The Catholic Perspective on Abortion
The Future of Human Society
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The future of the human race depends on the Catholic
Churchs teaching on abortion. This is the statement I wish to prove in this
Before we go any further in my presentation, let me first explain what I mean.
I mean that the survival of the human race depends finally
on the acceptance of the Catholic Churchs two thousand years teaching that
the killing of unborn children is murder.
- that abortion is a crime against the divine rights of God
over the human beings He created
- that God will not long tolerate this world-wide denial
of His rights and
- therefore that either the world will accept the Catholic
Churchs teaching on abortion or the future survival of the human race is in
My plan for this conference is to ask these questions
and provide some answers to each of them:
- What is the teaching of the Catholic
Church on the crime of abortion?
- What is the teaching of those
who defend abortion and have succeeded in legalizing the murder of the unborn
in one country after another of the Eastern and Western world?
- What is our Catholic responsibility
to the rest of the world?
Catholic Church's Teaching on Abortion
The Catholic Churchs teaching on abortion is deeper
than most people realize. For almost twenty centuries, the Catholic Church
has taught that the direct killing of an unborn child is a grave violation of
the rights of God because Human life is sacred.
This is the heart of my thesis and the foundation
of everything else I hope to share with you. Abortion is above all, and beyond
all, a crime against God. Why? Because human life is sacred. It belongs to
Him, and only He has a right to determine how long mortal human life is to remain
alive, and when the life of a human being on earth may cease.
Other values of Human Life
There are many fine things we can say about human life, and
all of them are true:
- Human life is marvelous. It stands at the peak
of all visible organisms around us.
- Human life is superior to the plants and flowers,
higher than the birds of the air and the fishes of the sea.
- Human life is more perfect in its function and complexity
than even the highest kind of animal known to scientific zoology.
- Human life is precious, and those who possess it cherish
their possession above everything else they own, as the medical and health professions
so clearly and expensively testify.
On this level, human life is treasured. In fact,
until recently the laws of all civilized nations respected and protected human
life and punished convicted murderers accordingly.
Human Life is Sacred
However, there is one quality of human life
that the Catholic Church has been teaching since the first century of her history.
Human life, says the Church, is not only wonderful and superior, and beautiful
and precious, Human life is sacred.
What do we mean when we say that, on Catholic premises,
human life is sacred? We mean that human life belongs to God. After all, that
is the essence of being sacred or holy, and not merely secular or profane.
What are we really saying? We are offering that
God is intimately and uniquely bound up with human life as He is related to
no other life in the visible world.
Human life is holy because it mysteriously and distinctively
belongs to God. Something is sacred, we say, if it is not profane, that is,
if it pertains to the divine.
If we ask further why this is so, we have the answer written in the pages of
revelation and by now, two millennia of Catholic tradition.
When the Church came into existence, it was this
sacredness of human life that she had to defend against the paganism of the
Roman Empire. Abortion and infanticide were approved by the laws of the Caesars,
and one of the sure signs of being a Christian was to deny Caesars right to
legalize the murder of the unborn.
Human life is sacred on many counts; each adding to its holiness and each succeeding
reason builds on the one that precedes.
- Human life is sacred because
it comes from God as no other life derives from Him.
The Catholic Church infallibly teaches that God
enters human life at the moment of conception of each human being. God, we
believe, creates each persons soul out of nothing. He separately, and individually
and repeatedly produces each of our souls at the moment our human parents prepare
How, then, is human life sacred? It is sacred because
it is His by creation. He is the creative Author of every single human being.
- Human life is sacred because unlike all other forms of life on
earth, it participates in Gods own immortality. Unlike God, it has begun in
time, but like God, it is never to end.
Human life will never cease to be. It is therefore
sacred because God has endowed human beings with a share of His own eternity.
- Human life is sacred because it has been given a share in the
divine attribute of eternal liberty. Like God, we are able to choose; and we
are able to choose to love God.
In the deepest sense of the word, we are religious beings.
Unlike the sun, moon and stars, unlike the towering mountains or the oceans,
unlike every other living thing on earth, we can choose to glorify God by our
voluntary service of His Holy Name.
- Human life is sacred because
of its divine destiny.
Our purpose for existence is not to remain here
on earth, in the possession and enjoyment of creatures. We are destined for
the possession and enjoyment of God.
We came from God and we are to return to God.
In the meantime, we are to use our God-given freedom
in using creatures according to His divine will.
- as long as He wants us to stay on earth
- to praise, honor, and worship Him all our earthly days.
We see immediately, that one of the main reasons why abortion is so evil is
because it deprives God of the worship and service He wants from His rational
creatures here on earth.
When a human beings life is snuffed out before birth, God is denied the glory
He would otherwise have received from this person had the child not have been
murdered even before it was born.
Moreover, God is denied the glory He would otherwise have received from those
who would have loved and cared for this child from birth, through infancy and
childhood to adulthood.
God is deprived of the glory He would have received from all the human beings
who would have entered the life of this aborted infant, had it not been killed
before it was born.
God is further denied the glory He would have received had this human being
later married and reproduced other human beings, in geometric progression until
the end of time.
