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Do We Need to Use the Word “Abortion”?

Do We Need to Use the Word “Abortion”? August 21, 2015

Photo Credit: Gabi Menashe.
Photo Credit: Gabi Menashe.

I want to make something perfectly clear from the start.

I am, unfailingly, a son of the Church. As a Catholic convert, I subscribe, without reserve, to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I am, sadly, far more orthodox than some of the Catholics I’ve met along the way.

I hold to the orthodox Catholic view that abortion, in no uncertain terms is, as Pope St. John Paul II said, an “unspeakable crime.”

At the same time, our Christian morality demands that we hold, in tension, a love for others (even our fellow sinners) in tandem with a demand for justice, repentance, and reconciliation.

There is no room in the Christian moral life for vitriol.

With that in mind, I find this article from a blog calling itself Witness to be both enormously exasperating and deeply disappointing.

In it, the author grieves that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have, “[failed] in their duty to be the moral teachers of their flock.”

How have they failed?

Because in the recently issued 2015 Federal Election Guide, ahead of the upcoming Canadian election, the bishops did not use the word, “abortion.”

The author writes here,

Not one mention in this Guide that up to 100,000 babies are butchered each year in Canada, no mention that we have partial birth abortion in this country, no mention that abortion mills proliferate, no mention of sin, no mention that it is an unspeakable crime, no invocation of Our Blessed Lord to guide voters, to convert hearts of sinful politicians…

The author goes on to quote from Pope St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae in which the saint condemns abortion in no uncertain terms.

But, OK. Let’s step back for a moment here and gather our wits (could be a challenge).

Are the bishops truly worthy of being called “wolves” as this author charges? Is his estimation that the bishops have created a “betrayal” accurate?

Well, no.

Because here’s an actual quotation from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishop’s guide for Canadian voters. The very first, and one could reasonably argue, the most important, point in the guide is quoted verbatim below,

1. Respect for life and human dignity: from conception to natural death

Choosing life means:

  • Demanding the right to life for even the smallest among us – the human embryo and the foetus – since they too belong to the human family, while also providing assistance to pregnant women facing difficulties;
  • Respecting the life and dignity of the dying, accompanying them until their natural death and promoting greater access to palliative care;
  • Raising our voices against practices like physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, which deny the intrinsic value of human life, endanger the lives of vulnerable people, and threaten to morally compromise medical professionals;
  • Protecting all persons from being exploited by biomedical technologies;
  • Rejecting capital punishment;
  • Defending and caring for individuals in all circumstances, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable;
  • Supporting and accompanying individuals with disabilities, the elderly, the sick, the poor and those who are suffering

Are the Canadian bishops soft on abortion?

Absolutely not.

They’re resolutely clear, “Respect for life and human dignity: from conception to natural death.”

Do they need to use the word abortion?

To be fair to the author, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops haven’t always been the most orthodox bishops’ conference. I grant you that. But what, exactly, are we accomplishing by attacking these so-called “wolves” for giving Canadian Catholics guidance for the upcoming election?

Do they need to say ‘abortion’ to make it plainly clear what they mean?

No. It’s plainly clear.

Instead, the CCCB has chosen to take what should be heralded as a pastoral approach indicating that the human embryo and foetus need to be protected “while also providing assistance to pregnant women facing difficulties.”

Rather than simply condemning abortion the bishops are taking a far more introspective, far more Christian holistic approach.

And what is wrong with that?

I’m disappointed, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Too often we don’t see the forest for the trees. No, the bishops, in their wisdom, don’t use the word “abortion.” Instead, they’re far more holistic. Instead they expressly urge the protection of the unborn—from conception—while equally asserting the importance of providing care for the mother.

For goodness sakes, we’re adults. We cannot find ourselves so obsessed with one singular issue to the detriment of the whole, larger picture.

No, the CCCB are not “wolves” and haven’t failed in their moral duty. The bishops have clearly, plainly, spoken against abortion while succinctly, compassionating, calling for aid for mothers in distress.

This is the Catholic approach. We should tolerate no other.

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