Benedict’s renunciation and the wolves within the church
February 14, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Since Pope Benedict’s shock announcement Monday, I have held off commenting. Time was needed to step back and consider just what this astounding action from the world's leading defender of life and family really meant. It was an earthquake announcement that had to have greater significance than the Pope merely being tired and worn out. The two lightning strikes onto the dome of St. Peter’s that evening added an uncanny emphasis that the Pope’s action demanded the world’s attention.
So, really, why did Pope Benedict suddenly announce that he would abdicate the ministry of Successor of St. Peter in only 17 days? It is nearly impossible for me to believe that the reasons are as simple as Benedict has stated (although I believe that he is indeed very tired and barely able to carry on which we saw on our last 2 visits to Rome). There are clues.
Robert Moynihan, a reliable, long-time Vatican observer and Founder of Inside the Vatican magazine, also finds himself unsettled about the Pope’s announcement and wrote in his Feb. 12 report:
“Are there facts the Pope has weighed in making this decision that we simply don't know about, or don't know fully? … Does the Pope have information about the possible course of events in the months ahead that led him to conclude that he needed to allow a younger, more energetic man to take over his office from him, so that the Church's highest authority could take action quickly and decisively as events unfold?”
Those are my same questions.
This great and yet exceptionally humble and gentle man’s fatigue has come about from much more than aging.
Reading other commentators and looking to our own LifeSiteNews experiences have revealed a ferocious battle going on within the Catholic Church and a notably rising tide of hatred towards authentic Christianity from outside. Moreover, a comment from Benedict yesterday, adds to the impression that resignation was decided for strategic reasons. A new pope had to be quickly chosen because of the pace of alarming events both within and outside the Church.
Yesterday, during his Ash Wednesday homily, Benedict stated:
“I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church.”
And then we should remember these words from his first Mass as Pope:
“Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”
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Is he fleeing from the wolves, especially those within the Church, who he knew would inevitably, incessantly attack him during his pontificate? Very doubtful. They have been even more ferocious than he anticipated in response to his determined rolling back of some of the chaos that followed Vatican II and his strong rebukes to all the elements of the Culture of Death. Benedict’s resignation should instead, in my opinion, be seen as a deeply humbling self-sacrifice to pave the way for an urgently needed stronger pope and stronger Church.
For nothing more than professionally reporting solid facts about controversial Church developments related to moral issues, LifeSiteNews has experienced unrelenting, ferocious assault from particular Church personalities and organizations over the past few years. We have been enduring a visceral hatred from some quarters as noted by LSN-friendly inside-the-church observers. It has been nearly beyond belief, shockingly unreasonable and entirely unchristian.
The more layers we have peeled away from hidden and long-standing situations needing exposure and correction, the more we have we been subjected to these unjust and hateful assaults on our integrity and credibility and to damaging whispers and other malicious actions. The secular pro-abortion and homosexual activist forces have been easier to manage in comparison to these enraged forces within the Church.
Now think how much more Benedict has had to endure for his heroic attempts to steer the entire, badly damaged, diminished, wayward Church back on course away from the errors and influence of the “progressives” and other dissidents. They have been howling with rage over his undoing of their five decades of control. He has spoiled their plans for a morally and theologically liberal church remade in their own image, rather than Christ’s.
Catholic commentator, George Neumayr, in his article The Reluctant Pope, lists some of Benedict’s notable accomplishments “trivialized and discredited” by many:
“his battles with the dictatorship of relativism,’ his promotion of wider use of the traditional Latin Mass, his reinstitution of the ban on the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood, his historic overture to disaffected Anglicans, his voluminous stream of speeches and writings that aimed at repairing the catechetical collapse within the Church; his insistence on the ‘non-negotiable’ character of the natural moral law in shaping politics and culture.”
Benedict’s greatest and nearly-unbearable crosses have likely come from opposition to, hatred for, and outright rejection of his reforms - the opposition coming from many in influential positions within the Church – at all levels.
In his blog, Benedict XVI: Reason’s revolutionary, The Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg explains some of the reasons for the animosity Benedict has experienced:
“Intellectually, Ratzinger far surpassed the usual suspects who want to turn Catholicism into something between the disaster otherwise known as the Church of England, and the rather sad leftist-activism of aging nuns stuck in 1968. But against the increasingly-absurd rants of a Hans Kung or Leonardo Boff, Ratzinger simply continued defending and explaining orthodox Christianity’s essential rationality with a modesty lacking in his opponents.”
