about this debate among many Catholics: the various party platforms on this war (and on war in general), on capital punishment, and on abortion.

The Church has taught that the conduct of unjust wars and unnecessary instances of capital punishment (and that nowadays virtually all such are unnecessary) are morally wrong, although there have been and may be again instances in which a war may be conducted justly. Thus any given war may be morally justifiable or not depending on the circumstances, conditions, and intentions of the combatants. The Church has also taught that direct abortion is, on the other hand, intrinsically evil: all instances of direct abortion are morally wrong.

Some U.S. parties and candidates assert that they support the war, support capital punishment, and are very much in favor of a Constitutional amendment ending legalized direct abortion. Others proclaim that they are dead-set against this war, want a Constitutional amendment ending the death penalty, and believe that if a mother wishes to destroy the life within her - throughout all nine months of pregnancy – no law should stand in her way.

It can be difficult to know how to navigate through the contradictory choices here, and many Catholic writers and editorialists have recommended that Catholic voters should decide these difficult questions by putting the priority first on avoiding supporting intrinsic evil at all costs – any intrinsic evil: Among these three the intrinsically evil act is abortion. Therefore, to avoid at all costs supporting candidates and parties who promote abortion.

Some American Catholics reject this ordering of priorities. Which they are, of course, free to do, if they wish. But what I haven’t heard from these fellow Catholics is any alternative sound, principled method of prioritizing. (And to say, “I’m going to vote for whomever I feel like, and you should support my guy.” doesn’t count as either sound or principled.) So we’re left with no meaningful method of attacking the problem. Which is disappointing.

I would advocate sticking with the sound, principled Catholic method of prioritizing which evil to avoid at the voting booth: first avoid intrinsic evil. And to avoid supporting intrinsic evil, begin by avoiding at all costs support for abortion / infanticide.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

The word "may" is key- it doesn't mean Catholics can, "in good faith", hold that opinion in any given time.

It means that Catholics can, without contradicting Church teaching, hold the opinion that the death penalty, as practiced in the United States today, is moral, and that the Iraq War, as begun and as conducted, was and is moral.

Catholics can do this, despite all the statements from the bishops against the death penalty and all the statements from the Pope against the war, because whether these things are moral depends in part on the circumstances, and the Church cannot teach (in a morally binding way) what any specific circumstances actually are.

The Church can and does teach things like, "If the circumstances are X, Y, and Z, then action A is immoral." Bishops, individually and collectively, can and do say things like, "We judge the circumstances to be X, Y, and Z." Catholics cannot ignore either kind of statement, but they are not bound by religious obligation to arrive at the same judgment of circumstances as their bishop. (Though they could be bound by human reason, depending on how inescapable a particular judgment might be.)

What some see as timidity from the bishops may actually be recognition of the limits of their teaching authority.

Generally speaking, what the Church ought to teach is what she has been given to teach by the Holy Spirit, not what would make the most convenient or least confusing message.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger fran said...

We must certainly pray for peace and an end to this war, but our prayer has to go beyond that.
It is essential that we pray for the conversion of the hearts and minds of any human being who does not, for whatever reason, respect life - world leaders, policy makers, abortion advocates, those who support euthanasia, doctors who perform such procedures, men and women who believe it is their right to end a pregancy or the life of an elderly person, the doctors who assist them, and so on.
Without this type of conversion and a change in daily moral behavior, it seems that peace on a global scale will continue to be elusive.

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but they are not bound by religious obligation to arrive at the same judgment of circumstances as their bishop"

Now I am confused. I thought we were bound to follow the directives of the Pope (I would thing irregardless of whether our Bishops reinforce). I thought the Pope was considered to be infallible, and if so, why are we not bound to follow what he says, even when the catechism lays the foundation for a different argument. How could we NOT be bound to arrive at the same conclusion?

"What some see as timidity from the bishops may actually be recognition of the limits of their teaching authority."

Aren't they supposed to be upholding the Pope's teachings and decrees, both formal and informal? Aren't those also their limits?

Please answer back, as I'm not debating a point as much as trying to understand it.

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad this site is back to what it used to be- meaningful and varied opinions from many on topics of great importance to Catholics.

