In a wide-ranging interview with Mexican media network Televisa, Pope Francis said that abortion is a “human problem”, not a “religious problem”. The interview, which lasted for one hour and forty minutes, was published by the Vatican last May 27 in the Vatican News website.
On the subject of abortion, the Pope says, he always asks two very clear questions: “Is it fair to eliminate a human life in order to solve a problem?”. The answer to which is: no. “Second question: is it fair to pay a sniper to solve a problem? No. Abortion is not a religious problem in the sense that just because I am Catholic I must not seek an abortion. It is a human problem”, says Pope Francis. “It is a problem of eliminating a human life. Period”.
Is it true that abortion is not a religious problem? Is it true that “just because I am Catholic I must not seek an abortion?” The correct viewpoint should be this: “Precisely because I am Catholic, I must not seek abortion!”
The problem with the statement “just because I am Catholic I must not seek an abortion” is that it implies that the Catholic Church does not absolutely forbid abortion. It implies that abortion isn’t a problem of the Catholic Church – it is more of a civil problem, a government problem, a “human problem”, similar to the problem of gunmen or snipers for hire to kill.
This statement can also lead to the creation of a false dichotomy between matters of the State and matters of morals. It is like the Church saying – there are certain things that is not my problem, for example, abortion. Abortion is not a religious problem! It is a problem for the State to solve, just like it is the problem of the State to solve the problem of gunmen for hire.
This thinking will lead to the situation of the Catholic Church remaining silent in the face of this gravest of sins that cries out to God for vengeance. Why would priests, bishops and Cardinals speak out against abortion if as the Pope says it is not a “religious problem”? Why would faithful Catholics fight and use all available means (such as the massive pro-life rallies in the U.S.) to stop the government from imposing abortion on its populace if the Pope says abortion is not a religious problem? That statement is like the Pope telling all pro-life advocates: cool down and shut up, that is not our fight! It is a government problem, not a “religious problem”.
The statement “abortion is not a religious problem” likewise challenges the very foundations of moral theology. It implies that abortion, since it is “not a religious problem”, is not a moral issue. It is a subtle call for the Catholic Church to silence its voice in the face of the most grievous moral issues of our times – after all, issues such as abortion are not religious problems, but problems for the State to deal with.
The same principle can be applied to same-sex marriage. What will prevent the Catholic faithful – who are not as adept in theology – from applying the same principle espoused by the Pope to all the other grievous moral disorders of our time? Abortion is not a religious problem! Euthanasia is not a religious problem! Same-sex marriage is not a religious problem – it is not a problem for the Church to deal with, it is a “human problem”, a problem for the State. Therefore, if I’m a homosexual person, I can be both a Catholic and be married to a person of the same sex (under State-sanctioned “marriages” for same-sex couples), since the matter of same-sex marriage is a civil matter – and not a matter related to my Catholic Faith.
Automatic excommunication for those who commit abortion
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2272) states clearly that those who commit abortion are automatically excommunicated:
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, “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.
Catechism is a “moral evil”
Contrary to the Pope’s statement that “abortion is not a religious problem”, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2271) is clear that abortion is a “moral evil”:
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.
Since abortion is a moral evil, it is a religious problem! It is a problem for the Catholic Church to deal with, to speak out against, to fight with all its power.
The Catechism (#2270) also makes it clear that an unborn baby has the same rights as everyone else:
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.
Pope St. John Paul II: “Abortion is a Grave Moral Disorder”
In the papal encyclical Evangelium vitae (translated in English to “The Gospel of Life”) promulgated on 25 March 1995 by Pope John Paul II, the Pope definitively declared ex-cathedra that abortion “always constitutes a grave moral disorder”:
58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime.” (citing Gaudium et spes, 51.)….61. The texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mother’s womb that they require as a logical consequence that God’s commandment “You shall not kill” be extended to the unborn child as well. . . . Christian Tradition — as the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out so well – is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder….62. Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition [regarding abortion] is unchanged and unchangeable. 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. 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.
By Paul Simeon, Veritas