Gregg also mentions the pope’s “efforts to root out what Ratzinger once called the 'filth' of sexual deviancy” which I have repeatedly noted on this website is a job still far from completed. He has been able to complete this and his other priority tasks only to the extent that the difficult Church bureaucracies and the world’s bishops have followed his urging and well reasoned pleadings.
There has been much resistance, some of it astonishingly vicious and rebellious, especially from clergy and laity in the wealthy, developed nations. Benedict has been betrayed even by those closest to him within the Vatican itself.
Benedict’s exceptional appeals to reason, if accepted, writes, Gregg, translate “into changes in lifestyles that many people simply don’t want to make. But a pope’s job isn’t to tell people what they want to hear.”
But as we have noticed in recent years, reason is increasingly rejected, and changeable feelings and desires are given more emphasis in decision-making by persons and organizations. Anyone who dares to instruct them in what is best regarding their bodies, their sexuality, their theology or their ego, is increasingly seen as a hateful personal aggressor rather than a loving father or other teacher.
I wish that Benedict could have held on for at least several more months to complete more of his necessary reforms and to appoint more faithful bishops.
I wish he could have waited for some of his recent outstanding archbishop appointments to receive their red hats so that they could also vote in this conclave. I am thinking of persons such as Philadelphia’s Charles Chaput, Montreal’s Christian Lépine, Quebec City’s Gérald Cyprien Lacroix and the archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez – all some of the very best of Benedict’s recent placements or moves to major dioceses.
The Cardinal Mahony scandal that broke last week has shown how very entrenched the “filth” still is, and that those responsible have still not yet been fully accountable. The neglect was sickening. If the now revealed offences of actively protecting criminal sexual abusers of minors did not exceed the statute of limitations, we might today be seeing the archbishop of the largest diocese in the US up on criminal charges.
Even secular media are appalled that Cardinal Mahony has made it a point to announce to the media that he is looking forward to going to Rome to vote for Benedict’s replacement.
Mahony is an aggressive personality, some say, a bully. Considering all that has been revealed in recent weeks, it is a great scandal for the Church and to the world that this severely negligent prelate, considered by some to be the ring leader of “progressive” US bishops, should be allowed to have any influence whatever in the conclave. I hope at the very least that he will be shunned by the other cardinals.
It is perhaps more than coincidental that Benedict announced his resignation after the Los Angeles abuse files were made public last week. Archbishop Gomez publicly rebuked his predecessor (highly likely with papal approval) and then Cardinal Mahony arrogantly publicly challenged his rebuker’s admonition. This is a first since the sex abuse scandals broke.
Maybe the Mahony incident and other recent inappropriate outbursts by leading Church officials were the last straws for Benedict. That is, he knew that these and other worrisome developments needed quick and firm action from a strong pope, but that he could no longer muster the energy.
I suspect that Benedict knows the restoration and cleaning up of the filth and rebellion within the Church has to continue with haste because of an ominous, rapidly growing cloud of persecution on the horizon at a time when the wisdom and inspiration of the Church will be greatly needed. Perhaps he sees clearer than most what is coming and that there is no time to have an incapacitated pope leading the Church. His resignation was a proactive action.
There will be a conclave in only a few weeks. Who could have predicted such a thing would happen so quickly?
In that conclave the forces of good and evil will be in an unseen battle that we cannot imagine - pride, power and glory-seeking vs holiness, humility and willingness to embrace Christ’s cross.
The outcome of the conclave will to a very large extent depend on the intensity of the prayers and sacrifices of Christians around the world from now until the final decision and acceptance is reached.
May the Holy Spirit guide the cardinals and keep the powers of darkness that have infiltrated the church at bay during this historic time.
I have to agree with many commentators that Pope Benedict has likely performed a great act of humility and charity for the good of not just the Catholic Church, but for the whole world. Where I disagree with many is that there are graver reasons for his decision than are being surmised.
There is a growing sense that something evil is on its way and the greatest bulwark against the evil can only be a strong, unified and faithful Catholic Church working together with all other authentic believers of the loving triune God.
Benedict knows this. That is why he has suddenly stepped aside for the new pope, who will be called to do the necessary battle that Benedict is no longer capable of.
