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Abortion is a betrayal of democracy, says Pope

By on Friday, 29 October 2010

Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff speaks in the chapel of Belo Horizonte's Central Market (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

Presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff speaks in the chapel of Belo Horizonte's Central Market (Agencia Estado via AP Images)

Bishops must guide their faithful to use their vote to oppose efforts to legalise abortion and euthanasia, Pope Benedict XVI told bishops from Brazil yesterday.

“Dear brother bishops, to defend life we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking,” the Pope said during a meeting with bishops from northeast Brazil.

The bishops were making their ad limina visits to report on the status of their dioceses.

Pope Benedict did not mention the fact that Brazilians will vote on Sunday in a presidential election, but said he wanted to discuss the bishops’ obligation to give the faithful the information and moral guidance they need to ensure their political decisions contribute to the true good of humanity.

Both of Brazil’s presidential candidates, Dilma Rousseff and Jose Serra, have said they oppose lifting restrictions on abortion, but Brazil’s anti-abortion laws still have been a recurrent theme in the campaign.

Pope Benedict told the Brazilian bishops that while direct involvement in politics is the responsibility of the laity, “when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it, pastors have a serious duty to make moral judgments even in political matters”.

Certain actions and political policies, such as abortion and euthanasia, are “intrinsically evil and incompatible with human dignity” and cannot be justified for any reason, the Pope said.

While some may claim they support abortion or euthanasia to defend the weak and the poor, “who is more helpless than an unborn child or a patient in a vegetative or terminal state?” he asked.

“When political positions openly or covertly include plans to decriminalise abortion and euthanasia, the democratic ideal – which is truly democratic only when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person – is betrayed at its foundations,” Pope Benedict told the bishops.

Bishops and priests have an obligation to help Catholic laity live in a way that that is faithful to the Gospel in every aspect of their lives, including their political choices, he said. “This also means that in certain cases, pastors should remind all citizens of their right and duty to use their vote to promote the common good,” the Pope said.

  • Paul Jackson

    Abortion is a betrayal of democracy, says Pope

  • Saunders9

    We must oppose abortion in all it's forms because life starts at conception. Problem is an abortion mentality seems to pervade society, and incredibly even amongst practicing catholics.

  • Hdbarton

    I agree with the fact that liberals are sacrificing our children's futures on the alters of convenience. However, It strongly appears to me that the heart of the most hard working conservative group is also a deadly enemy against children – even to the point of murder. I am speaking about Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, who back each other up one hundred per cent, for Pamela, of Atlas Shrugs, follows a woman who preached abortion and free sex more fervently than any other person in the world save Margret Sanger. Now I see the heart of the Conservative movement has also embraced baby murder and free sex as a panacea for social problems. Tell me Pamela doesn't love Ayn Rand with all her heart, mind, and soul, and make me the happiest man in the world. 'Nother thing! In Ayn Rand best selling book called The Fountainhead, her main hero was a terrorist who used dynamite to destroy some buildings because he disproved of their design! Are we too, becoming a movement of murder and violence. Those were NOT his buildings! They belonged to someone else who paid for them! Can it be that those false conservatives who care for nothing but money matters and see nothing of morals and values are going to double cross us Pro-life workers once again? Yes, it is beginning to look exaclty like that again and we get to once again choose between teeddle dee and teeddle dum when it comes down to what really counts – namely, morals and values! We are not taking one step down that road marked “Baby Murder!”

  • His Prince Michael

    As The Lord God lives, TRUTH shall prevail!

    Viva Benedict the Fearless!

  • Fritz Duchat

    I agree, we should all be against ABORTION and EUTHANASIA. Where would I be today if my parents decided to get rid of the fetus or embryo which I was at the beginning of my life 60 years ago. Not only there would have been a missing person to contribute to the well-being of society, a missing husband, a missing father and accountant and taxpayer and friend but also all the generations which come from me, my kids, their kids all the way down the centuries would be missing. This is proof that ABORTION is EVIL together with all attempts to suppress life in general like EUTHANASIA, WARS, DEATH SENTENCES and all these have a necessary link with acts which do not recognize the dignity of the human person when he or she is denied the right to education and to a decent way of life. We should league against all these evils.

