One of the organizations supporting Senator Kerry and sponsoring the abortion march this past Friday was Catholics For Free Choice (a clear example of CINO if I ever saw one). I decided to check out their website, which is a virtual goldmine of lazy reasoning and deceitful presentation of Catholic doctrine. Case in point: this questionable advice to Catholic women who are considering abortion:
The official Canon Law of the church at the present time states that anyone who commits the sin of abortion automatically excommunicates herself from the church. To commit the sin of abortion, you have to think that an abortion in your case, with all the circumstances of your life and your pregnancy, is a sin against God. You then have to decide that you are going to do it anyway, thus going against your conscience.
The Catholic church officially teaches that the conscience of an individual is supreme. If you carefully examine your conscience and then decide that an abortion is the most moral act you can do at this time, you are not committing a sin. Therefore, you are not excommunicated. Nor need you tell it in confession since, in your case, abortion is not a sin.
If you do feel you committed a sin by having an abortion, you can seek reconciliation with the church by speaking to a priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).
Now, this strikes me as very flawed reasoning. It designates the human individual -- not God -- as the final arbiter of the moral law, of what constitutes sin: "It's only sin if you think it is." To illustrate what I mean, let's take their advice and substitute the term "abortion" with actions I'm sure even the most liberal Catholic would find morally objectionable:
If you carefully examine your conscience and then decide that beating your wife is the most moral act you can do at this time, you are not committing a sin. . . . nor need you tell it in confession since, in your case, beating your wife is not a sin.
If you carefully examine your conscience and then decide that raping a child is the most moral act you can do at this time, you are not committing a sin. . . . nor need you tell it in confession since, in your case, raping a child is not a sin.
Catholics For Free Choice may protest at this point, but hey, it's their logic. The fact of the matter is that they use "invincible ignorance" as a cop-out, deliberately ignoring the full teaching of The Catechism of the Catholic Church on "erroneous judgement":
1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.
1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.
1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.
Unfortunately, I think that most women considering abortion are already aware of the grave implications of their act. As one perceptive commentator on Amy Welborn's blog observes:
To formally and voluntarily cooperate in the unjust taking of innocent human life is an objective mortal sin. A given individual may, stress may, not be subjectively guilty of sin while committing the objective act. Why? Well, ignorance, etc. However, one of the strongest imprints that God has place on the human mind, soul, and will is that deliberately taking the life of someone else who is not guilty of harming you, indeed is incapable of harming you, is wrong. Not just a bit wrong, but so wrong as to be evil. You don't have to study the precepts of all religions, or even adhere to any religion, to understand, to KNOW that is true. So genuine excuses are likely to be few and far between.
I think that very few women, religious or otherwise, are capable of having an abortion with a trouble-free conscience, and no comprehension of the gravity of what they have done. The common experience of organizations like Project Rachel which assist victims in coping with "emotional, psychological and spiritual trauma" that often follows abortion is a testimony to this.
And so I tend to think that most Catholic women who turn to Catholics For Free Choice for moral advice are long past the point where they can plead "invincible ignorance" as justification for their actions.
I'm no expert in moral reasoning myself, so I'll leave it to my esteemed colleagues to provide further commentary on this issue.
Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch
Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.