Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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Q. Commenting about the Church’s position on abortion during a TV program recently, the speaker of the House of Representatives erroneously left the impression that the “Doctors” of the Church were divided, and that the Church’s position today is a relatively late one – decided only 50 years ago, perhaps. How would you address these misconceptions?

A. To begin with, the widely publicized comments made on TV about abortion by the Speaker of the House of Representatives constituted far more than mere “misconceptions”; in truth, they were serious fallacies that require correction and apology. It’s difficult for me even to imagine that anyone in public life could have had so distorted a view of a topic which any reasoning adult should at least have been aware of.

Direct abortion – that is, the termination of human life from the moment of conception – has clearly and always been rejected as intrinsically evil by the Catholic Church. No circumstance can possibly justify it morally, since it is directly opposed to the Fifth Commandment, which, while set down on the Tablets of the Law in Old Testament Revelation, is also written on the tablets of human hearts, and as such bind all human beings by virtue of the natural moral law.

That human life begins at conception can be easily drawn from a host of Biblical references. The great Prophet Jeremiah, for instance, related God’s calling him prior to his birth: “Before you were born, I [God is speaking] dedicated you.” (Jer. 1:4-5) Notice the use of the personal pronoun you referring of course to Jeremiah. See for another example, Psalm 139, sqq.

In the New Testament Scriptures, the vocation of John the Baptizer is highly instructive. Recall the angel’s words to Zechariah, the Baptizer’s father: “he [John] will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.” (Lk 1:15) Again, notice the personal pronoun, he.

Reason illumined by Revelation leads to the same doctrine. That which is conceived from the union of human ovum and sperm must be assessed in terms of a human being. St. Thomas Aquinas’s argument was (and is, since the Church has embraced it explaining its doctrine on the body-soul union of human beings) that there is only one act of creation, in which God creates the soul, which immediately receives the body in the communion of its own being; soul and body, therefore, are not clearly separable entities. To attack a body, therefore (e.g., the embryo or fetus) is to attack a human being, unique, precious and unrepeatable.

Historically – from the viewpoint of extrabiblical sources – the Church’s clear, explicit repudiation of abortion was included in the earliest Roman catechism, known as the Didache (a Greek word, meaning, “The Teaching [of the Apostles]”.) This source, found in any good library, reads: “You shall not slay the child by abortions,” and “you shall not kill what is generated.” (Sec. 2) The Didache dates from about 90 A.D. (slightly over 50 years after Christ rose from the tomb). The so-called Epistle of Barnabas (Pseudo-Barnabas), dating from about 117 to 138 A.D., says about the same, and equates abortion with infanticide. (Sec. 19)

The Church Fathers and Doctors (great theologians especially recognized by the Church) preached the same doctrine, as did Church Councils, including Vatican Council II, which declared in Gaudium et Spes: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” (n.51)

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.