Skip to main content

Fr. Reese (et al) and Natural Law

I want to expound a bit on my objections to Fr. Thomas Reese’s commentary in yesterday’s Washington Post. Fr. Reese suggests that reducing the number of abortions is the ultimate goal. Therefore, if he can find a way to reduce the number of abortions yet keep abortion legal, he calls the action successful. This is extremely misguided. The issue is more than just reducing the number of abortions. The issue is to acknowledge the inviolable human dignity of every human person from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. To reduce the demand for abortion without clearly asserting the intrinsic evil of abortion still denies the unborn have intrinsic human dignity. Once we accept one class of citizens as disposable, we are all vulnerable to the whims of those with more power than we have. This is not a matter of religious ideology. This is a matter of natural law.

I am very happy to say that this morning’s homily given by our newly ordained priest was one of the best homilies on this topic I have every heard. He pointed to this quote from John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Christefideles Laici.

38. In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of therights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change-let alone eliminate-them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, 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.

This week my class in Catholic Bioethics focused on the Principles of Medical Ethics. To study the Principle of the Right to Life, I was directed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Declaration on Procured Abortion

10. In regard to the mutual rights and duties of the person and of society, it belongs to moral teaching to enlighten consciences; it belongs to the law to specify and organize external behavior. There is precisely a certain number of rights which society is not in a position to grant since these rights precede society; but society has the function to preserve and to enforce them. These are the greater part of those which are today called "human rights" and which our age boasts of having formulated.

11. The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental - the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others. It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right for some and not for others: all discrimination is evil, whether it be founded on race, sex, color or religion. It is not recognition by another that constitutes this right. This right is antecedent to its recognition; it demands recognition and it is strictly unjust to refuse it.

12. Any discrimination based on the various stages of life is no more justified than any other discrimination. The right to life remains complete in an old person, even one greatly weakened; it is not lost by one who is incurably sick. The right to life is no less to be respected in the small infant just born than in the mature person. In reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already.

13. To this perpetual evidence - perfectly independent of the discussions on the moment of animation[19] - modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, there is established the program of what this living being will be: a man, this individual man with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its capacities requires time- a rather lengthy time- to find its place and to be in a position to act. The least that can be said is that present science, in its most evolved state, does not give any substantial support to those who defend abortion. Moreover, it is not up to biological sciences to make a definitive judgment on questions which are properly philosophical and moral such as the moment when a human person is constituted or the legitimacy of abortion. From a moral point of view this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin to dare to risk murder. "The one who will be a man is already one."[20]

Please note that paragraph (13) is the perfect refutation to the remarks of both Speaker Pelosi and Senator Biden. There has never been a question about the morality of abortion even when there has been a question about “animation” (ensoulment). The Church has always taught that abortion is unacceptable. There is no equivocation. The right to life is paramount and fundamental. It is the foundation for all other rights. It is futile to speak of preserving other human rights if the right to life is not defended as Pope John Paul II states, “with maximum determination”. That maximum determination includes but is not limited to the societal statement made through legal statutes that ensures the human person is accorded inviolable dignity from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.


Anonymous said…
I don't see anything in any of the links that you've provided that "suggests" for a moment that Father Reese believes that reducing the number of abortions performed in this country is "the ultimate goal," much less his ultimate goal. In no way whatsoever did Father Reese "suggest" that he favors legalized abortion. His words on the importance of reducing the number of abortions performed in America notwithstanding, in no way whatsoever did Father Reese "suggest" that he prefers legal but rarely performed abortions over a legal scheme that would outlaw abortions altogether. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for suggesting otherwise. You owe Father Reese an apology, and if you don't mind me saying as much, you probably need to make a trip to the confessional.
Catholic Mom said…
Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your concern for my soul. I will share your concerns with my confessor. I would love for you to point out to me where Fr. Reese comes out "with maximum determination" and condemns abortion as an intrinsic evil. I can point to this statement:

Nor does a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion have a chance of passing Congress let alone getting approved by the states. Any activity that is engaged in by over 1 million people a year is not going to be outlawed, especially if 54% of the country does not think it should be outlawed.

Those wanting to do something about abortion must face the political reality that abortion is not going to be made illegal in the United States. Granted that fact, then the political question has to change from "Who will make abortion illegal?" to "Who will enact programs that will reduce the number of abortions?

Fr. Reese then goes on to sing the praises of the Democratic party--the same party that is committed to keeping abortion legal and is the darling of Planned Parenthood. While he mentions that there was some language added to the party platform that encourages a reduction in the number of abortions, he does not mention that they removed the wording in the platform that calls for abortion to be rare.
Jim said…
"I would love for you to point out to me where Fr. Reese comes out "with maximum determination" and condemns abortion as an intrinsic evil." -- Dr. Hunnell

"...he does not mention..." -- Dr. Hunnell

So you are going to question a priest's faith ("Ye of little faith") and otherwise "suggest" that this very same priest supports legalized abortion based solely on what he did not say?

"Fr. Reese then goes on to sing the praises of the Democratic party--the same party that is committed to keeping abortion legal and is the darling of Planned Parenthood." -- Dr. Hunnell

"Thank you for your concern for my soul. I will share your concerns with my confessor." -- Dr. Hunnell

Before speaking to your confessor -- not to mention the next registered Democrat that you might happen to encounter -- you might want to reference paragraph numbers 2477, 2478, and 2479 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I'm not following the Reese debate, but I like the stuff you've posted about rights. I've always had a problem with people claiming "it's my right!!!" because so many people ignore the one crucial right: to life. On my blog, I've gotten into long debates with an atheist who will agree that the unborn is a human, but does not agree that they have a right to life. In his mind, the mother's "right" to security, or money, or a job, trumps the baby's right to life. BOSH! Jobs and money can be replaced - life can't. I may copy what you've quoted here and use it on my blog, as it's the best explanation of rights I've seen.
Catholic Mom said…
I don't think you are reading my comments quite right. Anonymous didn't see how I could characterize Fr. Reese's statements as I did. I pointed to the quote above and stated that I did not see any qualifying statements within his essay to make me interpret his position as ardently opposed to abortion. Also, I do think if he points to a change in the Democratic platform that makes it look pro-life he needs to be honest and give the other abortion language changes. This is significant since more than one member of the committee writing the platform has said that the word rare was removed because they wanted to take the stigma away from choosing an abortion. In other words, it is a legitimate choice and not something to be avoided.
Catholic Mom said…

Feel free to copy material from my blog. Just cite the source. Thanks and welcome as a reader!

Popular posts from this blog

Find Catholic Mass even when Traveling

First published 1/27/06

There is no such thing as a travel dispensation. Even when you are away from your home parish, you are expected to take advantage of your Sunday opportunity to attend Mass. With most communities offering a Saturday evening vigil Mass as well as Sunday Mass, there is really no excuse for missing Mass while traveling unless you are backpacking beyond the reach of civilization. It takes just a little planning and effort on your part. The question is, “Do you really want to go to Mass?”

Why should we worry about missing Mass while traveling? Well, the easy answer is “’Cause the Church says so!” Missing Mass is considered a serious sin. Jesus told Peter Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Mt 16:19)so we must take the edicts of the Church quite seriously. Still, this is a child-like level of understanding. The more mature answer is we have a responsibility to maintain our relationship with God. Like any relationship, if it is neglected, it weaken…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…