At 6:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"With regard to abortion, our legislators and the Supreme Court Justices have much more impact."

This is a point that should be stressed coming into a time when we will be facing issue for the presidential election. Unless the make-up of our congress and senate changed significantly and we seat new justices (which maybe could happen in this next term, but any who supports overturning Roe V Wade wouldn’t get confirmed with this congress), the decision to cast a vote for a candidate based on their pro-life views first, although I understand it to be moral, would not really matter to the abolition of laws that permit various kinds of infanticide. That having been said, wouldn't it make sense, at least in the presidential race, to select a candidate who can affect the issues a president can best affect? Voting power is great and should be used wisely, not just to make a moral statement.

At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many people have talked about the evils of abortion. My college roommate is so depressed since she aborted her baby. Her parents (very strict religious Catholics) told her that if she were to get pregnant that she would no longer be welcome in their home. That they would not raise a child late in life due to her mistake. This was said to her and her sisters in general. No one was pregnant at the time. They just threatened them before they left for college.
My friend thinks about her baby every day. Would it have been a boy or a girl? She wonders if she will go to hell for this. She won't confess to a priest because she feels it is an unforgivable sin. Is that true?

She has never told any one but me. She said the abortion process is more horrific than you can imagine. Planned Parenthood treated her like a piece of meat. She told me that the procedure is disturbing and barbaric. She has nightmares about it.
I asked her her to see a priest.
She said she is too ashamed. What should I do? I feel like crying every time I talk to her about it. She cries & has nightmares about it all the time. She asked me if the abortion was painful for her baby? Now what am i supposed to say to that. i am scared for her.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anon of 8:43-

Unfortunately, this isn't something that time heals. Help is needed and you MUST remind your friend that forgiveness is meant to be given to all and for all. This is something that will follow her through life unless she is given proper counsel. You can intervene on her behalf. Have you considered speaking to your pastor to gain advice on how you can be an instrument of healing? There are spiritual directors in most archdiocese who specialize in counseling women in your roommate's situation. I'm sure FG can direct you, consider contacting either him or Fr. Mike for help.

At 10:03 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 8:43-
Here is some information to help your friend. There is an Archdiocesan program called "The Rachel Project." It is for women who have had abortions, and are experiencing what you share about your friend.
The website is:

National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing
phone number 1-800-5WECARE

Diocese of Washington
Contact: Julia
Phone #'s 301-982-2008

At 11:02 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 8:43-
I wanted to add, that you are definitely an angel for your roommate. Your support and caring during this difficult time are just what she needs. I am certain that many who are reading your post are offering prayers for both of you tonight.

At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

I thought the Pope was considered to be infallible, and if so, why are we not bound to follow what he says, even when the catechism lays the foundation for a different argument.

Papal infallibility -- which is a special case of the infallibility of the teaching office of the Church -- is only exercised when the Pope "proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals." [CCC 891]

As is true of every bishop, the Pope is a teacher, not an oracle. Church doctrine can only come from the Divine Revelation that was completed with the death of the Apostles.

Historical facts outside this public revelation cannot be the stuff of doctrine. The Church cannot teach, as doctrine that must be held by all the faithful, that any particular historical fact (that occurred after the death of the Apostles) is true. If the Pope asserts that a particular historical fact is true, he isn't and can't be doing so "infallibly."

What the Pope can do, though, is "propose... a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals," to which Catholics "are to adhere ... with religious assent." [CCC 892]

And of course, simply as teachers, the Pope and the bishops can explain the meanings, implications, and applications of Church doctrine to today's situations.

But the faithful are not bound to arrive at the same conclusions as the bishops or the Pope when those conclusions are based on the subjective evaluation or determination of particular historical facts.

In the case of the death penalty, the particular historical fact that must be determined is whether "the death penalty... is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." [CCC 2267]

Those who determine that the answer is yes, it is the only possible way, could be wrong about that, but they aren't necessarily rejecting anything they ought to accept, either with the assent of faith (as with the case of definitive doctrine) or with religious assent (as with clear but non-definitive teaching).

At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Anonymous 6:55 wrote: “the decision to cast a vote for a candidate based on their pro-life views first, although I understand it to be moral, would not really matter to the abolition of laws that permit various kinds of infanticide. That having been said, wouldn't it make sense, at least in the presidential race, to select a candidate who can affect the issues a president can best affect?”

