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Calling Evil Sacred

February 21, 2024


Over a period of only three decades, abortion advocacy has evolved (or, better said, devolved) from treating abortion as a “necessary evil” (recall Bill Clinton’s self-proclaimed goal in the 1990s of protecting abortion “rights” while supposedly making abortions “safe, legal, and rare”), to promoting abortion as a positive good to be sought even in violation of the law (e.g., “Shout Your Abortion,” an organization whose website currently states: “Shout Your Abortion is normalizing abortion and elevating safe paths to access, regardless of legality”), to claiming that abortion is not only a positive good, but can also be sacred and holy ( “Holy Abortion”). One finds, for example, the following statement posted on the website of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC): “Human life is sacred and abortion, too, can be a sacred, often grief-filled threshold that honors life and is worthy of spiritual support.” The author is totally correct that human life is sacred, but abortion? When did intentionally ending the life of another human being become a “sacred” act? Abortion “honors life”? How so? Abortion certainly doesn’t “honor” the life of the child being aborted.

Elsewhere on the RCRC website, Rev. Bill Kirby claims that after Roe v. Wade

the religious narrative about abortion was co-opted by the far right, and in the battle for abortion access, religious institutions became the enemy. And now, because of that shift in the narrative, millions of people in the United States have once again lost the right to abortion [due to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Rev. Kirby seems to be implying]. It’s time for us to reclaim the moral high ground. Abortion is ethical. Reproductive choice is ethical. There is a theological case for abortion as a moral good, and we need to bring back that narrative. 

What exactly is the “theological case” for abortion as a “moral good”? He doesn’t say, nor does the section of the RCRC website that is labeled “The Moral Case.” There are four “religious principles”1 presented on that webpage, but not a single one of them actually makes a “moral case” for abortion.

The RCRC describes itself as a “multifaith, intersectional, and antiracist movement for reproductive freedom and dignity” that is “rooted in sacred, moral, and reproductive justice values.” The RCRC offers what it calls “faith perspectives,” in which it claims to present Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist perspectives on such topics as abortion, “choice,” “reproductive health and rights,” etc. With regard to Catholicism, the RCRC asserts that “Catholic teachings on issues related to reproductive health and rights are far more nuanced than the hierarchy acknowledges” and claims to provide “links to a variety of resources that reveal what Catholic teachings are, what Catholics believe and how Catholics behave.” But with regard to abortion, the only three links that are provided are labeled “London Declaration of Prochoice Principles,” “A Statement on Later Abortion,” and “Catholics and Abortion: Notes on Canon Law No. 1,” and none of these links provides the Catholic Church’s actual teaching on abortion (including the latter link, which, despite the label, does not discuss canon law but rather merely transfers the viewer to the website of another group advocating for abortion, Catholics for Choice).

No society that allows, and even celebrates, the deliberate killing of its offspring can continue to survive and thrive in the long run.

Catholic teaching regarding abortion is summarized in sections 2270-2275 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, including the following statement (§2271):

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish” [Didache 2, 2]; “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” [Gaudium et Spes 51 §3].

Can anyone reasonably claim that this teaching is “far more nuanced than the hierarchy acknowledges”?

Similarly, the “Catholics for Choice” website emphasizes polling data regarding the “beliefs” of Catholics regarding abortion rather than the Magisterium’s actual teaching about abortion. Official Catholic teaching on issues of morality is not determined by polling data. Also, this organization claims that “Catholic teachings on abortion have changed over time,” which obviously directly contradicts the Catechism’s affirmation that Catholic teaching has forbidden abortion since the first century and that this teaching “has not changed and remains unchangeable.” Furthermore, “Catholics for Choice” describes itself as “part of the majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who know that abortion access is a social justice value,” but again, this contradicts actual Church teaching. The Church does not teach that abortion access is a “social justice value.” The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which was compiled to provide a “concise but complete overview of the Church’s social teaching” and therefore of the Church’s teachings on issues related to social justice, refers to “the illicitness of every form of procured abortion” (§155) and cites Pope John Paul II’s list of human rights in his encyclical Centesimus Annus, which includes “the right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother’s womb from the moment of conception” (§47). The Compendium also notes that “far from being a right, [abortion] is a sad phenomenon that contributes seriously to spreading a mentality against life, representing a dangerous threat to a just and democratic social coexistence.” (§233) No society that allows, and even celebrates, the deliberate killing of its offspring can continue to survive and thrive in the long run.

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Lamenting the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Dobbs decision, Rev. Katey Zeh, CEO of the RCRC, claimed that as a result of Dobbs, “millions of people across the United States will suffer untold hardships, especially those who belong to already marginalized communities.” She then proceeded to point to the book of Isaiah: 

We look to the words of the prophet Isaiah who spoke to a traumatized people who had endured countless atrocities. He describes the glorious “new heavens and a new earth” that the divine is creating on their behalf, in which they will experience peace, prosperity, and abundance. Part of our call in these times is to be bold in holding onto the vision of a world we have not yet seen—but we believe is possible. 

God will indeed create “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 66:22; Rev. 21:1). But thankfully, abortion won’t be part of that new world, because, as St. Peter says, “according to [God’s] promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” [2 Pet. 3:13; emphasis added]. The last time I checked, “righteousness” didn’t include the murder of innocents.

And since Rev. Zeh brought up the book of Isaiah, let’s consider another verse from that superlative book of prophecy: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

There are many people today who call evil good (or even sacred) and good evil. Let’s continue to pray for them (and for the removal of any of our own moral blinders), and let’s continue to work to eradicate the evil, the darkness, the bitterness that is abortion.

1 Those principles are stated as follows: “Compassion for the complex choices each individual may confront and the impact of these choices on families.”; “A just society treats every person equally regardless of sex, color or economic status.”; “Every person has inherent dignity including the sacred gift of sexuality.”; and “We are attuned to the important role of our diverse faiths in personal and public life. We treasure the religious freedom guaranteed Americans since our nation’s founding” (