And he has done it at the very beginning of Lent, the Catholic season of special prayer and fasting that culminates in the full rememberance of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. By then, the new pope should be in place. The timing could not be better.
The power of authentic faith, when unleashed, will always defeat any evil. It usually happens, however, by way of the cross. That was the example the Master gave.
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Pope Francis seems out of touch with the reality of modern Catholicism
April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, his final word on the two Synods on the Family, shows a remarkable depth of knowledge about the struggles of families, their joys, and sorrows, their struggles and their triumphs. Much of the 250+ page document can be read with interest by couples discerning marriage to see what they are in for and garner a good amount of sage advice, especially psychological advice on how to have a happy and lasting union.
That same keen insight however seems lacking when Pope Francis assesses the modern Church. The exhortation gives evidence that the Pope is misinformed about the interior life of parishes. While getting very detailed information on the realities of family life, the Pope proffered what seems like pure fantasy as he suggested that when presenting marriage, pastors often do so with “an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation,” overshadowing love, mutual assistance and unity.
As the countless Catholic couples in Catholic marriage prep classes over the last 40 years will attest, the opposite is true. The duty of procreation is given a nod if mentioned at all. You’d never guess that procreation is the primary end of marriage as the Church actually teaches.
It is almost as if the Pope seems to be envisioning the Church today as if it were the liberal perception of 1950s Catholicism. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat mentioned in a conference speech the other day: “The idea that there is this glorious future church waiting to be born as long as we get rid of the dead hand of 1950s Catholicism that the pope seems to perceive everywhere he looks, is nuts! It’s just nuts. That’s not where Catholicism in the West is right now.”
In another example from the exhortation, Pope Francis claims the Church has failed to encourage an openness to grace and is simply “stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues,” as if that would be “providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life.” Once again, the couples in marriage prep and those in most parishes would wonder how they totally missed this supposed stress on doctrinal, bioethical, or moral issues.
It is reminiscent of the first year of his papacy when Pope Francis suggested that Catholic clergy were over-focused on “abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” causing many to wonder, as did Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa, where exactly those preachers obsessed on those issues might be hiding. Vasa suggested rather that the “vast majority” never talk about those matters. Francis’ suggestion was a marked contrast to Pope St. John Paul II’s admonition to propose those same truths “constantly and courageously” (Evangelium Vitae 82).
“We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful,” says the Pope in Amoris Laetitiae, “who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.” In the exhortation the Pope also repeats his stern warning from his 2013 Gospel of Joy, that priests are not to treat the confessional as “a torture chamber” or reserve Holy Communion as “a prize for the perfect.”
If such a form of Catholicism ever existed among the majority of priests, it is long dead. I’m sure there are some such priests alive today, but they are the tiniest minority. The pendulum has swung so far to the opposite extreme, that in the vast majority priests say hardly anything about the duty of procreation in marriage, and we’ve had virtual silence from most pulpits on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality.
When is the last time you saw any priest anywhere denying someone Holy Communion for not being perfect? If you have heard something of it, it was so rare as to make the national news. For crying out loud, what part of 1950s Catholicism can remain alive if Catholic abortion-pushers like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are not denied Communion but rather invited to give talks at the Vatican!?
Planned Parenthood’s definitely not happy Ted Cruz picked a pro-life woman as running mate
Updated at 5:15 p.m. EDT to include remarks from Carly Fiorina.
INDIANAPOLIS, April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Sen. Ted Cruz has named former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his running mate, if he wins the Republican presidential nomination in July.
“After a great deal of time and thought, after a great deal of consideration and prayer,” Sen. Cruz said at a rally in Indianapolis, he decided that “I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee, Carly Fiorina.”
Cruz hailed Fiorina as “brilliant and capable,” saying she was a strong female leader who had “shattered glass ceilings.”
Sen. Cruz said he and his family had “come to adore Carly.”
He said Fiorina has the knowledge, judgment, and character to assume the presidency, if need be.
“This is an individual who I trust,” he said. “This is an individual you can trust to lead this country, no matter what might happen.”
Sen. Cruz said the American people deserve “a choice and not an echo,” a reference to the 1964 book of the same title written by Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of Eagle Forum. Schlafly has endorsed Donald Trump.