Dear Anon, your remark that the abolition of laws that permit various kinds of infanticide is not up to the President, is correct in the sense that the President does not pass the laws, but in another sense, quite the opposite is true: It is through our court system that the forces of evil have forced abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy on the American people, and it is the President of the United States who appoints the leaders of our courts - our federal judges and justices to the Supreme Court If the President supports abortion and infanticide, he will appoint judges and Supreme Court justices who are favorable to these evils. If the President is pro-life, he will appoint pro-life justices and judges. Had President Bush not been elected, and appointed the two most recent Supreme Court justices (Roberts and Alito), the recent Supreme Court decision (5-4) allowing states to ban partial birth infanticide almost certainly would not have passed. Here are exceprts from the story from the Washington Post

Washington Post
Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Supreme Court broke new ground yesterday in upholding federal restrictions on abortion, with President Bush's two appointees joining a court majority that said Congress was exercising its license to "promote respect for life, including the life of the unborn."

The court's 5 to 4 decision upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003 marked the first time justices have agreed that a specific abortion procedure could be banned. . . .

"The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote. He said the ban on the controversial method for ending a midterm pregnancy is valid because other abortion procedures are still available.

Kennedy was joined by Bush's appointees -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. . . . Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (note: a Clinton appointee) acknowledged as much moments later, when she solemnly read a statement from the bench explaining her dissent.

The majority opinion, she told a stone-silent courtroom, "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court -- and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women's lives."

The federal law bans a procedure used in a limited number of midterm abortions, but the court's decision will probably have an immediate effect on U.S. politics and lawmaking.

The 2008 presidential candidates split along party lines in their reaction -- Democrats had angry words for the court and Republicans were generally supportive. Activists on both sides of the issue predicted that the decision will encourage antiabortion state legislatures to pass laws not only adding new restrictions but looking to challenge Roe itself.” . . .

Had Al Gore been elected President, he would have appointed justices favorable to abortion / infanticide, and the horror of partial birth abortion would today still be the law of the land.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger fran said...

I agree with you, although there are probably some who will say that our president, who believes in protecting the lives of the unborn, is the same President who has the US engaged in the war with Iraq. How does one reconcile this? I have no easy answer, but I offer this:

If the war ended today, there would have been a TOTAL of 3524 US deaths, as confirmed by the DoD.
On average the ANNUAL number of US deaths by abortion since Roe v. Wade, would be 1,429,117. Staggering....

I am in no way minimizing the tragedy of lives lost during the conflict with Iraq. I am simply stating that once the war has ended and our troops have come home to a seemingly peaceful nation, we will still be engaged in another conflict - Those who believe in the rights of the unborn versus Those who do not.

I would like to make mention of two programs which offer abortion alternatives and crisis pregnancy counseling. They are Birthright International and the Gabriel Project.
Web addresses:

At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The legality of abortion doesn't actually solve the problem. Countries who have outlawed abortions have double the amount of US annual abortions. Furthermore, countries with liberal abortion laws (plus other IMPORTANT factors like national health care for impoverished women) have less than 1/2 the rate of US abortions. There is much more to this issue than a number game and rejoicing over a ban on partial birth abortions when they are so minimal that it hardly touching the real issue.

In order to solve the abortion problem, we need to adress the social inequities in our country and educate, educate, educate.

Furthermore, the numbers of innocent people killed in this unjust war FAR outweigh the DOD's report of confirmed military deaths! Not to mention our wounded soldiers who are left with no arms/legs in their 20's. SICKENING....

At 4:19 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 2:56-
This is not a "numbers game," as you say.
Let us not forget that ALL abortions are unjust as the unborn child NEVER has a voice.
Let us not forget that the lives taken through abortion are INNOCENT as well.
Let us not forget, that not only are limbs lost during the abortion procedure, but skulls are crushed and their contents extracted. These are physical human beings, whose lives are extinguished forever! They do not "come home" wounded, they never live to see the light of day.

At 4:29 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

"In order to solve the abortion problem, we need to adress the social inequities in our country and educate, educate, educate."

