Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 27, 2003
Abortion aborts human dignity
Catholic politicians around the world, maybe especially those in Canada, have received a clear call not so much to defend the faith, as to defend moral truth in a recent document from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith(see Story).
The congregation is trying to bring sense to the nonsense spouted by so many politicians that they are personally opposed to abortion, but would not "impose" their morality on others. In fact, what such politicians are imposing is moral relativism - the belief that there are no objective moral norms, only moral opinions. Fortunately, no country has consistently imposed such relativism through its legal structure, otherwise it would rapidly descend into chaos.
Relativism gains its credibility from democracy which flourishes due to a plurality of political opinion. Many politicians and commentators have used the basic rightness of democracy as a political system to depict political debates on life issues as a contest between those who support democracy and those who would impose Church teaching on a diverse society.
There is no such contest. The Church is defending not its own arbitrary opinions, but human dignity itself. Human dignity is undermined by relativism which fails to recognize that human flourishing is only possible with a legal system that upholds objective moral norms, such as an inviolable right to life and freedom of conscience.
The Catholic witness in politics must be to uphold moral norms against those who would compromise them for the sake of power, wealth or personal prestige. This should be the duty of any politician, but the clarity of Catholic teaching puts a special responsibility upon Catholics in the political sphere.
In Canada, this sort of Catholic witness, with some notable exceptions, has largely been absent. It was Catholics Pierre Trudeau and John Turner who made abortion legal and it is the current prime minister, Jean Chretien, who sees no inconsistency between calling himself "a good Catholic" and proudly proclaiming that his Liberal Party is "pro-choice."
An Angus Reid poll in the mid-1990s showed the Liberals had strong support among Catholics. Of decided voters who said they were highly committed Catholics, 67 per cent supported the Liberals, while 55 per cent of the less committed Catholics supported the party.
Contrast that with the Vatican congregation's statement that "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."
But it's not as though there is a pro-life alternative among the major political parties. Although each of the parties has pro-life MPs, none has taken a stand that would protect the unborn.
Abortion is not the only issue. But no party can talk consistently about protecting human dignity when nearly two million unborn children have been killed in the 35 years that abortion has been legal.
Abortion is part of the fabric of our society and we will not begin to see anything like peace and justice in our nation before it is abolished.
Despite 35 years of legal abortion, people are still speaking against it. This is an issue that will not go away until justice is done. But the voices are not numerous enough to force politicians to take heed.
And too few politicians are willing to take on an issue that will gain them no sympathy from a media and a public soaked in relativism.
We need people of courage who will stand up for the dignity of human life in all its forms, especially where that dignity is most neglected.
We need pro-life voters and pro-life politicians.
May the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's foray into this area help to encourage more to step forward.
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