Pro-Life: October 2004 Archives

Expert stem cell testimony


As I was walking through the halls of the Nameless Entity that I work for, I passed by a TV tuned to CNN. The caption under the talking head read "STEM CELL RESEARCH," and the head was saying something about the quality of stem cell lines available to researchers. The head belonged to Mr. Jennifer Aniston, a.k.a. Brad Pitt, one of the world's foremost cell biologists.

God help us all.

Ray's on the job

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Kudos to Ray Flynn: he's appealed to Gov. Schwarzenegger to reconsider his support for abortion and for research which destroys human embryos.

(Thanks, Amy.)

It's [un]official!

CDF's undersecretary Fr. Augustine DiNoia, OP, asked a fellow Dominican to respond unofficially to some dubia canonist Marc Balestrieri submitted in August. Fr. Basil Cole, an associate professor at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington answered Marc's questions as follows (I'll translate and summarize):

1. Is the doctrine that 'directly procured abortion is a grave sin' a dogma of divine and Catholic faith, in the sense that the opposing error is to be considered a heresy?
Answer: Affirmative.

2. Is the doctrine that 'a law for directly procured abortion is gravely illicit' at least implicitly or even directly among the dogmas of divine and Catholic faith, in the sense that the opposing error is to be considered a heresy?
Answer: Affirmative.

He concludes:

if a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code.
And unless that Catholic proves himself to have been ignorant of the Church's teaching or the penalty, or otherwise not to be held responsible:
one is automatically excommunicated according to Can. 1364.

All this is marvelously clear, and just the sort of statement pro-life Catholics here in Massachusetts and elsewhere have hoped for in their efforts to fight the moral errors spread by some Catholics.

However, it's not an official statement of CDF. Does anyone know whether it is customary for a questioner to CDF to receive an unofficial reply from an expert rather than one from the Congregation? Would one expect it to be followed by an official response? Perhaps a response about such a weighty matter of public importance would have to go through the Congregation's procedures for review and approval. I hope that this letter hasn't been sent in place of an official response.

Update: CWN's weighed in on the story (two days later, not that there's any competition going on), adding an explanation about the form the response took: it's apparently standard procedure for CDF to refer laymen's questions to its consultors. But there is some dispute on the net about whether Fr. Cole is a consultor.

Postscript: Of all things! John Kerry, a dissenter on abortion legislation, may have a case in his favor, if Marc B.'s heresy complaint against him ever leads to a trial. Ignorance of the penalty can be a mitigating factor, and Kerry can credibly argue that he didn't know that support for abortion qualifies as a heresy. After all, the bishops don't seem to speak of it in those terms.

(Arch)Episcopal Spine Alert!

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I had the opportunity today to speak to an elderly and respected conservative canonist. He was very happy. He had come across Archbishop Burke's new pastoral letter (seventeen pages) laying down the obligation of Catholics to vote for the common good, particularly as it concerned life issues, according to well-formed Catholic conscience. The letter is nothing short of awesome! The Archbishop pulled no punches and you can read the entire text here -- including an excellent Q&A at the end that clearly explains our Catholic obligation to vote pro-life. Also, you can read the following (what appears to be official) summary of the main text of the letter:

1. The archbishop is impelled to speak to Catholics and all people of good will in the metropolitan community on our civic responsibility for the common good on account of his responsibility as a bishop to teach clearly the moral law.

2. Scripture teaches definitively that we are our "brother's keeper," good Samaritans charged to exercise our civic responsibility to promote the common good. Above all, we must promote and protect the inviolable dignity of all human life.

We are called to be "Christians Without Borders," without boundaries to our love of neighbor.

3. Our civic responsibility to promote the common good is informed by our life in Christ, which unites us in a bond of charity.

4. As citizens of Heaven and Earth, we are bound by the moral law to act with respect for the rights of others and to promote the common good.

5. The right to act in accord with conscience presupposes that it is informed with the truth God has inscribed in our hearts and revealed in Sacred Scripture. Conscience is the voice of God within us, assisting us to choose good and to avoid evil, in accord with God's law.

6. We are morally bound in conscience to choose government leaders who will serve the common good. The first priority of the common good is the protection of human life, the basis of all other social conditions.

There can never be justification for directly and deliberately taking innocent human life: abortion, destruction of human embryos, euthanasia, human cloning.

Legal recognition of same-sex relationships undermines the truth about marriage and sanctions gravely immoral acts.

For the sake of the common good we must safeguard the good of human life and the good of marriage and family life.

The death penalty and war are different from procured abortion and same-sex "marriage," since these latter acts are intrinsically evil and therefore can never be justified. Although war and capital punishment can rarely be justified, they are not intrinsically evil.

7. To ensure the common good, Catholics have a responsibility to vote for a worthy candidate, because the welfare of the community depends upon the persons elected and appointed to office.

8. It is never right to vote for a candidate in order to promote immoral practices; this is "formal cooperation" in evil.

In some circumstances it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports some immoral practices while opposing other immoral practices. This is called "material cooperation" and is permissible under certain conditions and when it is impossible to avoid all cooperation with evil, as may well be true in selecting a candidate for public office.

There is no element of the common good that could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses, without restriction or limitation, the deliberate killing of the innocent, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, human cloning or same-sex marriage.

9. If a candidate supports abortion in a limited number of cases, but is opposed otherwise, Catholics may vote for this person. This is not a question of choosing a lesser evil but of limiting all the evil one is able to limit at the time.

10. As Catholics we cannot remain silent. We have a serious obligation to bring the moral law to bear upon our life in society, so that the good of all will be served.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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unless you state otherwise.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Pro-Life category from October 2004.

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