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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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WHERE Do WE Stand before God on the Issue of Abortion?

While the issue has been with us for a number of years, the controversy of giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians has escalated with the election of President Joe Biden.  Tension has arisen, not merely between elected officials and the Church leadership, but also among the bishops and with heavily partisan congregants.  The situation is perplexing as believers often approach the question from discordant moral grounds, have varying blind spots and suffer a spiritual formation weighted more toward society’s secular-humanism than to Christian faith with its perennial values.

Where Do People Stand?

First, there are those who are utterly convinced that abortion is the abuse and murder of human beings; any who would enable or be party to such grave objective evils would be logically disqualified for the reception of the Eucharist (that is until there is repentance, absolution, possible public reparation, and the removal of the censure of automatic excommunication). A permissive attitude to giving Holy Communion in this regard seems to water down the severity of violations to human life, causes an egregious scandal before the faithful, dishonors the Lord of life and violates charity against the communicant as sacrilege is a mortal sin and further endangers one’s soul.   

Second, there are dissenters that side-step or deny the personhood of the unborn and argue that abortion is entirely a free decision between a woman and her doctor that does not concern anyone else.  It is argued that a woman has full jurisdiction over her own body, including the fate of a pregnancy. No distinction is made between a first trimester abortion and the infanticide of children ready to be born.  Christians who hold such views seem to suffer from a spiritual or moral amnesia about what both Scripture and the Church teaches.  But even more, this perspective is befuddling as it stands against reason and any genuine ethical sense.  I suppose it signifies a new and terrible ethics where persons and things only have value if we (in our selfishness) should determine to give them value.  As one woman argued to me about the unborn child, “it is only a baby if you want it.”  This flies in the face against any objective evaluation of the human person, especially in viewing the entire trajectory from the womb to birth.

I have readily assumed this mentality is new but it may be that we were here before.  Is this not the same devaluation of human beings that we experienced in American slavery?  Blacks were devalued as less than whole persons or as mere property or as animals.  Even clergy, the suppressed Jesuits, owned human beings!  Note that the papacy by this time had come out against slavery (in various parts of the world) and especially condemned the bondage of fellow Christians as an evil that could no longer be tolerated. What the Church came to understand about slavery in the development of doctrine, she had always known about the unborn and abortion going back to the Didache (50-120 AD).  Abortion had always been condemned by the Church as the crime of murder.

Just as in slavery, the unborn embryo or fetus is reduced by proponents to a thing but is not considered a child unless the mother claims “it.”  Indeed, even then the gymnastics that many women pursue to get pregnant, especially with the sampling and freezing of embryos, still illustrates this attitude of treating the unborn as commodities and not as persons with their own distinctive destiny and rights.  Disconnects with this perspective make debate or discussion with pro-life Christians very difficult or perplexing.  What we hear from such advocates for abortion are assertions like these:  “It is my body and no one can tell me what I should do with my body.”  “I am too young to be a mother and it would be cruel to adopt a child out to strangers.”  “This cannot be happening— I just got a scholarship to a good college and a pregnancy now would ruin my life!”  “All I want is good sex, not a baby!”  “No girl should be forced to carry a child resulting from rape or abuse.”  “This child is a boy and my girlfriend and I only want female babies.”  “I already have two and that’s enough!”  This mentality smacks of the demonic in that there are now actual advocates for abortion from this camp that would similarly argue for what they label as “retroactive abortion,” not just infanticide but the termination of unwanted children up to three years of age. I have heard a number of priests I respect contend that this group is not really Catholic, despite baptism, and thus should not be offered the great Catholic sacrament.  I would agree that those with such hardened hearts are not in true communion with the living Church.   

Third, there are those who would not generally approve of abortion but equate it and any pro-life status with other issues like capital punishment, assisting the poor, welcoming immigrants, racial and ethnic justice, etc.  We find in some circles a point system so that pro-abortion advocates might merit an overall pro-life rating.  As with terminology, never referring to the embryo, zygote or fetus as a baby, this view is just another form of deception— the singular importance of a child’s life is filed away and lost amid a series of other issues.

It is true that there are many issues within a genuine pro-life agenda; however, as the Holy Father and the USCCB has taught, the matter of the unborn is singularly serious and fundamental.  The unborn has no voice of its own so we must be that voice.  If he or she could talk, the child would likely argue, “Take away the gift of life and for ‘me’ there are no other issues!”  The evolution or development in our appreciation of the sanctity of life begins with the premise that both abortion and infanticide constitute murder.  The first Christians were urged to put aside such bloodlust. Over the centuries we have often compromised ourselves in regard to violence, finding it easier to hate and to kill enemies than to love, to forgive and to live with them in peace. Slavery which was long tolerated is today largely repudiated although such a hardness of heart to life and justice continues to raise its ugly head in workers paid non-livable wages and in human trafficking and the pornography industry.  As I have mentioned before, the long-held right of the state to capital punishment has come under recent revision and rightly so because authorities who would condemn the innocent within a culture of death have relinquished their right to judge the guilty.

There may be a fourth position as well, or just a subdivision of what I have already detailed.  There are advocates for a more aggressive feminist agenda of women’s (and possibly LGBTQ) rights that view everything through this revisionist prism, denouncing as bigotry any opposition and/or prohibitions against terminations (regardless of both natural law and Scriptural teaching). This camp would wrongly say that opposition to abortion is the same as being anti-woman.  My quick return would be that the pro-life position is the only true pro-woman perspective.  The power of motherhood is the highest gift given to women as it is an intimate participation with almighty God in the act of creation.  Further, why are we so quick to forget that at least half of the unborn babies are also women called forth into the world and to an eternal destiny?  While radical feminists have largely abandoned the faith and thus would be unlikely to come up for Holy Communion, at least until there are women priests (which will never happen); we need to provide sufficient correctives for the continued participation in the sacramental life for a pro-life Christian feminism.