  • Matt

    Democracy is a betrayal of the dignity of the human person.

  • Leticia Velasquez

    Catholic politicians try to cloak their position in favour of abortion as helping the poor.
    The pope is not fooled.

  • Paul Eddington

    Very clear words from the Holy Father. It is sad to see how often they are not followed by liberal or simply cowardly clerics.

    A priest of bishop who doesn't have the gut to protect Catholic values when they are unpopular is not worthy of his habit.


  • paul

    Did you know that the head of the human genome project is a Christian? This is the 21st century and I believe it is important that the Catholic Church embraces technology and science and not shimmies away from the important knowledge it can give us. After all the search for truth is what the Church is all about.

    I don’t believe science can define our world view or morality or politics, but it gives us the vital information on which to make informed decisions. For me as a Christian abortion is a defining issue of both politics and religion.

    Firstly I decide that a foetus’s life is only valid if brain development has started, this is my personal opinion, because if my head was taken off I would think of myself as dead even if my body could be artificially kept alive.

    Then I look to science to tell me an approximate point when brain development/activity begins in the foetus, as far as I can tell this is around 20weeks, and therefore I believe that the limit on abortions should drop from 26 weeks as it stands to 20.

    We must remember that however ‘disturbing’ the images of abortion are that fingernails, lungs, heart and limbs do not constitute a ‘soul’ or person, this occurs in the brain so logically speaking up until the point of brain development there is no reason against termination.

    We must allow ourselves to take the scary step of allowing ourselves to think beyond back and white, because morality is much more nuanced than this, and the Catholic Church should recognise this.

  • reddog

    The Pope should stop being hypocritical and disingenuous. He doesn't believe in democracy nor does he believe that Catholics living in a democracy should have the right to vote according to their own beliefs but as the Church tells them.

    Abortion will soon be legal in Brazil and many other South American countries. After 400 years these peoples are escaping the grip of Catholic hierarchical authority. Good for them. They will only be better for it.

  • paul

    life starts in the in the sperm and egg, what is created at fertilisation is new dna from these. Although it is constituted as life – as in 'being alive' it has no brain and therefore no soul, so why is it necessary to keep it? It is really only a 'blueprint' for a future life, it you want to argue that the plans or blueprint for a new person should not be destroyed then fine argue that, but to perceive that this is life in some respect in the way us as humans live it is quite incorrect.

  • graham

    to claim to be a Christian and obviously a reganite is disgusting to me, it makes me almost physically sick. You idolise a man who did not confirm to catholic social doctrine whatsoever, did nothing to help the poor, did nothing to provide healthcare for the country.

  • RJ

    Why does it need a brain to have a soul? I would have thought that, even without a brain, it is a living human being.

  • paul

    in my opinion at least living – as in 'alive' does not mean the existence of a soul, because to me a soul is thoughts, feelings and some kind of person-hood and without a developed brain I see this as impossible. If in a car crash my head was taken clean off I would see that as me soul leaving me also – really without our minds we're just skin and bones

  • Agge


    You say that science “gives us the vital information on which to make informed decisions”. The truth today is that science can not give us all information. Science does can not tell us when a human being gets a soul, where it is in our bodies ( if it is in our bodies at all), nor if we even have a soul.

    The assumptions of when life starts are based on beliefs. I respect your belief, but all the same, that is the only proof you have – your belief. Would you really be willing to support millions of abortions, when it just as well could be the killing of millions of defenceless humanbeings? Why take the risk? Why not let them live, and discover the wonders and sufferings of life, like yoou and I have?