In her remarks, which she glanced at only intermittently, Carly Fiorina saluted Cruz as a “principled” leader who had fought for religious liberty and would not waver in his defense of the Constitution.
At one point, Fiorina broke into a snippet of a four-verse song she wrote for Cruz's two daughters, Caroline and Catherine.
Becoming more serious, she invoked her mother's Sunday School lesson that the life you forge “is your gift to God.” That taught her that “everyone deserves the right to use his God-given gifts to live up to his potential,” and the American genius was reckognizing that this right had been endowed by the Creator.
To allow maximum human flourishing, she said, Sen. Cruz would return as much power as possible to the states and to the people, a view that jibes with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, as well as the principle of subsidiarity.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump dismissed the Cruz-Fiorina announcement as “a pure waste of time.”
“Cruz has no path to victory,” he said. “He is only trying to stay relevant.”
In his speech this afternoon, Cruz responded that “nobody is getting to 1,237 delegates” before the convention.
Pro-abortion groups called the ticket out-of-touch with the feminist movement.
Planned Parenthood tweeted that the pairing was “loathsome”:
“If Ted Cruz thinks he will fix his problem with women voters with Carly Fiorina, he's making a huge mistake,” agreed EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock on MSNBC this afternoon. “They want to dismantle Planned Parenthood. This is not a team that women voters are going to be taking a serious look at.”
Carly Fiorina, she said, would offer an “incredible contrast” with Hillary Clinton.
But Cruz's decision was hailed by pro-life leaders.
“Carly Fiorina would have been a great presidential candidate. Barring that, she is the ideal choice for a Vice Presidential candidate. She will take Hillary Clinton head on,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. “Carly is ideally suited to challenge Hillary Clinton’s entire platform, especially issues related to women.”
“Hillary has claimed the ‘women's advocate’ mantle, without offering any compelling fresh perspective,” Dannenfelser continued. “Carly, on the other hand, has challenged and bested the entrenched feminist politicos, who purport to advance women’s rights even as they advance the usurpation of the rights of children.”
The last time a presidential candidate named a running mate who had no legislative experience was 1972, when George McGovern tapped Sargent Shriver, the last pro-life Democrat to appear on a presidential ticket.
Indiana will hold its primary next Tuesday, May 3. Polls show Donald Trump leading handily, but they were taken before Gov. John Kasich of neighboring Ohio agreed not to contest the state, leaving the anti-Trump vote to Sen. Cruz.
Catholic expert dismantles dissident theologians’ campaign against Polish abortion ban
April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Dr. Joseph Shaw, a research fellow at Oxford’s St. Benet Hall and chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, has written a strong critique of a campaign spearheaded by dissident British theologian Tina Beattie urging the Polish bishops not to support the current proposed abortion ban.
In his essay, presented below, Dr. Shaw writes that the “Beattie Petition” selectively and misleadingly quotes the Second Vatican Council; fails to acknowledge the benefits of criminalizing abortion; and illogically suggests that an increase in contraception will reduce abortion in cases of rape, fetal disability, and threats to the mother’s life. Furthermore, Shaw writes that the petition is incompatible with Catholic doctrine because it is written with the presumption that abortion is not always an act of injustice toward the pre-born child.
Polish law currently allows abortion in cases of rape, when the baby has a disability, or when the mother’s life is in danger, and the proposed ban would eliminate these exceptions.
Shaw skewers the petition signers’ appeals to compassion and mercy in their argument for abortion. “It is difficult to see ‘mercy, forgiveness, and compassion’ at work in the decision to abort a disabled or sick child,” he writes.
A response to the Beattie Petition, by Dr. Joseph Shaw
The ‘Open Letter from Concerned Catholics’ (the ‘Beattie Petition’) directed to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Poland attempts to discourage the Polish Bishops in their support for the full criminalisation of abortion in their country. It claims that, since in particular hard cases women are faced with ‘agonizing decisions’ about abortion, its criminalisation is contrary to a ‘woman’s freedom of conscience’. It is a principle of Catholic teaching, and of common sense, however, that freedom of conscience does not imply a freedom to inflict injustice on others, and that the State is obliged to protect the innocent. The Beattie Petition attempts to confuse matters by the selective quotation of Vatican II’s Dignitatis humanae, ignoring this limitation on freedom of conscience, and ignoring the condemnation of abortion by Vatican II in Gaudium et spes, not only as a sin on the conscience of the individual, but as a crime to be ‘guarded against’. Finally, the Beattie Petition fails to acknowledge the good consequences of the criminalisation, even if the law is only imperfectly enforced, notably in reducing the number of abortions, and freeing the medical profession from official involvement in a procedure contrary to the very nature of the medical vocation.
