Lamenting the United States bishops adamant rejection of abortion despite their espousal of "other dimensions" of the health-care debates currently in progress, the London Tablet recently (15 August) faulted the bishops for failing "to put the promotion of social justice above their churchly principles." The bizarre accusation, unprecedented in terms of a lead editorial in a self-styled "International Catholic Weekly," is of course seriously offensive to every person of sincere Catholic faith.
The Tablet, which I have been reading for at least 50 years, has often been confused and confusing, and more than occasionally, flawed as to content. Moreover, it seems to lack a sense of what Catholicism means in America today, where freedom of religion is an integral part of the Constitution a God-given freedom which is not enshrined as such in British law.
Nor does the Tablet seem always appreciative of the depths of evil which abortion constitutes. Abortion is, of course, a core issue relating to reverence for human life from the moment of conception, and consequently is nonnegotiable.
The argument (parroted by the Tablets editorial) that issues of social justice should not be subjugated to "churchly priorities" is on its face as morally repugnant as it is absurd. Abortion contradicts social justice at its very heart, which is to say that it constitutes the Number One assault upon social justice in the contemporary world, an act of barbaric violence upon a totally innocent human being. Any society that elects to safeguard, much less foster such violence, undermines its entire social justice curriculum from the very start. Any self-styled "church" that pretends to defend direct abortion while alleging that it is in favor of social justice, is engaging in self-destructive rhetoric as "church."
Another abysmally ignorant assumption made in the Tablets editorial is its reference to abortions being "a specifically Catholic issue." Where did the editorial writer study ethics? And where has the writer been hiding while the abortion debate continues to rage in various parts of the world, including Britain and the United States? Arent more and more nations concluding that abortion is a human rights issue? What has happened to the worlds recognition of the natural moral law, written upon the tablets of each persons heart?
Reverence for human life from conception is discernible from reason alone, as the Greek philosopher Socrates explained before his execution in 322 B.C.; the natural moral law, binding all persons regardless of creed, demands its observance. Socratess argument is found in the Phaedo, recorded by his pupil, Plato, in unmistakable terms: God alone can give or withdraw human life.
Furthermore, abortion is ethically destructive of the perpetrator, as both Pope John Paul II and Jewish existentialist Martin Buber have explained to the modern world. Buber, for example, accurately foresaw how hatred of persons could turn once apparently rational human beings into veritable bestial agents of extermination in places like Buchenwald and Auschwitz.
Karol Wojtyla, literally a giant of post-modern philosophy, explained in countless articles and, later, in sermons and two epoch-making books, that every evil action debases the agent, so much so that serious wrongdoing can thoroughly corrupt a persons moral character. Such was a main theme in The Acting Person, for example, and Love and Responsibility, both acknowledged masterpieces written by John Paul II before becoming Pope.
In the conclusion of his first book, Karol Wojtyla wrote:
"According to my opinion, founded on St. Thomas Aquinas, the human act is simultaneously transitive (transiens). and non-transitive (non-transiens). It is transitive, inasmuch as it goes to the other side of the subject, seeking an expression or an effect in the external world It is non-transitive, to the extent that it remains in the subject in which it determines the quality and the value Therefore, when man acts, he not only fulfills some actions but, in some way, realizes himself and becomes himself." (Cited from Father A. N. Woznickis book, Karol Wojtylas Existential Personalism; New Britain, Mariel Pub., 1980. Father Woznicki, an accomplished philosopher, was a student of Pope John Paul II.)
What this means, surely, is that every time a human person performs a human act, he or she either advances or else degrades his or her moral character. Life is a pilgrimage either toward or away from Christ the Lord, in and through whom Christian humanism is sealed, pursued and fulfilled.
To espouse direct abortion, then, is to dehumanize oneself.
Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of The Catholic Transcript, and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of Hartford.