The Teaching of the Abortionists
There is more than passing value in seeing how those
who defend abortion think. How do they justify what we believe is the murder
of unborn human beings?
As Catholics, we need to see what the abortionists are saying; otherwise we
shall be weakened for the combat that awaits us in our defense of human life.
As you read the pro-abortion literature, you soon find there are two kinds of
reasons offered for abortion.
The first kind of pro-abortion reasons I call superficial.
They are in the majority and are given by the social scientists, medical practitioners,
lawyers and politicians who in less than fifty years have murdered more innocent
children than persons killed in all the wars of history since the dawn of the
- Overpopulation. Most popular form of anti-life philosophy argues that abortion should be
legalized or even legislated because the population of the world is becoming
too great for the amount of natural resources available to mankind.
This is the logic of the Communist leaders in China.
Needless to say, the argument from overpopulation is a pure myth.
- Quality of Human Beings. More subtle but also widely professed is the theory of eugenicists.
Sparked by Darwins theory of evolution, the birth controllers say that abortion
is necessary to produce a superior race of human beings.
Less desirable persons should be weeded out in favor of the more intelligent,
more healthy, more industrious, and more enterprising people.
This was the argument of Margaret Sanger, the foundress of Planned Parenthood,
to control the propagation of Negroes.
- Feminist Freedom from Male Domination. Very common nowadays is the position of radical feminists. Women should be
free to choose whether they want to give birth to children.
For too long, it is said, have women been subjected
to men in human society. Women must stand up to their rights, here the right
to kill the unborn child in their womb.
Underlying all these superficial arguments is the
fundamental reason for abortion. What is this fundamental reason? It is sheer
As you read the pro-abortion literature in recent
years, one theme stands among all the rest. It is a womans right to be herself,
and to have no one to put limitations on her will. Let me just quote a few
brief statements illustrating this philosophy:
- When women are able to be
self-assertive, that to me is a step toward moral, emotional, and intellectual
growth. When I had an abortion, thats what it represented to me. HLR, 30.
- Without control of our fertility,
we can never envision ourselves as free, for our biology makes us constantly
vulnerable HLR 30.
- A woman may think of her fetus
as a person or as just cells, depending on whether the pregnancy is wanted or
not. This does not reflect moral confusion, but choice in action HLR, 29.
- The ethical questions are
being asked. And if [a woman] makes a decision [to have an abortion] then shes
made the right decision. To even raise the question of when its moral is to
say that woman cant make moral decisions, HLR, 30.
As you read statements like this, you ask yourself if words like morality
or ethics have lost their meaning.
Thus the veneration of choicewithout relation to what or why something is chosen
reveals how deeply secular mind is infected with what may be called the idolatry
In the name of freedom, radical feminists are trying
to liberate women from their own nature. They may talk about liberation from
economic, political and especially sexual dependence on men. But in reality,
they are asserting their independence of the Author of nature, which means independence
In light of what we have been saying, what is our
responsibility? Our responsibility is to witness to the Catholic faith we profess.
The world-wide assault on unborn human life offers
us a historic opportunity to prove our faith in Gods revealed truth, love the
awesome truth that innocent human beings may not be killed because human life
is sacred; it belongs to God.
In the generations to come the conflict between abortionists and the pro-life
movement will become more and more clearly a conflict between those who believe
in Christ and His Church, and those who do not.
It is imperative that we Catholics see our struggle as founded not on mere human
wisdom, but on faith that comes from God.
Many well-meaning and high-minded people are pro-life but only a believing and
well-instructed Catholic understands why.
Only a Catholic who lives his faith sees with the eyes of faith, why human life
is so valuable that it must at any cost, be protected against those who are
demonically inspired to destroy it.
We must realize that the ground we stand on and
the principles we defend are no mere construct of human logic. They are part
of Gods revelation. On these premises, the pro-life movement is a living martyrdom.
Why? Because we are witnessing to what we believe is true because God who is
Truth, has told us through the Church which He founded.
In the forthcoming decades, I predict it will be
especially in this area of the defense of human life that those who remain faithful
to the Churchs teaching will stand firm. All others will weaken and fall away.
There is another reason why this truth of our faith is so valuable, in fact,
indispensable in our day.
To say we are defending the right to human life
is ambiguous. The real question is whose right are we defending? Is it only,
or even mainly, the right of the unborn child, that cannot speak for itself?
Whose rights are we defending when we talk about
the right to life? Against whom is the injustice protracted if human life is
Certainly it is the right of the individual child,
and the rights of human society. But more basic than all human rights, it is
first and foremost the rights of God that we are defending.
God has rights to the unborn human life which He creatively produced, which
He became man and died on the Cross to redeem, which He personally made to His
own image and likeness, and which He is lovingly preparing to join Him in heaven
in the company of the Holy Trinity.
Almighty God, you came into the world to teach us the dignity of human life
by being conceived by the Virgin Mary and becoming a speechless Child when you
were born at Bethlehem.
Deepen our faith in the sanctity of human life, from the first moment of conception.
Strengthen our courage to defend the sanctity of human life which is being destroyed
even before it is born.
We ask this through the merits of your Mother, Mary,
the Mother of the Church, and our Mother. Amen.
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica