Monday, October 30, 2006

Fr. Paul Ward: Catholics May NOT Vote For Pro-Abortion Politicians

Fr. Paul Ward is my parish priest. Yesterday he delivered this powerful "hit right between the eyes" homily. I've also included below a similar editorial from his home page, an earlier pro-life homily, along with some angry letters and his responses.

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Upcoming Elections and Moral Obligations of Catholic Civil Responsibility

I just wish to remind all present that to give political power to any person to commit abortion is matter of mortal sin. It is not an option for a Catholic. Take your consciences to the election poll, for you will be judged by God after your death for what you do in private: for punishment or for merit. But nothing, absolutely nothing, ever can or ever has or ever will justify the murder of a baby in his mother's womb. This isn't one issue, it is all the issues, for if a child is aborted, every other private or civil good is forfeit.

I gave a twenty minute homily on this once at another parish, and of course the pro-abortion, or shall I say pro-murder, Catholics were outraged. Well, let them be outraged: abortion is an abomination and a grave sin against God, it destroys child and mother and father. They should be outraged at abortion itself.

Preborn child at 8 weeks gestation. Many abortions are performed from 8-12 weeks (third month / end of first trimester). The human heart starts beating at about 18 days after conception. Brain waves are present from six weeks. You can see the hands fully formed and the eyes far along in development. This is a person. To kill him or her is murder. To vote for those who do so is to be an accomplice or enabler of murder.

One fellow was furious with me, and he said, "Well, Father, you haven't given us many options at the poll." So I clarified: "No, perhaps your preferred political party hasn't given you many options at the poll; and for this, it is completely illogical for you to blame the Church. Blame your party. Stop blaming the Church for your own problems. Talk with your party, and get into the political debate responsibly, and put some pro-life options on the board." But the Catholic Church will never say that abortion is good, or even tolerable, until Moses returns and takes away the fifth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."

Perhaps these weeks preceding our elections will inspire some of our parishioners to form a pro-life team of apostolate, which St. Joseph parish to this day does not have. Jesus Christ has given us only one Gospel which will save us, and this is a Gospel of Life. Let abortion cease; let Catholics stop supporting it; let the perpetrators turn to the mercy of God and repent; and let us all do what is just and prudent to bring abortion to an end. Amen.

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True Repentance and Abortion: Considerations on Abortion Before the November 2006 Elections

Maybe the problem is that there is not true repentance . . . let me start with a story, a true story that happened with me.

"But Father, you haven't given us many options!" So the protestation of a parishioner at one of my previous parish assignments after I had given a homily on pro-life. I had informed the entire congregation, with long proofs, that it is matter of mortal sin to vote pro-abortion.

[See homily here, see some discussion it generated here. See my response to this gentleman here, down below towards the end of the page.]

If there's a political party out there which happens to almost always, to a man, side with death instead of life, side with sexual perversion instead of the family, side with communism instead of the free society, let no one say that I am the one who gave them few options.

Really what has happened, is that man, and many like him, may have a preference for a certain party, but instead of getting into the fray and keeping their party out of the evil waters of death, perversion, relativism and communism, they simply blame everyone else that their preferred party has these problems.

Recently a Catholic priest addressed some other priests among whom I was included. He said that we have to silence the pro-life message, that it hurts the many women who have committed abortions, that fields of white crosses only showed that the given parish was "not friendly," and so on. A woman, a good woman, addressed us also, who had had an abortion and deeply repented from it, and sided with father on how bad priests were for making post-abortive mothers feel bad.

Of course, "feeling good" in my Archdiocese is the supreme law of morality, liturgy, sexual ethics and canonical observance. But that's a topic for another day.

There are many women out there who have been wounded by abortion, much like there are many children who have been killed by abortion. It went worse for the child than for the mother. Yet some of these women want to pull their lives together again. And among these, there are two types.

One type has come to grips with the evil she has done, she doesn't stop to blame boyfriend or mom or dad or doctor or anyone else, she knows it can never be undone, and empties herself of her self-love with profound sentiments of repentance. This woman is not on the road to healing: she is healed, spiritually by the sacrament of reconciliation, and emotionally and socially by her deep embracing of the truth.

Another type is still angry at everyone in the world for making her feel guilty. For her to feel bad about her abortion is a bad thing; and if someone makes her have sad feelings, that's a bad person in her book. She blames everyone else for what she herself did. She cannot admit to herself or to God the great and irreversible sin they have committed. She can't even bear to say she has sinned, perhaps. Maybe she'll mention it in a confession, but with many excuses. When she is reminded of her sin, by a field of white crosses, a well delivered homily, a commercial, a piece of mail, she fails to admit her sin, return to her repentance, and confide in God's mercy, and she does not confess her moral misery and abandon herself to her Father's mercy; rather, she gets angry that she is confronted once again with the truth of her actions, and says it's Fr. Pavone's fault, Right to Life's fault, and so on. It's all about, "I'm not a bad person . . ."