An ‘Open Letter’ or petition has been publicised calling on the Catholic Bishops of Poland to withdraw their support for a legislative initiative to criminalise all abortion. The signatures are arranged in alphabetical order, but the second name, Tina Beattie, Professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton, is one of the very few which will be widely recognised, and it will be convenient to refer to the document as ‘the Beattie Petition’. The text, purporting to come from signatories who ‘respect the Church’s moral stance against abortion’, is a disgraceful, but wholly unsuccessful, attempt to justify a failure to protect the unborn. It’s central contention, that abortion is not always an act of injustice towards innocent life deserving of legal protection, cannot overcome, and only ignore, Pope St John Paul II’s powerful declaration the Church’s infallible teaching on abortion, in his 1995 Encyclical Evanglium vitae §57:
Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
Before analysing the Petition, it is well to consider what legislation can hope to achieve on the subject of abortion. The answer is simple: the criminalisation of abortion will reliably suppress the openly practiced, legal abortion industry.
Abortion’s proponents, including the Beattie Petition, invariably argue that ‘driving abortion underground’ is of no benefit, but this is far from being the case. Most obviously, in times and places where abortion has been illegal, but where the availability of illegal abortion has been widely known, and efforts to stamp out illegal abortion far from vigorous, the number of abortions actually carried out has been very small compared with the number performed when abortion has been decriminalised, even under apparently restrictive legal regimes.
There are in addition three other important benefits of criminalisation.
First, the abortion industry’s legal existence creates permanent pressure for the easing of restrictions on abortion, by its support for political campaigning in favour of abortion; similarly, its existence acts as an advertisement of its services, even if some forms of open advertisement are not permitted.
Second, the abortion industry, as countless examples from around the world have demonstrated in recent years, has scant regard for the legal limitations under which it is supposed to operate, or for the safety of its clients. Indeed, it is also a fallacy, exposed in the most painful manner by recent criminal convictions in the United States that, unsafe and even illegal abortions, with poorly trained abortionists and in unsanitary conditions, necessarily disappear when abortion is legalised.
Third, the existence of legal abortion is corrosive to the ethos of the medical profession, whose training and practice is obliged to take account of abortion as a supposedly legitimate procedure. In practice, where abortion is legal and hospitals carry it out, administrators will put pressure on practioners to perform this unpopular procedure, and will ensure that it is included in medical training. A section, at least, of the medical profession will, often against their will, necessarily become involved in abortion, and its putative legitimacy will have to be taken into account in any discussion of medical ethics, undermining a proper understanding of the role of the doctor in relation to his or her patients, in the tradition of the Hippocratic Oath and of Catholic teaching on the Natural Law.
The central contention of the Beattie petition bears on another benefit of criminalisation, which is the most important of all: its effect on women in crisis pregnancies. The Petition claims:
We appreciate the complex ethical challenges involved in any intentionally abortive act. However, we also believe that our Catholic faith calls us to be attentive to suffering in all its forms, and to respond with trust in the mercy, forgiveness and compassion of God when faced with with [sic] profound moral dilemmas that offer no clear solution. In situations where abortion is deemed necessary – such as those currently permitted under Polish law – we believe that access to early, safe and legal abortion is essential.
The cases currently permitted by Polish law are those where a pregnancy is the result of rape; where the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy; and where the unborn child is severely disabled or terminally ill. It is these cases alone which will be affected by a complete ban, and which are addressed by the Beattie Petition.
It is difficult to see ‘mercy, forgiveness, and compassion’ at work in the decision to abort a disabled or sick child, particularly when the serious psychological and physical dangers abortion, compared with childbirth, has for mothers. Abortion is the preferred answer, rather, of a medical and social system which would rather not be burdened by the task of supporting mothers and their children in these difficult circumstances.
When a child is conceived in rape, the motivation of the rape victim and her friends and family in seeking abortion is easy to understand. It is equally clear, however, that it can never be a healing choice for a mother to consent to the destruction of her own child. The testimony of many women to the psychological trauma caused by abortion does not encourage the view that abortion is an easy way out for victims of rape.
