The Catholic Church:
The Divinely Ordained Protector of Human Life
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
The future of the pro-life movement throughout the world depends on the Roman
Catholic Church. To know this is to begin to understand the real issues underlying
the wanton murder of over fifty million unborn children every year. To believe
this is also to see some hope of stemming the tide that has made the 1900s
the most homicidal century in human history.
We begin by reminding ourselves that, except for Christianity, we would not
have a true understanding of the sanctity of human life. Until Christianity
came into the world, there was only a rampant paganism in the Roman Empire.
As early as the year 80 AD, the Christian document, The Teaching of the Twelve
Apostles, told the faithful, You shall not procure an abortion; you shall
not destroy unborn human life. Before the year 130 AD, the letter the Barnabas
was equally clear. It identified abortion as a crime committed by those who
walk the way of darkness. Christians were told, There are two ways of instruction,
there are two powers: that of Light and that of Darkness, and there is a great
difference between these two ways. The one is controlled by the devil, who
is the ruler of those who profess to believe in eternal life. In the last
two millennia, the Catholic Church has remained faithful to these revealed convictions.
And it is the Catholic Church who remains today as the Mother and Teacher of
the nations, teaching them that human life is not only a precious possession
of man but is sacred because it belongs to God.
On these terms, therefore, abortion is not only injustice against an unborn
human being; it is the desecration of something holy. Those in the pro-life
movement who are Christians believe they are defending not only the equity of
a human person. They are defending the sanctity of human life and the majesty
of living God.
The Meaning of Sacred
Sanctity and sacred are simply the noun and adjective which somehow pertain
to God. So we should speak of the sanctity of human life because it is God-like.
Thus we may distinguish two kinds of reality, one that we call profane and
the other we call sacred. How do they differ?
- The sacred is eternal; the profane is temporal.
- The sacred comes directly from God; the profane, through ultimately
from God, comes from creatures.
- The sacred is spiritual; the profane is material.
- The sacred is heavenly; the profane is terrestrial.
- The sacred is made to the image of God because, like Him, it
can know and love; the profane is incapable of knowledge and love.
- The sacred is the purpose of our existence, and the goal of our
destiny; the profane is only the road on the way to our destiny and the means
of achieving the purpose of our creation.
How is Human Life Sacred?
Human life is sacred on all the premises of revealed Christianity. The sanctity
of human life is the foundation of the Christian religion.
It is sacred because when God made the universe, He first made the inanimate
world of sun, moon and stars, and then the non-rational world of plants and
animals. Finally, He made man, as we are told, in His own likeness.
This means that He made man to share in His own divine powers of perceiving
with an intellect patterned after the intellect of God; of choosing with a freedom
modeled after the freedom of God; and of loving others in a human society similar
to the eternal love of the divine community of the Holy Trinity.
But this was only the beginning of how human life is sacred. Ever since the
origin of the parents of the human race, every time a human being is conceived,
God directly and immediately creates a human soul. The parents provide the
body; but only God can createmake out of nothingthe soul which is to animate
the body and make it a human person.
Human life is sacred because each human being is personally willed by God in
order to know, love and serve Him, and thereby reach its heavenly home in the
Beatific Vision of the Holy Trinity.
Human life is sacred because, unlike the rest of the visible world, we are
free to choose to love and serve God. Indeed, the rest of the world was made
to help us glorify God by our faith in Him our hope in Him, and our love for
Human life is sacred because God became man in order to redeem us from sin
and teach us by word and example how we are to become more and more like Him,
who is our Savior and Lord.
Human life is sacred because at Baptism we receive a share in Gods own life.
In us dwells the Holy Trinity, and by His grace we are able to do what God in
His goodness gives us the power of performing:
- like loving others with selfless charity.
- like practicing chastity after the example of Jesus and Mary.
- like enduring suffering patiently.
- like seeing in everything in our livesin every person, every
want, every situation, in every pleasure and every painthe loving presence
of God who sustains the world in existence and is thus leading us through time
to a blessed eternity.
Human life is sacred because, by the grace of God, we can understand by faith
that there are no problems in life. What we call problems are all acts of Divine
Providence. Either we do not know what God wants, and so we are tempted to
call it a problem. But we believe that, if we pray, He will show us what He
wants us to do; or we do know what is Gods will, but we are afraid or feel
helpless to do it.
Again we believe that, if we pray for the strength, He enables us to conform
to His loving but very demanding divine will.
The Rights of God
We correctly speak of the rights of the unborn children to life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness.
Even the American Supreme Court Justices who legalized abortion all admitted
that if the unborn fetus were a human person, then its right to life would be
guaranteed and protected by the civil law. It was only by incredibly denying
personhood to the unborn child that the Supreme Court dared to legalize the
murder of pre-born human beings.
Most of the defense of unborn human life is therefore, and understandably,
a defense of the rights of the innocent children in their mothers wombs.