    Just a thought…

  • RJ

    I think you are equating consciousness with personhood – thoughts, feelings etc. This is very much the Enlightenment view since Descartes, Locke etc. Trouble is: what if your were in a dreamless coma, or even asleep. Would you cease to be a person and then be reconstituted when you awoke? So perhaps there has to be a different criterion for determining personhood.

    The classical conception (e.g. Aquinas) is that to be a human person is to be an individual of the human species, at whatever stage of development. To qualify for human rights, all you need is that basic belonging to the human species.

    On a slightly different tack: I think that working backwards from a stage where you would recognise personhood, you wouldn't be able to identify a point where you could say: at this point this entity became a human person: there is a continuum back to conception, so to recognise rights at one stage is, I suggest, to not be able to deny them at a slightly earlier stage, and so on, back to the beginning.

  • louella

    Catholics adore Christ who is God, not democracy which is merely a means to an end…any political end, and has no divine authority.

    And remember those nations that legalise abortion, have signed their own death sentence. I hear Brazil already has an ageing population!! Hmmm……

    Always listen to the Catholic Church which comes from Christ!

  • paul

    Doubt, I believe is a very good thing, I am honest enough to say that I often doubt my own thoughts and constantly re-analyse my thinking on such issues as this in order to come to a better conclusion.

    In your arguments you are citing philosophers, and not the infallibility of the pope or specific bible passages in order to back up your ideas as most people I have talked to, do. Therefore as these are just mere sinful men of flawed human nature surely they could be wrong also?

    I believe that the Church has to acknowledge that there are differences of opinion and at least many doubters in the Church of its official policy on issues such as this. However comforting objective morality is we know that every moral decision must be a compromise in some respect – we learnt this playing scruples as children!

    t must realize that every issue is not as black and white, and simple as we might want them to be. The way the Church does not acknowledge or allow for any dissenting voices is highly troubling to be.

  • paul

    Name me the bible passages referring specifically to the practice of abortion, i.e. not passages about the sanctity/value of life.
    because if instead you are thinking of passages referring to the value of life then God is certainly being a hypocrite! – - The great flood wiping out the population of the earth, the destruction of the Egyptian army into the Red Sea, the destruction of two entire cities – Sodom and Gomorrah and the 10 plagues of Egypt the last of which being the death of every first born child in Egypt. That obviously would have included infanticide – from God! which progressive or not most people would find totally repulsive and nobody is suggesting the introduction of

  • paul

    You make a good point, however didn't life begin in the sperm and the egg anyway? I understand your thinking, but I see that you also share some doubt over the issue and effectively believe it is best to play it safe, would that be fair? In an ideal world every fetus would be born, just in case there was something worth saving, however before abortion was made illegal the tens of thousands of women – (alive, with a life and family and if you believe so a soul), died in botched abortions.

    The abortion movement didn't come from profit seeking abortionists and middle class members of society that wanted a 'convenient' abortion because they hadn't been careful enough, it arose because many women were dying.

  • RJ

    According to our faith, as I understand it, the Church, or more specifically those who hold the teaching office (magisterium), would be able to discern infallibly matters of natural law (about which philosophers of course have differing opinions). (cf. Pope Paul VI writing in Humanae Vitae). On a practical level, this seems to be the only way to resolve disputes.

    Whether you believe that depends on whether you believe that Christ gave his apostles, chief among them Peter, and their successors a promise of guidance by the Holy Spirit in order to preserve his Church in all truth. That is a matter of Catholic faith.

    Because this question is also a matter of natural law – open to human reason – there can be dialogue with those who do not believe, on the basis of philosophical arguments, though, as I have indicated, it may require a definitive statement by the magisterium to settle it for believers. I would say faith (with a capital f and a small f) is a virtue. I think actually most of what we claim (rightly) to know is what we accept on the basis of testimony by others (whether it is scientists or historians or whatever, because we cannot personally check out everything, either through lack of ability or lack of opportunity; in matters of supernatural faith, we have to rely on the Word of God as communicated by the Church). So, I would suggest that faith is actually the gateway to knowledge. I suppose we do have to be cautious. Ultimately though, we have to ask: do I only trust myself (so sceptical that I can't accept anything from outside sources) or can I trust another authority? Do I have to resolve everything, issue by issue, for myself (an impossible task?), or can I trust this other authority in important questions?

