Friday, December 20, 2013

It is intellectually dishonest to claim that Jesus, the scripture, or the church from the beginning did not oppose abortion

Too many times I have heard talking heads on radio and television claim that Jesus never took issue with sexual ethics or abortion. Let's think that one over.

Pope John Paul II wrote in 1995: “Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable.... The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life” (Evangelium Vitae).

It is intellectually dishonest to claim that the scripture or the church from the beginning did not oppose abortion. 

From the very beginning of the Bible human life is regarded as a gift of marriage and the Lord is the giver of life from the time of conception. 

Whether it relates to the Book of Exodus where the Egyptian ruler decreed that all the baby boys be drowned in the River Nile because the Israelites were “prolific” (hence the term “pro-life”; Ex. 1.8-22; Ex. 2.1-10), and Moses’ mother’s fear for her son’s life and hiding him, to Jeremiah’s receiving his vocation from the time he was in his mother’s womb: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you as a prophet” (Jer. 1.4-5), to the Psalmist who prays: “O Lord, you formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb…my very self you knew…when I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth” (Ps. 139.1, 13-16), human life, human personhood is granted by God at conception.

And what of Isaiah? The prophet declares: "Before birth the LORD called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name...For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb... Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you" (Isaiah 49.1, 5, 15)

In the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth and Mary’s pregnancies refer to the children within their wombs as John and Jesus; John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit while within His mother’s womb, and Jesus is referred to as the Lord from the moment of His conception, by both the angel Gabriel and when Elizabeth declares to Mary: “But who am I that the Mother of my LORD should come to me?” (Luke 1.26-45).

Jesus’ was insistent that “Whoever receives one child in my name receives me…see that you do not despise one of these little ones…in just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost,” [the Latin word for little one is 'fetus' in Latin] (Matt 18.5, 10, 14). 

Jesus' words, “Let the children come to me, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19.14), reveal that the gift of a child is never to be discarded or regarded as expendable. Human life is precious gift. 

And although the word abortion is never used, one will not find any positive suggestion in scripture that children may be terminated in their mother’s womb! 

In fact, as Jesus is carrying his cross to Golgotha, he meets the women who are lamenting him with these words: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us’” (Lk 23.27-30). 

Certainly this is damning evidence that Jesus clearly loved children and would never have encouraged the destruction of a child in the womb. Those who argue that Jesus considered abortion permissible are guilty of blasphemy.

And what of Jesus’ reference to the Last Judgment: “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, that you do unto me”? (Matt. 25.40) Jesus identifies himself with the most vulnerable. How more vulnerable can one get than being orphaned in the womb of her or his own mother?

This doesn't even begin to touch upon the early church’s condemnation of the pagan practice of exposing infants and abandoning the unwanted. Christians would retrieve children from dung heaps to save them. And abortion procedures, though barbaric, were practiced in ancient times. 

And “since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish” (The Didache 2.2,; Epistle of Barnabas 19.5; Letter to Diognetus 5.6; and Aplogetics of Tertulian 9).  [CCC 2271]

“God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 51.3).

Medical science has also revealed that the message of the scriptures is true: the unborn child is a member of the human family, called into being by God. Each newly conceived child has his or her own unique DNA.

These are truths that will stand the test of time and eternity. 

1 comment:

  1. This is solid thinking, John. Another thing that comes to mind in support of your argument: Jesus' statement, "Let the children come to me," is a direct critique of the social circumstances he lived in. In Jesus' world, children had NO rights. They were considered property, the same as slaves. So, his statement wasn't just an embrace of children; it's a direct challenge to the dehumanization of children that was standard practice in his day! Making an analogy with abortion isn't too hard from there.

    I'm not sure that we can call children "a gift of marriage" from the outset, since the question of whether there's a "marriage" in Genesis is an open among scholars, but there's definitely a mandate to bring forth life in committed relationships. That's not a big deal, though - your overall argument is really great. Thank you!