But our stress here is on abortion as a criminal violation of the rights of
All that we have seen about the sanctity of human life is the foundation of
what we are saying here.
Because human life is sacred from the moment of conception, it belongs to God.
Any violation of this sacred human life is consequently a violation of the rights
of God. Once that is realized, many conclusions follow.
Abortion thus becomes not only an offense against human dignity, but a crime
against the Divinity.
Abortion thus comes to be seen as rooted not so much in a selfish insistence
on a womans right to take human life. It is a denial of the claims of the
God who made that woman and her child.
In one country after another, the abortionists are now speaking of choice.
The only choice that a woman has is to do what God wants her to do; that is
why she has a free will.
The root cause of abortion is the same as the cause of what took place on Good
Friday. God had become man, and for thirty years He lived in obscurity. Then
He began to preach the doctrine that no prophet of the Old Law had ever proclaimed.
He told His contemporaries, the Father and I are one. He taught that those
who believe in Him are to love one another as He, who is God, has loved them.
Those who did not believe that Jesus was telling the truth, killed Him. Remember
what Peter told the people after He had cured the paralytic at the gate of the
temple? He told them, you have killed the Author of life. The crucifixion
was attempted deicide.
In its own way, abortion is a form of deicide. It is an attack on God by trying
to destroy what belongs to God.
In order to cope with the crime of abortion, it is not only that political
means are inadequate. But all merely natural methods of resolving the abortion
crisis are basically secondary.
Since the root cause of abortion is attempted deicide, the death of God philosophy
put into practice, supernatural means must be used to even control, not to say
cure, this deadly virus that now plagues the human race.
God permits no evil in the world without a proportionate reason. Given the
magnitude of this practical atheism in the modern world, we should be confident
that God will mysteriously draw immense good from the evil of abortion.
The practical implications of this truth are numerous. They can be summarized
in two terms, grace and free will.
- Without a superabundance of Gods grace, abortion cannot be overcome.
- Without the free cooperation of human beings with Gods grace,
abortion will not only be overcome, but will spawn a host of other evils in
Sources of Grace
There are three main sources of grace available to us from the mercy of God.
They are prayer, the sacraments and the practice of virtue. If we use these
means, the graces will be given and sanity can be restored in a world that is
giving to Caesar what belongs to God.
The Power of Prayer. If there is one theme that runs through
the teaching of Christ, it is the power of prayer.
- Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall
be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that
asks, it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).
- All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive
- Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that I will do; that the Father
may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask me anything in my name, that I will do (John 14:13-14).
- If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will,
and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7).
The efficacy of our prayer, however, depends on our faith. Christ promised
to work miracles if we ask Him, provided we believe He is almighty God.
As we reread the Gospels, it is both inspiring and sobering to see what wonders
Christ performed in favor of those who earnestly begged Him and had faith in
His power to do the humanly impossible.
To stem the tide of abortion will require a series of moral miracles. By definition
a moral miracle is a visible effect produced by God which exceeds the native
powers of the human will. We may be sure that Christ wants to work these miracles.
When He rebuked the disciples, and told them to let the little children come
unto me, He was speaking to all of us. He wants the children conceived to
be born, to reach maturity, and glorify Him by their loving service. But Christ
demands that we pray in faith and trust in His divine power to change hearts
of stone into hearts of selfless love for the unborn.
The Efficacy of the Sacraments. There are two sacraments that
especially provide the grace necessary to conquer abortion. They are the Eucharist
and Confession. And they should be seen together.
We correctly associate the Eucharist with the Mass and Holy Communion. What
we may not realize is that the early Christians attended Mass and received the
Eucharist every day. They were taught by the Holy Spirit that the legalized
abortion and infanticide of pagan Rome could be overcome by their daily participation
in the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary and daily reception of the Eucharistic
Christ. But we know that the Eucharist is not limited to Mass and Communion.
Jesus Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, whether reserved in
our churches and chapels or exposed on the altar for veneration and intercession
by the faithful. It is the same Jesus, now glorified, who stilled the storm
at sea and raised the dead Lazarus back to life. It is the same Jesus who performed
wonders during His visible stay in Palestine. He wants to do the same in our
day, again provided we have the faith. To convert selfish wills to stop murdering
children may be a greater miracle than calling Lazarus from the tomb. But Christ
can do it, if only we ask Him, now on earth in the Eucharist, to perform this
sign of His omnipotence.
The Sacrament of Penance as the Sacrament of Confession, should be received
at least twice a month. The Church tells us as much when she prescribes confession
and Holy Communion within eight days in order to gain a plenary indulgence.
Of course, there need be no grave sins to confess. That is the whole purpose
of what are confessions of devotion. They are potent channels of grace for
the massive conversion of sinners if ever the mania of abortion is to cease.