Supporters of abortion have made themselves known as “friends of women”, and they often portray their opponents as extreme, left-wing misogynists who are insensitive to the difficulties faced by women with unplanned pregnancies. This tactic surely does wonders for fund-raising efforts but is intellectually dishonest. It would be like someone accusing me of being “soft” on crime issues b/c I don’t support the death penalty- as if that were the only way to handle the problem.

Still, abortion proponents have many legitimate concerns. They are enraged that an unplanned pregnancy can mean social, financial, and professional ruin for a woman. They find it unjust that the sacrifices of raising children are still borne mainly by women. They're outraged that many women are still uneducated about the way their bodies work. They're absolutely right.

But the solution to these problems should be major change in the social structures that cause them. The underlying problems are not solved, and we set an ugly precedent that allows us to negate the humanity of those who get in our way.

If one claims that "women will always need abortion," note the implications:
•our ability to bear children is, and always will be, a handicap.
•our society will never adequately adjust to the needs of mothers so that women will not feel the need to abort.
•violence against our fellow human beings is an acceptable way to solve social problems.

The acceptance of abortion as a response to a sexist society is inconsistent with humanist ideals. Humanism values the worth and dignity of each human being. It affirms that moral standards should be based on our actions to and with our fellow man. It embraces the use of reason and repudiates the use of violence. Abortion is a backwards practice which is not worthy of those ideals.

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is SICKENING to me is the fact that an innocent life, who has NO voice can be plucked from its mothers womb and murdered on demand. Losing a limb pales in comparison. Lest you forget, a soldier is not FORCED to enlist.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

Ok, ok, let's calm down, everyone. I appreciate your passion, but let's not let this get out of control. We're all on the same team here. We're all brothers and sisters in Christ.

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly Father! We are on the same team.

To me, a soldier's life is not worth more or less than a child's life in the womb. Both die horrific and unnecessary deaths. I would also disagree with the notion that soldiers are not "forced" to enlist. The underlying problem is the inequity, education, and lack of options.

At 6:52 PM, Blogger fran said...

If I may make one final comment-

It is my prayer, that through prayer and the conversion of the hearts and minds of anyone,(particularly our politicans) who holds the opinion (to which they are entitled) that this war is unjust and must come to an end, that one day they will be as passionate about the lack of justice for the unborn and a need for the practice of abortion to come to an end.

At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to strongly disagree with you. There is no draft, or mandatory enlistment. It is a purely VOLUNTARY military. And furthermore, there are PLENTY of options before one choses to abort a child. You're right Fr. G, we're might all be on the same team, but we're all MILES apart!

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be difficult here, but again, why do you assume that people, especially Catholics, are not equally passionate about BOTH causes. This is where politics has so pervaded our very core. We don't have to be for the war and against abortion OR against the war and for abortion. We CAN and in my opinion should be AGAINST both, for both advocate the killing of a human being.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger fran said...

Dear Anon 7:22
Not being difficult either, but I would invite you to re-read the posts I have made on this topic. Nowhere have I referenced Catholics only, as being opponents of only one cause or the other, nowhere have I made any assumptions. I did mention "anyone, particularly politicians," in my last post. This is all encompassing and not the least bit exclusive.

I too agree that ALL life is precious and should be respected. It just seems that there is often more passion to end the war, which takes precious lives, than there is to end abortion, which also takes precious lives.

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:06 pm agreed there is no draft. Let us not forget history here. The draft was active in the Viet Nam War and World War II. Soldiers enlist to defend our country. So what if a grass roots effort started to discourage all young boys/men from enlisting? Or reenlisting? Guess what? Here comes the draft. Don't be surprised to see a draft happen(especially if we have another attack on our soil). Our military is spread very thin and it is getting difficult to retain soldiers. Also recruiters promise the world to many young high school students. They are mostly NOT from Mo. Co., one of the wealthiest in the US.

They come from ALL over the US. The military life if one of great hardship. Soldiers often return and have terrible lasting mental anguish. The divorce rate in our military is 70 percent.

How did this discussion get around to abortion and war? They are vastly different issues.

At 7:44 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

"How did this discussion get around to abortion and war? They are vastly different issues."

