THE CHURCH’S TEACHING ON HUMAN HAS BEEN CONSISTENT AND LONG STANDING. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “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” (No. 2271). From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas, condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church councils. Given the indisputable scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration. Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights. Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth.
Each year on January 22nd – the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade – people pause to recognize the date in some way. Some speak out, some march, some reach out, some educate, some just reflect. Many pray. Each year, for the past 43 years, pro-life Americans have shown that their commitment will not waver, their efforts will not cease. Our firm conviction as Catholics that “life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception” (Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 51) has been a part of the Church’s constant witness since the Apostolic age and has inspired millions to defend human life at every stage. Against the backdrop of a society in which many institutions of influence endorse legal abortion, the pro-life movement has grown year by year, in numbers and in vitality. Roe v. Wade has left a trail of broken hearts. Through Project Rachel and other ministries, we will continue to help the broken-hearted. Those who resort to abortion out of a sense of desperation often find the cruel reality of abortion too difficult to bear. But it is too difficult only in a world without God and therefore without hope. We must reach these hearts and give them hope. These are the converted hearts that will at last bring an end to abortion.
Roe v. Wade cannot stand as the law of this great nation, a nation founded on the self-evident truth that all people are created with an inalienable right to life. We are committed, no matter how long it may take, no matter the sacrifices required, to bringing about a reversal of this tragic Supreme Court decision. We will speak out on behalf of the sanctity of each and every human life wherever it is threatened, from conception to natural death, and we urge all people of good will to do likewise. For, as Pope John Paul II reminds us, “it is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop” (The Gospel of Life, no. 101).