The Practice of Virtue. We merit grace by cooperating with the
graces we receive. This practice of virtue benefits not only the person who
performs a good work, but also obtains grace for others.
Who would doubt that abortionists and their clients need divine grace to see
the horror of their crimes and to have the courage to desist? Where can they
obtain this grace? From God, of course. But in His ordinary providence, God
uses persons who are in His friendship to merit for sinnershere the agents
of abortionthe spiritual light and strength to return to the God from whom
they have strayed.
The measure of the graces needed for this cosmic repentance tells us something
about the degree of virtue that the friends of God are expected to practice.
Nothing less than heroic patience in suffering, united with the Passion of Christ;
nothing less than heroic faith in believing, united with Mary as she stood on
Calvary; nothing less than heroic chastity in resisting the allurements of a
world intoxicated with sexual immorality; nothing less than heroic charity in
loving those who ignore us or oppose us or deride our loyalty to Christ as psychosiscan
obtain the ocean of divine mercy that alone can restore the rights of God over
the human life which begins at conception and is destined to continue into eternity.
Cooperation with the Grace of God
Human beings have a free will. They can either cooperate with the graces that
God gives them, or they can resist these graces and commit sin.
All that we have said so far is simply fundamental Catholic doctrine. When
Christ at the Last Supper said, Without me you can do nothing, He meant that
without His grace we cannot reach heaven. And the proponents and practitioners
of abortion will not reach heaven unless they are converted from their evil
ways. To be converted, they must receive an abundance of divine grace that
we can obtain for them by our prayers, receiving the sacraments, and the practice,
if need be, of heroic virtue.
But the graces received must be responded to. God does not coerce anyone to
do His will.
It is here that the Catholic Churchs teaching on the sixth and ninth commandments
is so basic to the pro-life movement. Unless these two commandments are observed,
the fifth commandment will inevitably be violated.
This deserves closer scrutiny, and needs to be understood with perfect clarity.
The sixth commandment forbids all external sins against chastity.
- It forbids fornication or sexual relations between an unmarried man and woman.
- It forbids adultery, or sexual relations between a man and woman, where either one or both are already married.
- It forbids homosexuality, or sexual relations between persons of the same gender.
- It forbids masturbation, or the deliberate arousal of sex pleasure in ones own body.
The ninth commandment forbids all internal sins against chastity. It obliges
us to control our sexual thoughts and desires. It forbids us to indulge these
interior movements contrary to the will of God.
But then we ask, how is the observance of the sixth and ninth commandments
of Godprescribing chastitynecessary to keep the fifth commandment, which forbids
the killing of innocent unborn human beings. It is a necessity of cause and
effect. As the history of the human race has shown, unless the imperious sexual
drive is kept under control, a society loses its respect for unborn human life.
The closer we examine this cause and effect relationship, the more obvious
The divinely ordained purpose of sexual desires is for the procreation and
education of children in a stable, monogamous family life. Even the corresponding
purpose of fostering the mutual love of husband and wife, presumes a lifelong
commitment in a faithful marriage between the two spouses.
As soon as this sacred purpose of sexual pleasure is ignored, a number of things
- The focus of venereal pleasure becomes self-gratifying instead
of what it should be, self-giving.
- The purpose of venereal pleasure becomes egotistical instead
of what it should be, altruistic.
- Instead of enjoying sexual pleasure on divine terms, it becomes
indulging this pleasure on ones own terms, independent of the will of God.
- Ignoring the will of God by sinful indulgence of sex pleasure
darkens the mind and obscures the intellect. Otherwise intelligent people become
stupefied and make themselves incapable of seeing Gods will in the most elemental
precepts of the divine law.
- Sexually preoccupied people are selfish people. Whether married
or not, they either try to avoid having children all together, or limit the
number of children to a minimum. Contraception is the hallmark of a sexually
- The primacy of sex pleasure makes conception of children a burden.
Even when a child is conceived, the child is secondary in the scale of values.
- So predominant can sexual pleasure become in a society, that
if a child is conceived, its continued existence is secondary to the whims of
the father or the mother or of both. What they want is what they
want. The continued life of the child is unimportant.
- When civil authority approves this kind of mentality, the legalizing
of abortion becomes inevitable. This was true in the pre-Christian Roman Empire.
It is true in the post-Christian countries of the modern world.
In the light of the foregoing, what does cooperation with the grace of God
mean? It means submitting ones own desireshere for sex pleasureto the wise
providence of God. His plan for the human race reaches beyond this earth to
heaven. When He creates a human soul at a childs conception, He does not want
the unborn child to be killed and thus be deprived of the joy of serving its
Creator here in time as a prelude to possessing Him in a glorious eternity.
Our task, as believers, is to gain all the graces we can for those engaged
in the abortion trade and for their tragic victims. Our hope is that they will
respond to the graces they are receiving.
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica