Church teaching on abortion
The Catholic Church condemns abortion in the strongest possible terms. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes Church teaching, recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of the unborn human person and considers abortion a “crime against human life.”
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the catechism reads. “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
At the same time, the Church emphasizes mercy and forgiveness for women who have obtained abortions.
“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the catechism says, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”
In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II addressed the life issue in light of politics.
“I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent person’s natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law,” he wrote. “For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.”
The “Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re-establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life,” he added.
He identified abortion as a “crime” that “no human law can claim to legitimize.”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith discussed the late pontiff’s teaching in its 2002 doctrinal note on “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life.”
“John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” it read. “For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”
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The late pontiff, as Pope Francis has done, called abortion murder.
“The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved,” the saint wrote in Evangelium Vitae. “The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined.”