Just about every priest who has ever preached against Abortion has had the experience that someone will accuse him, when he does so, of talking about politics and being “too political.”
Of course the answer is that abortion is a moral issue on which the Church has always taught consistently. For what ever reason, the main political parties in this land of our have staked out different positions on the issue, so that in the political sphere abortion has a partisan tendency. But that is a fairly new phenomenon as we shall see. The Catholic Church however has taught against abortion from the very start, long before the existence of the Democratic or Republican Parties. For example the Didache, written sometime between 90 – 11o AD says:
You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill those who are born. (Didache, 2)
Now the last time I checked my history books, 110 AD is a time that predates the American political scene or the founding of the Democratic or Republican Parties. I also checked my most sophisticated calendars and found that 110 AD predates the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the political shaking out and dividing that followed it. It would seem therefore that Church Teaching on Abortion predates the American Political scene and that we have a pretty long track record of teaching against abortion. It is unfair to say we have simply picked sides in a political battle. Our stance against abortion is principled, moral and in accord with biblical and ancient norms that require us to respect innocent life in the womb.
Partisan division over abortion is actually a rather recent phenomenon. Even in the direct aftermath of Roe v. Wade in 1973, there was not an immediate political relignment of the main parties on either side of the issue. For example, many prominent Democrats had pro-life stands well into the 1980s.
- Al Gore, during his tenure in the U.S. House (1977 to 1984) voted pro-life 27 times and had a 84% pro-life voting record. In 1980, he wrote a letter to NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE, supporting the Hyde Amendment. In letters to constituents, he wrote: It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong. I hope that some day we will see the current outrageously large number of abortions drop sharply. (Letters from Sept. 15, 1983, August 22, 1984). In 1984, he voted for the following Amendment to the Civil Rights Act: For the purposes of this act, the term ‘person’ shall include unborn children from the moment of conception. Sadly, the amendment was defeated.
- Then Governor Bill Clinton wrote to Arkansas Right to Life on September 26, 1986, I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortions. We should not spend state funds on abortions because so many people believe abortion is wrong.
- Rev Jesse Jackson endorsed the Hyde Amendment and wrote in an open letter to Congress that he opposed federal funds used for “killing infants.” He also wrote the following statement in a 1977 National Right to Life News article: There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of [a] higher order than the right to life … that was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned. …”What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually? ….It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind. Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth.
- Senator Edward Kennedy wrote to a constituent in 1971 just prior to Roe V. Wade and had this to say: While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grown old…..When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.
These are just a few examples. But calling abortion “a political issue” is not only flawed because it is a moral issue, but it also over simplifies the political scene. There has recently been a strong partisan trend, but it is recent. And, even today there are pro-life democrats and even a few pro-abortion Republicans.
There also seems to be a logical flaw in those who want to insist that abortion is a political issue that should be banished from the pulpit. I don’t have it all worked out but imagine the following conversation:
- You say that abortion is a political matter? –
- Well, when you denounce it from the pulpit you are supporting the Republican party.
- So you want to insist that abortion is a political matter?
- Well, if that is the case, then it seems you support political killing.
- No , I don’t. I don’t agree with State sponsored assassination and killing.
- But you said that abortion is political. Now abortion is about killing, and if its just a political matter, then it’s political killing you support.
- Well I don’t mean that and you know it.
- Well then don’t call abortion political. It is a moral issue and I have every right and duty to speak on it.
Abortion is not a political matter. It is a moral one and the Church can and must speak of it. Sadly it is not the only only moral issue that has been politicized by the world (e.g. Homosexuality, stem cell research, Gay marriage etc.). But the Church was here long before the political stars aligned as they have and She will be here long after they have realigned.
If you get a chance to see this 10 minute video it is worth it. It described the amazing miracle of life in the womb.