The opening statement of this article – “I am a Catholic, but I am pro-abortion” – is as impossible as suggesting the existence of a square triangle. The triangle and the square are essentially exclusive because the triangle is a geometric figure with three angles and while a square has four. It is not possible to be both at the same time: the definition of one necessarily excludes the other. Similarly, the definition of “Catholic” excludes by definition the condition of “pro-abortion” because a Catholic either defends human life from conception or is not a Catholic. The Catholic has only one clear choice: we are never allowed to support policies that promote or define abortion as a right.
Bishop Olmsted wrote: “There are other issues, such as abortion or euthanasia, that are always wrong and do not allow for the correct use of prudential judgment to justify them. It would never be proper for Catholics to be on the opposite side of these issues… We have a serious obligation to protect human life, and especially the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable among us. Whoever fails to do this, when otherwise able to do so, commits serious sins of omission. They jeopardize their own spiritual wellbeing and they are a source of scandal for others. Should they be Catholics, they should not receive Holy Communion.” (Catholics in the Public Square, 4 th edition, #16, #20)
These teachings are in line with the teaching of the Church. Let us listen, for example, to John Paul II, “The common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”(Christifideles Laici, # 38)
Catholics can legitimately disagree on particular issues that do not affect the principles of human reason (natural law). However, there are issues that are obligatory for Catholics. These are called non-negotiable principles. Pope Benedict XVI said: “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:
- Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
- Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
- The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Members of the European People’s Party on the Occasion of the Study Days on Europe)
This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it intended to say that other issues are not important. It simply states that in these three areas there cannot be any type of compromise on the part of Catholics: in our role as disciples of Christ who defend the dignity of the human person, we cannot in any way support directly (i.e., with our vote) parties or people who support, maintain and promote any thing contrary to the three points above.
It is not valid to say, “Perhaps this politician is in favor of abortion but he has many other good points.”, just as it would not be valid to say about poisoned food, “This food has a little poison, but it also has other ingredients that are good and very tasty.” Indeed, the “non-negotiable” issues do not permit exceptions. They are the “moral absolutes” that impose a moral obligation on human beings. To act in opposition to them means, morally speaking, “to swallow the poison.”
So let us pray that the Lord may save us from the “Catholics yes, but…” and that He may grant voters the clarity to refuse to support whatever opposes the faith we profess in Christ Jesus.