This is a spiritual phenomenon which may occur not only to those who have fallen into abortion, but into many other sins, even shameful ones, especially the sexual ones. There was an initial repentance, but it's imperfect. One sees it is imperfect, because of the anger, the rejection, the sadness the soul experiences when brought to the memory of the sin he had committed. Perfect repentance is different, for it embraces the truth of man's moral misery, of one's own moral misery, not with the disappointment of "I can’t believe I committed that sin . . ." which is in fact only pride and spiritual vanity. Perfect repentance requires coming to grips with our incredible sinfulness, so as to apply to ourselves the blood of our Loving Savior. Perfect repentance means admitting with profound conviction, "I am a bad person, for I have sinned. And it is for sinful persons like me for whom Jesus shed his blood. The more I am a sinner, the more his blood was for me. Praised be the name of God, who has loved a sinner like me!"

And so it is that the more we realize how sinful we are, and the infinite malice of our sins, so much more will we realize how great God's love is, and how meaningful the sacrifice of the Son of God is. To reach this point in the spiritual life, it is necessary to live a penitential life, and to beg God for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially fear of the lord and understanding.

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The evil of abortion in private life and in public policy

The Holy Catholic Church teaches on matters of faith and morals guided by the Holy Spirit, who preserves her from error when she preaches on these matters to the whole world, obliging her teaching to be kept. Among the teachings of the Church are those that deal with society, family and civic responsibility. And among these teachings are those that pertain to the governing of civil society. As elections are coming up, it is important for us to review the principles the Church teaches and renew our assent in faith, especially when we’re in the privacy of the voting box, where only God sees our deeds.

I didn't want to discuss this issue now, but I wanted to wait until later. But a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, with the scandal, uproar and outrage it causes, has forced me to deal with this issue now. Many of you have insisted that these issues be dealt with now, and in prayerful discernment I think you are right.

There are some, however, that insist that in the homily, the only thing that one should discuss is the ten or twenty verses from the Bible we read that day; well Canon Law, the law governing the Church, defines the homily and its content. The homily is there so that the clergy, fulfilling their priestly office in the Church, explain the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life based on Scripture. Discussing Catholic social teaching fulfills all those requisites.

The article I mentioned in the Free Press read, "Catholics allowed pro-choice vote They can back abortion-rights candidates, if they agree on other issues." The article went on to tell us all that Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI], of all people, was the one who gave us permission to do that. Never once did the article textually cite the Cardinal, nor did she say how he said this, nor to whom, nor when. So I called the reporter to find out what she was referring to, and she very cordially answered my questions by e-mail. It was as I suspected: the reporter stated the total opposite of what the Church teaches, by misinterpreting Card. Ratzinger's letter.

Today therefore, we need to answer two questions: why is abortion evil, and why is it matter of sin to vote for it in the voter's box. I will answer these two questions appealing to reason and to faith.

Before I proceed, I must make note that there may be some of you who have been wounded by abortions, women and men. A certain Mary DelPup, who works for the Archdiocese, has in her time collaborated in "Project Rachel," a mission to support those who suffer for the sin of abortion. She wrote me saying, "Most women that I have worked with in Project Rachel see [abortion] as the unforgivable sin. They have beaten themselves up for years, used drugs to numb the pain, may have gone through one or two divorces because they see themselves as despicable human beings." To one and to all I proclaim the infinite mercy of God. There's no sin he can't forgive; all he needs is your repentance. His love is powerful, and can rebuild on foundations the whole of humanity may have given up from. Be not afraid of the love of God!

But now, to the first question, why abortion is evil, let me begin with what abortion is. "Procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth."[1] It is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Nothing can ever justify that. No matter what. The Church understands human life to extend from conception until death. [2] "From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth." [3] It's a person, body and soul, created by the hands of the loving God himself, with the loving cooperation of husband and wife. Three documents of the Church stand out for the clarity with which they outline the truth that life starts at conception making procured abortion a sin against the fifth commandment, the 1974 Declaration on Procured Abortion, the 1987 letter on bioethics entitled Donum Vitae, and the great encyclical of 1995, The Gospel of Life. These can be found very inexpensively at Catholic book stores, at, and on for free on the Vatican's web site.

So why is it sinful to vote for a pro-abortion candidate? Again, starting with the definition of terms, let's get something clear. There’s no such thing as pro-choice. A person may have a choice of whom they are to marry, of what they will do with their time, of what's the best way to raise one's own kids. This is a legitimate exercise of freedom, where we discern among goods and pick one as reason tells us is best. To use freedom to choose evil is not to use one's freedom, but to abuse one's freedom. One never has the freedom to do evil. The more you do good, the more deeply you experience your freedom. Freedom is not defined by choice, but by love. So no one has the choice to kill an innocent baby, because it's always evil. And for those who think that women have all sorts of choices and arbitrarily decide that they will go get an abortion, I say you are misinformed. How many abortions happen because of the pressure of boyfriends or husbands, or their lack of concern; or because of wicked advice from doctors, pressure at work, situations of poverty, the chains of raw fear? These abortions didn't happen with a whole lot of freedom, and we need to have some realism when considering this.