It's all about the value of life. It's great that so many are passionately committed to their views, for, if you all read back- none of your points negate the others'. You have each expressed how much you value life. Maybe it's time for each of us to figure out how to put our convictions to work.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Anon 10:58 p.m. asked, "How did this discussion get around to abortion and war? They are vastly different issues."

I have found often that when anyone has spoken eloquently about the Church's opposition to the evil of abortion, other voices have spoken up to raise our awareness about the importance of ending war, capital punishment, injustice, and poverty.

We should be grateful to our brothers and sisters who call our attention to the urgent need to address the distressing problems of war, capital punishment, injustice, and poverty. These are urgent and pressing.

I think, however, the evil of abortion is a topic worth discussing on its own merits, apart from these other evils.

I say this because I believe all the major U.S. political candidates and both parties would agree that a lasting peace is a desirable goal, and that war in general is not a positive good. Candidates and parties may disagree on the best means to achieve a lasting peace, but, I believe peace is the agreed-upon long-term goal.

Neither have I heard of a major candidate or party who actively promotes a principle of "ill-health for all Americans." Candidates and parties disagree on the best ways to improve health care for all Americans, but I have never heard "illness" in itself promoted or celebrated as a thing desirable in itself.

The question of abortion, however, is uniquely different: Although as Father Greg pointed out, the Catholic Church teaches that direct abortion is a grave evil, there are major U.S. political candidates and parties that promote abortion, in itself, and on principle, as a just the opposite, as a right, as a good thing.

As then Senator Al Gore said during his debate with VP Dan Quayle in 1992: "Now, wait a minute. Let me tell you why this is so important. There are millions of women in this country who passionately believe in the right of a woman to privacy. And they (Republicans) want to stack the Supreme Court with justices who will take away the right to privacy. Make no mistake about it. That is their agenda. And if you support them, don't be surprised if that is exactly what they want to do and that is why Dan Quayle refuses to say this evening that he supports the right of a woman to choose."

Senator Gore was arguing here that legalized abortion is a "right", a good thing in principle, and that any move to take that "right" away would be an evil thing. In principle.

But the Catholic Church teaches the exact opposite principle - that direct abortion is the evil thing, and that to take away access to abortion would be a good thing.

The exact opposite. There is no getting around it.

This is not about people agreeing about something on principle, while disagreeing about the best way to bring the principle into reality, as is the case with debates about how best to end war, poverty, injustice, and so on. With the abortion question we have a case of certain major political candidates and parties embracing and promoting a very grave evil on principle, and fighting for it . . fighting hard to make it available at any time, for any reason to anyone, without exception, even in the case of minors without parental knowledge or consent.

This is an embrace of the principle of evil, which is quite different from disagreeing with the Church and one another about how best to achieve the good. As Tom so well pointed out, Catholics may in conscience hold a view different from that of the bishops on the question of how best to achieve lasting peace, as long as they respect Catholic principles.

But the Church teaches that no one can in conscience hold a view differing from the bishops about what is good and evil on principle: where the bishops say direct abortion is evil in principle, a Catholic who says instead it is a "woman's right" in which no one may interfere, has spoken a true contradiction of principles with the Church.

I believe that the topic of the grave evil of abortion has always been a worthwhile one. And particularly because this evil is uniquely promoted in our country - against the principles of the Catholic Church - it is worth sticking resolutely to this particular topic even on occasions when other evils – evils that everyone agrees in principle are evil - are raised.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger fran said...

"Maybe it is time for each of us to figure out how to put our convictions to work."

Thank you, Mindy. I am a volunteer at one of the programs I mentioned, which provide alternatives to abortion and crisis pregancy counseling.

We are in desperate need of volunteers. If Fr. Greg approves, anyone wishing to volunteer their time and compassion, may leave a phone number with him and I will contact you.

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your very eloquent reponse Marion. I think that we agree on the principle that killing is a grave sin and that abortion is particularly evil. What we seem to disagree vehemently on, however, is the route to end these evils. I believe we will not end abortions by making them illegal. In fact, quite the opposite, I believe, based on data that abortions will increase. That is, MORE children will die. In order to stop abortion, I believe we MUST get to the root causes of why women feel so desperate that they choose to kill their babies.

