With so many people in the world in favor of abortion, possibly including our friends, families, co-workers, and even the people in the next pew, it’s only a matter of time before the topic comes up in conversation.
What can we say?
Father Stephan Isaac, assistant pastor of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, had some practical advice for those hard conversations during the first Defending Our Faith lecture Sunday (10/23).
A video of his presentation can be found here.
To be effective at proclaiming the Gospel of Life, he said, it’s best to start by listening carefully to the other person, to understand their position, and to perhaps establish common ground. “We must always approach it with charity and compassion,” he said, “because that’s who we are as Catholics.” One way to do that is by asking simple questions, such as:
Which human right is greater than the right to life?
Do you believe every human life has value, that every human life should be respected and cherished?
Should people have the right to kill an innocent human being?
Should innocent human beings be protected under the law from violence and murder?
It’s also important to understand what the Catholic Church teaches about abortion and why, he said, and to know how to respond to the most common arguments.
Catholics believe in the dignity, value, and worth of every human life from conception to natural death. That is why we oppose the deliberate taking of a human life through abortion.
Here are some common pro-abortion arguments, and Father Isaac’s suggestions for what you can say in response:
Catholics are only pro-birth. They don’t care about people after they are born.
The Church is both pro-life and “whole life.” For 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has cared for all people by providing health care, education, food, shelter, clothing, and emotional support.
A fetus is not human.
When a woman is pregnant, what is she pregnant with? We know by reason and experience that a woman is pregnant with another human being. Human life, beginning at conception, is not a religious or philosophical belief, but a scientific and biological fact that is observable by any objective standard of medical science.
Catholics are cruel because they are forcing women to give birth.
Would a law against a mother killing her teenage son be cruel because it’s forcing her to be a mother? Once there is another innocent human being in play, that innocent life must be respected.
My body, my choice.
The baby is not your body. It is another person’s body – a genetically unique, distinct human being – and its life needs to be respected the same as yours.
Comparisons between abortion and the death penalty.
If a person on death row is proven to be innocent, should he be executed? No! But with every abortion, an innocent person is being executed.
What about rape?
Rape is an intrinsic evil, just like abortion. Victims of rape must be loved and supported. Less than one percent of all abortions are done because of rape. But why punish the innocent baby for the crime of the rapist? Why sentence the baby to death? We don’t even sentence rapists to the death penalty.
What about when the mother’s life is in danger?
An ectopic pregnancy, for example, when a fetus is growing outside the womb, can result in the death of both the baby and the mother. The Church teaches that doctors should first try to save both. But if that is not possible, there are morally permissible procedures that can be used to save the mother, provided that a direct abortion is not performed.
The Defending Our Faith forum was sponsored by the Allentown Area of the Knights of Malta. The Order of Malta is a lay Catholic organization that is known for its caring of the sick and the poor, and for its defense of the faith. The Forum was held at Assumption B.V.M. Church, 4101 Old Bethlehem Pike, Bethlehem.
Father Isaac has prepared a list of articles and sources of information for Catholics who want to know more:
Recommended Reading on Catholic Teaching on Abortion
Catechism of the Catholic Church – available for free online through the USCCB or Vatican website through simple Google search.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church – available for free online through the Vatican website through a simple Google search.
Evangelium Vitae (1995) – Papal encyclical by Pope St. John Paul II on the Gospel of Life
Veritatis Splendor (1993) – Papal encyclical by Pope St. John Paul II on the Splendor of Truth. Available for free online on the Vatican website through a simple Google search.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 6th Edition – available for free online on the USCCB website or through a simple Google search.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Teaching Document on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship - available for free online on the USCCB website under Faithful Citizenship.
National Catholic Bioethics Center – ncbcenter.org