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We are facing recent proposals to extend access to abortion until the time of birth for any reason. In the mind of some legislators, if a child is born alive after an abortion attempt, it is justifiable to allow the infant to die. That is, not to provide any lifesaving medical assistance.

There are some Catholic legislators and politicians who support unrestricted abortion. When asked about their Catholic faith, the response is usually to claim that the Catholic Church respects the primacy of conscience and in their conscience, they are not committing a sin. They lean on the documents of Vatican II to justify this position. Others claim that their faith is separate from their politics, because their faith is personal and their political position on abortion is dictated by their constituents. The worst part of this is that many voters hear or read statements from these politicians and they assume that the politician knows what he or she is talking about. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In the first place, the primacy of conscience as exposed in the documents of Vatican II must be understood in a manner consistent with Catholic tradition. That is, with that which the Church has always believed about conscience. Neither Vatican II nor any other authority has said that each person has the right to determine what is right and wrong. The very thought is a recipe for anarchy.

The primacy of conscience means that no one has the authority to impose on an individual any action or an ideology that is inconsistent with a well-formed conscience. A well-formed conscience is one that subscribes to that which the Gospel and the Church have proclaimed as right and wrong.

A Catholic whose conscience is contrary to what the Church has always believed and taught on the right to be born is either acting with an uneducated conscience that does not know the tenets of his or her faith or with a “convenient” conscience that allows him or her to be elected to public service. This begs the question, is such a person honest? Do I want someone whose moral convictions are shaped by his or her constituents? Constituents change. They subscribe to one thing today and another tomorrow. Many choose that which is convenient to them and others aren’t aware of the rightness and wrongness of their choice.

Any politician guided by such a fluid set of values is one who has no respect for absolute values. He or she believes that right and wrong depend on the individual, not on an absolute natural or moral law. In that case: A person who steals should not be condemned for his actions, because his conscience justifies stealing or because he doesn’t know that stealing is immoral.

Individuals who allege to be Catholic, but support and believe that ideas and actions contrary to their faith are morally acceptable in the public square, such persons are unfaithful to the faith that they claim is an important part of their life. They are dishonest. Such persons live as dual human beings. They hold one thing to be absolute in their homes. In the political arena right and wrong are not determined by absolute truth, but by the popular mindset. Rather than standing on firm ground, these politicians stand on a floating tectonic plate.

When right and wrong are determined by modality, the term “absolute” becomes obsolete. Nothing is right or wrong. Everything is relative.

Faithful Catholics must form their conscience according to what the Catholic faith has always believed, regardless of what many Catholics do or say. Catholic truth is Gospel truth. Gospel truth is not determined by the ideas and actions of men, not even those who are clergy or religious. Because Father N supports abortion does not mean that he is right. Father N is stepping outside of what the Church has always believed and has become a magisterium unto himself. He is an unfaithful priest. Receive the sacraments from him, but do not follow his teaching if they are contrary to the faith of the Church.

Politicians have the same obligation as any other Catholic to be faithful to the Catholic Church’s long held beliefs. They cannot allege to be persons of faith and be unfaithful. This does not mean that Catholic politicians are imposing their Catholic beliefs concerning abortion or any other moral issue on the people they represent. It means that they represent their constituency with integrity, not a mind that believes one thing today and another tomorrow. Such persons are not trustworthy, because they do not stand on solid ground. Rather they stand on tectonic plates that move randomly.

Comments from readers

HECTOR GONZALEZ - 10/14/2019 10:36 PM
Also the sanctity of human life of person condemned to death penalty. And the sanctity of human life of those who are dying of mal nutrition and hunger. And the sanctity of human life of those who are forced to migrate to more prosperous areas. And the sanctity of human life of those who refused jobs because color of the skin. And the sanctity of human life of those who are in jail or prisons, and the sanctity of human life of those forced to live in depressed areas of a city, or the sanctity of human life of people from other countries coming toward you asking for help...
Dan Gorman - 10/14/2019 03:27 PM
An excellent message and one that should be repeated in homilies across the diocese.
Chris H - 10/14/2019 12:54 PM
This is an excellent exposition on the primacy of conscience, especially in our current culture of relativism. Thanks for the clear, cogent and Catholic manner in which the topic was explained.
Gerardo E. Martinez-Solanas - 10/14/2019 12:04 PM
People may proclaim themselves a Catholic, but that's just a label. Anyone who does not strictly respect the sanctity of human life is not Catholic.
james - 10/14/2019 10:32 AM
FACT: TRUTH: Faithful Catholics must form their conscience according to what the Catholic faith has always believed. No abortions. Period.

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