The Petition focuses, instead, on the case of mothers whose health in endangered by continuing a pregnancy. In this case, the question arises of whether, in the context of modern medicine, such cases actually occur. The 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health states:
As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.
This has been signed by more than a thousand medical practioners. The Declaration clearly distinguishes, as the Catholic moral tradition does, and as laws restricting abortion typically do, between abortion, as a procedure aiming at the death of an unborn child, and the medical treatment of a pregnant mother which may endanger the child’s life. In the Catholic tradition, as in the law, the latter can often be legitimate, taking account of the seriousness of the threat to the mother, the possibility of alternative treatments, and so on.
The Beattie Petition appeals to the tragic circumstances implied in each of these cases, with the implication that offering the possibility of abortion is the compassionate thing to do. For a mother in a crisis pregnancy, in some cases traumatised by rape, in other cases seriously ill, or struggling to come to terms with the news that her child is severely disabled, the offer of abortion is not a compassionate intervention. When offered, perhaps with the encouragement of doctors or family members, it will generally present itself as a recommendation. Like all medical recommendations, it will in such circumstances require a special strength of character to resist it, particularly when accompanied by the implied threat: if you don’t abort, the baby will remind you of the rape, the baby will be disabled, the baby will kill you: claims which will not necessarily be true. Such recommendations may be accompanied by pressure, of a subtle or not so subtle kind, from partners or family members, who may for a variety of reasons prefer the baby not to exist. The open door to abortion will distract the attention of all involved from the alternative possibilities: of accepting the unique and sacred character of the child’s life, and of coming to terms with the problems implied by the pregnancy with the support of doctors, family members, and where appropriate the state. Offering abortion to mothers in these cases can, in practice, be hard to distinguish from dispatching them down a pathway of convenience for others, a pathway in which the complications of a crisis pregnancy are swept aside, and the mother is left to cope with the trauma of abortion instead, a trauma the existence of which the advocates of abortion, like the signatories of the Beattie Petition, do not wish even to acknowledge.
It is precisely in these tragic circumstances, more so than in cases where abortion is motivated by apparently frivolous considerations, that the reality of abortion is apparent, as an injustice not only to the unborn, but to the mother. Legal abortion opens up the most vulnerable women of all to pressure to consent to a crime against their unborn child, and against themselves. The criminalisation of abortion, as proposed today in Poland, is a step towards the protection of women and the unborn alike.
Two other claims of the Beattie Petition should briefly be considered. First is the claim that abortion could be reduced by greater availability of contraception:
Finally, there is a body of evidence to show that the best way to prevent abortion is to respect women’s human dignity and freedom of conscience with regard to reproductive decisions, by guaranteeing access to reliable methods of birth control.
Such evidence as is commonly cited is far from decisive, however; what is widely observed and agreed is that the majority of women seeking abortion had been using contraception. The connection between a contraceptive culture and the demand for abortion was set out by Pope St John Paul II in Evangelium vitae (1995) §13. It is strange, in any case, that this claim should be thought to have bearing on the cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, or where abortion is suggested because an unborn child is disabled, or the pregnancy is supposedly a danger to the mother’s life. However rare or common such cases may be, reliable contraception is not going to prevent them arising.
The second claim is the alleged relevance of religious freedom, and Dignatatis humanae, the Declaration on Religious Liberty of the Second Vatican Council, §2. This section deals with the freedom to profess religious beliefs. Any understanding of religious freedom must distinguish between the manifestation of beliefs in harmless ways, and the alleged manifestation of religious beliefs in ways which are unjust to others, particularly others who are do not, or cannot, consent to this treatment. What is unjust must, in turn, necessarily be assessed objectively. Dignitatis humanae makes precisely this distinction, in §7, and ignoring this fact is an indication of a lack of intellectual integrity in the Beattie Petition:
The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.
As a matter of fact, the Second Vatican Council directly addressed the issue of abortion, in the Dogmatic Constitution Gaudium et spes, §51, which stressed the obligation to guard against what is a crime, and not just a private sin:
For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.
The Beattie Petition also includes an appeal to ‘the call to mercy and compassion mercy’ of Pope Francis. The petitioners can find no comfort, however, in the Holy Father’s most recent publication, the Post-Synodal Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) §83:
So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the “property” of another human being.