Beyond fixing the social inequities in our economic and educational systems. One example that may highlight the problem in the USA is that I'm sure every one of us knows a family who has adopted a child from ANOTHER country (i.e., Hungaria, Ethiopia, Vietnam, etc.). At the same time the US is "importing" increasing numbers of adoptive children from other countries, it is "exporting" black babies to be adopted in other countries. Why is this? I believe the answer comes down to our economic inequities.

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone will probably have a field day with me for saying this, but...

I honestly do not think most young women kill their unborn children out of a sense of desperation. It may be a contributing factor, but in most cases, I don't believe that to be the reason. Sure their situation may be desperate, but I don't see it as the driving force that sends them to the abortionist- at least not in the majority. I think the majority do it b/c we (society) say it's okay. And if it's legal- we are saying, "It's okay." We say, "We know you may be poor and alone, and this pregnancy may hurt you emotionally, financially and socially- so, it's okay to have an abortion (we understand)." We say, "You are the master of you own body. You have the right to do with it as you choose. It's okay to have an abortion (we understand)."

Before you jump down my throat, understand that I'm speaking from a perspective I know something about. I had a child young in my life and felt very, very desperate about my situation. I knew I'd be met with many harsh realities (and a lot of criticism) and my life would be forever changed. Abortion wasn't an option because I knew it to be wrong. The reality was that my life then wasn't easy, but who ever promised me that it would be? And I KNOW an unplanned pregnancy needn't derail your life, but THAT is the very message that is prevailing in our society. Attached to it is some notion that this innocent life has no right to do this to you. But that innocent life didn't choose the action that brought him to be, so why should he pay the price? It's a basic theme of "self first" that is echoed throughout our society and will ultimately ruin us if we don't choose to say enough. I, respectful of your opinion, think abortion is the right place to say enough. I don't think we can afford to wait until the framework in our society is in place to make all better before we do the right thing.

We should be laying our lives down for the young and innocent. They should be sacrificing theirs for our convenience.

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Dear Anon 1:05 p.m.

Thank you, Anon, for your kind remarks. It is good to know that you agree that abortion is an evil particularly deserving our grave concern.

In discussions with others who are gravely concerned about abortion, I have encountered the notion that outlawing abortion will not help to reduce the number of instances of this evil. You are the first I have heard suggest that such laws would actually increase its occurence.

I checked several websites including that of the National Abortion Federation (N.A.F.), one of several groups that promote the multi-billion dollar abortion industry. The language on the N.A.F. site is the same as that of the others; all declare that federal, state, and local laws restricting abortion tend to "limit women's" (i.e., their customers') "access to abortion," which can only mean a reduction in their number.

I would tend to give considerable weight to the opinion of these organizations, since it's in their interest to stay on top of factors that - let's face it - help or hurt their bottom line. In some senses the abortion industry is a business like any other; surely industry insiders will have their fingers on the pulse of factors that positively or negatively impact the profitability of their enterprise, both present and future.

I promise you that the abortion industry sites unanimously link legislation restricting abortions with a decrease in the purchase of their services. And it's their business to know about that, and so in this one area, I believe them.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We should be laying our lives down for the young and innocent. They should be sacrificing theirs for our convenience."

Wish blogspot has spell check- it should say "They shouldn't be sacrficing theirs".

At 10:17 PM, Blogger fran said...

Anon 8:21 and Marion,

I am 100% in agreement with both of you. Your message/commentary is precisely what needs to be heard.

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You are the first I have heard suggest that such laws would actually increase its occurrence."

This is a bit shocking. You only have to look at the data regarding the history of occurrence abortions in this country and the occurrence of abortions in other countries, both with restrictive laws vs. liberal laws (but other supports for women). I tend to stay away from organizational data for they have an agenda and skew results based on their agendas. Look at national and international studies conducted by objective parties. Look at population data.

For example, despite extremely restrictive laws and imprisonment for women who procure abortions, Argentina has one of the highest abortion ratios in the world, with one abortion estimated to occur for every two live births.

On the other hand, the Netherlands has the lowest incidence of abortion in the world (and most documented abortions come from women from neighboring countries). However, abortion is completely legal in the Netherlands.

