The Catholic Church
is a Pro-Life Church
All persons, not
just Catholics, can know from the scientific and medical evidence that
what grows in a mother's womb is a new, distinct human being. All persons
can understand that each human being -- without discrimination -- merits
respect. At the very least, respecting human life excludes the deliberate
and direct destruction of life -- and that is exactly what abortion is.
Catholics are also pro-life because our Christian
tradition is pro-life. As Pope John Paul II says, Christians believe that
"all human life is sacred,
for it is created in the image and likeness of God." Aborting an unborn
child destroys a unique creation which God has called specially into
Christian teaching also obliges us to follow in the
footsteps of Jesus Christ, who spoke and acted strongly and
compassionately in favor of the most despised and vulnerable persons in
society. Jesus touched lepers, spoke with prostitutes, and showed special
mercy and tenderness to the sick, the poor, and children. Our society
today has many vulnerable persons --- including women in crisis
pregnancies as well as unborn children whose lives may be legally ended
at any time during pregnancy and for any reason. In the tradition of
Jesus Christ, Catholics have a responsibility to speak and act in defense
of these persons. This is part of our "preferential option" for the poor
The Church's mission to defend human life applies over
the entire course of life, from conception to natural death. And so the
Catholic Church has been a strong supporter of the civil rights movement
and a leader in international relief and development efforts. Catholic
hospitals and other health-care facilities form the largest network of
private, not-for-profit health care providers in the United States.
Catholic Charities USA --- one of a number of Catholic charitable groups
--- is currently the single largest provider of social services to all
Americans, regardless of race, creed or national origin.
The Catholic Church strives to be a prophetic voice,
speaking out to protest injustices and indignities against the human
person. Catholics will continue in this work, whether our words are
popular or unpopular.
Since its beginnings, Christianity has maintained a
firm and clear teaching on the sacredness of human life. Jesus Christ
emphasized this in his teaching and ministry. Abortion was rejected in
the earliest known Christian manual of discipline, the Didache.
Early Church fathers likewise condemned abortion as
the killing of innocent human life. A third century Father of the Church,
Tertullian, called it "accelerated homicide." Early Church councils
considered it one of the most serious crimes. Even during periods when
Aristotle's theory of "delayed ensoulment" led Church law to assign
different penalties to earlier and later abortions, abortion at any stage
was still considered a grave evil.
When biologists in the 19th century learned more about
the process of conception, the Church altered its legal distinction
between early and late abortions out of respect for reason and biology.
Since that time, science has only further confirmed
the humanity of the child growing in the womb. Official Church teaching
insists, to the present day, that a just society protects life before as
well as after birth.
The reasons are not difficult to understand. One
official Church document on the subject puts it this way:
"The first right of the human person is his life . .
. It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority
in any form to recognize this right for some and not for others; all
discrimination is evil. . . Any discrimination based on the various
stages of life is no more justified any other discrimination. . . . In
reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the
process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum is
fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of
the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own
Declaration on Procured Abortion,
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1974), paragraphs 11-12.
picture above was taken in 1997 at St. James at Sag Bridge, each cross planted represents the 4,000
children which are killed by abortion every single day in the United States