  • RJ

    I suppose the Pope might hope that Catholics would vote according to Catholic beliefs. Is that too much to expect?

  • paul

    Surely natural law, (the inherent moral compass in us all as I understand it), means that we have the ability endowed at our creation to be able to make moral choices. Entrusting your decision on moral issues to external bodies such as the magisterium because you 'don't have the time' to resolve each issue for yourself seems like a poor excuse.

    Subjective morality – a problem many other Catholics have with me is one suffered also by a group like the papacy and calls into question its infallibility and to some extent its necessity! For example in the Church's past one would have to abstain from Meat on a Friday, also married priests were once a feature of the church and the practice of celibacy only started in the middle-ages. If the papacy is liable to change its mind in this respect how do you know what is says now is correct?

  • RJ

    Just on the matter of abstinence and celibacy of priests: these are disciplines of the Church, not doctrinal matters. They are not teachings, infallible or otherwise. They could theoretically be changed, although it is unlikely. It is a matter of pastoral judgement as to whether they are for the good of the Church. This means that any change in those things wouldn't call into question matters of Faith or the principles of morality. By the way, there are married priests, in the Eastern Catholic churches and, of course, among Anglican converts.

    In matters of faith, it's ultimately a question of what we believe Christ mandated: did he give the apostles authority to teach. If so, then we should listen. It seems to me that Christ could give authority to teach matters of natural law: after all, why not? He gave the world the order which we discover (imperfectly) by our reason.

    These matters affect our salvation too, so it is important to have certainty about them. Unfortunately, we are liable to come to judgements distorted by our own prejudices, to justify our own behaviour. That's why there is a need for an authority, I think. That's realism rather than a cop-out.

    I think conscience comes in when it is a matter of applying the principles of morality: how do I act in this particular situation in the light of these principles.

    Just coming back to your criticism about not having the time. It's not really a matter of time, more a matter of recognising one's own limits (realism) and the particular charism (gift of authority) given to the apostles.

  • Caisake

    Be firm on the teachingn on the Church. The Lord had given the life to all humanity and who we are to take that life away from a innocent baby is a murderer.The Lord says thou shall not kill. Please Say No To Abortion

  • RJ

    Would just like to add a criticism of your first paragraph. Implicit in it is possibly the idea that your moral judgement must be correct merely because it is your judgement. John Paul II criticised this view when he wrote: “To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one's conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one's moral judgment is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in the conscience.” (Vertitatis Splendor 32)

    This is a notion that is very characteristic of our time and culture, but then you don't want to be a prisoner of your culture do you? I think it's good to look outside our own time by studying alternative views such as those put forward by great philosophers like Aquinas and Aristotle. They were moral realists. That is to say they believed that morality must correspond to the way things are, which can be known by reason (this is the natural law tradition). Morality corresponds to what is good for man, and that can be known by considering his nature, which can likewise be known.

    This philosophical realism has been undermined since Descartes, after whom western philosophy appears to have gone into a four-hundred year regression which has seen philosophers puzzling about how they can prove the 'external world' exists, the mind-body pseudo-problem, subjectivism in various areas including moral philosophy.

  • Mikel Patowitz

    I think it's wonderful, and a moving example of the power of faith and devotion that our Holy Papa was able to overcome the evil Nazi indoctrination to which he must have been exposed when young (As all in the Germany of that period were), and as a member of the Hitler Youth, and come out decidedly against evils like euthanasia.

    He has a right and duty, as te natural conduit of God's Will on Earth, to speak out in political matters – not just because of his position as Pope, but because he himself was once forced to join a Nazi organisation, and knows from his own human life experiences just how evil perverted politics is.

    There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner… etc, etc.