Why the differences among countries? The ROOT CAUSE of abortion is addressed. I believe it has to do with education, support for families, support for adoptive parents, national health care, and other measures that support families and children.

Once again, I am extremely pro-life, but I believe we have been wasting our time and resources and spinning our wheels with completely the wrong focus. In order to protect life, we need to empower women to CHOOSE life, not by controlling them or imprisoning them, but by FULLY supporting them when they become pregnant. We need to support their self-determination and God-given free will to WANT to choose life. This comes through education. They have to know that there are EXCELLENT options for their born children. This means, heavy incentives for 2-parent families to adopt children IN THIS COUNTRY without the fear of losing the child to birth mother who may change her mind in a year's time, SIGNIFICANT governmental financial support for women who have children and families who support children, significant improvements to our foster care system, a nationwide campaign to end racism with regard to adoptions, increased support for Catholic forms of family planning, etc.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a couple more pieces of data before I run off for the morning. When one asks the question, "Who is having abortions in this country?" The overwhelming statistic shows that it is poor, black women. Per 1000 abortions, white women have 13, black women have 49!!!, and Hispanic women have 33. Is it that black and Hispanic women are more immoral than white women? Certainly not. I believe it has to do with their financial situations.

If you ask women, "Why are you choosing abortion?" The overwhelming response (top 2 responses) are "I cannot afford to a baby" and "I cannot take care of a baby." As a society, we should be saying, "OK, this is not a problem." Have your baby and we will help you pay for him or her OR have your baby and we will take care of him or her. That means that adoption should be FREE, accessible, and families should be given very large financial incentives to adopt US babies. Rather than our families paying upwards of $30,000-$50,000 to adopt children from other countries, US families should be encouraged to adopt US children with no strings attached (i.e., $$, fear of losing the baby, etc.). That is but one example of something that will sincerely make a difference.

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Marion said...

Dear Anon 7:37 p.m.

I can't speak to what has happened in Argentina, where social, legal, historical, and economic conditions are bound to be quite different from our own.

I think most people on both sides of this, or almost any issue here in the United States, would agree that our country's laws should be designed to protect the most fundamental rights of all our citizens, particularly those of our most vulnerable.

If that were not the case, what would be the point, then, of enacting laws against child abuse, or hate crimes, or segregation? All of which are, quite rightly, against the laws of this land.

Anticipating that laws protecting the human rights of a vulnerable group will result in an increase of violations against them is certainly one way to think about this issue, but, evidence from other countries aside, common sense and reason suggest that this will not prove to be the case, based on historical conditions here in the United States.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No matter whether we are rich, poor, no matter what our ethnic background, no matter what our education is, we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore, we should all know that killing is not what God wants of any of us. By suggesting that abortion would be stopped by curing the social woes of our society is merely assuaging the consciences of many.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger fran said...

Education is indeed a part of the abortion issue and it needs to begin in the home.

As children we were taught respect - respect for our playmates and classmates, respect for parents and teachers. As a teen, and through high school and college, this awareness of respect was continually reinforced and expanded to include respect of one self....self-respect.

My parents stressed to my 3 sisters and me, while we were dating, that if a man truly respected us, he would not pressure us for a sexual relationship, and out of self- respect we should not succumb to such pressure. Had they had sons, their message would have certainly been the same.

I believe that if young men and women were not so desperate to be in relationships, simply for the physical pleasure (so heavily promoted by our culture today,) but instead had a desire to be in commited, loving relationships, emphasizing mutual respect, then many women would not be faced with the dilemma of having to choose between giving life to a child or choosing to end it.

It is imperative that children of all ages, male or female hear and learn this lesson of respect. With it they will be able to live a life of respect for themselves and for others. Without it, it becomes difficult to nearly impossible to live the life Christ desires for each and every one of us.

At 4:22 PM, Blogger fran said...

Changing some wording -

Of course only God can give life to a child.
Should have said, ....then many women would not be faced with the dliemma of having to choose betweeen respecting the life of her unborn child, or choosing to end it.

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at national and international studies conducted by objective parties.

I've often wondered about how this data is collected. Do these objective parties review patient files to atain their figures. do they rely upon what the data some random clinics provide and then extend that data to the populus? I've always wondered how accurate figures are.


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