Some say that the issues of life cover more than just the question of abortion. Life covers euthanasia, and many "quality of life" issues, such as poverty, health, taxation, ecology, environment, housing, racism, and so forth. A popular metaphor has included all these things as a continuous whole, a sort of "seamless garment," and consider "abortion voters" to be "one issue voters," which the Church has always and wisely discouraged.

It is true that all these can be moral questions, and that the Church does not want us to be "one issue voters." But that's not the problem. See, abortion is all the issues. Aborted children cannot experience any other good in life, such as gainful employment, health, money, homes, environment, culture, or anything else. Without life, there is no other good. Abortion is not the narrow view, it's the widest possible bird's eye view. It's the dominant issue, as Deal Hudson calls it. [4] Indeed, issues even as grave as war are second to abortion. War can sometimes be just. Further, it might even be a duty that you take up arms to defend your family, your property, your neighbor and your nation, lest evil repel the common good. But abortion is never just, never a duty, and never good.

To vote for abortion is to collaborate in one of the gravest of all evils known to man. Such a voter becomes an accomplice in every abortion civil society commits, by endorsing it and giving civil power to those who support it. And it is never good to do evil.

Cardinal Razinger said that in some situations, where there are "proportionate reasons," one could tolerate voting for a pro-abortion candidate. Therefore there must be an equal proportion of evil, or of ignorance. For example, if you vote for a candidate and, after trying to educate yourself on the matter, do not really know that he is pro-abortion, no sin is incurred even though an objective evil, with all of its consequences, has taken place. You can't sin on mistake. Or if there are two candidates that are equally pro-abortion, you don't have to abdicate your right to vote, though you should do so attending to the need to procure the lesser evil. Other such extreme cases can be imagined, and may happen in other parts of the world - remember America and our political reality is by far not the only situation the Church intends to address when preaching the message of the Gospel.

The Pope's Encyclical also informs politicians - which in America includes us, since we all enjoy the power to vote and so govern our own land - that it is even possible to vote for a law that, even though it is pro-abortion, limits the exercise of abortion when no real pro-life option is possible.

But the principle is this: Jesus Christ preached a Gospel of life, and we need to proclaim that Gospel to the world, in words and in deeds, because it's good and it's true for all peoples of all places. So, no, we are not allowed to vote pro-abortion. The Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Fr. McClorey, responded officially on behalf of the whole diocese, correcting the Free Press' representation of Catholic teaching.

Our Pastor, Fr. Patrick Halfpenny, has written a letter concerning some of these things in this week’s bulletin, so please take a few moments to read it with reflection.

I know I may have opened a whole can of worms here, and if you have any questions I'm always eager to speak with you one on one. I will not talk to you about politics, but I will speak to you about the Church's social teachings and moral teachings as it relates to civil society, and I will do so fearlessly. Be strong, and trust in the Lord!

[1] Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 58 (cited hereafter as EV)

[2] Ibid., EV, 61, citing Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae (22 February 1987), I, No. 1: AAS 80 (1988), 79.)

[3] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), Nos. 12-13: AAS 66 (1974), 738.

[4] See Deal Hudson's Sed Contra in Crisis Magazine, June 2004, p.9. Cf.

[from homily delivered on September 11-12, 2004]

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Father Ward - today's Free Press reports that you, like many other Catholic clerics, have instructed your parishioners that voting for a politician who supports legal abortions (which is, after all, the law in our country) is "evil". Thanks for once again confirming for many of us exactly what the Catholic Church stands for. I am not Catholic, but my wife is. She also supports pro-choice politicians. That her Church would seek to impose its own views on her, in direct contradiction to every principle of democratic government in this nation, is simply outrageous. Padre, this is not the 14th century. Catholics, nor anyone else, do not need preachers instructing them how to vote. Once again, we see the the Catholic Church leadership is totally isolated, irrelevant, morally corrupt and oppressive. Most of your parishioners are probably too polite to tell you to go to hell, even if they do believe it, but please allow me to do it for them.

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As a Catholic I Do not Support Abortion However, I Do Support The Seperation Of Church And State. If I Wanted To Be Instructed Regarding My Voter Choices I Would Ask Jerry Fallwell.Please Stay Out Of The Voting Process.

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Dear Father Ward:

I was personally offended by your official directions, as our associate pastor, on which candidates we should support in the upcoming election.

Among other things (and I read your entire homily online), you stated:

"To vote for abortion is to collaborate in one of the gravest of all evils known to man. Such a voter becomes an accomplice in every abortion civil society commits, by endorsing it and giving civil power to those who support it."

In reality, Father Ward, American voters have neither the capacity nor the luxury of simply voting "for" or "against" abortion. Citizens may only vote for candidates who, as human beings and political leaders, necessarily have viewpoints on a myriad of "grave" issues, not the least of which includes the morality of the pre-emptive war in Iraq, which continues to take the lives of innocents.

Based upon your homily, I suppose you would have us support a candidate who opposes abortion, and yet supports and funds an unjust foreign war (according to Catholic doctrine and as espoused by numerous authoritative Catholic writers), favors the legalization of capital punishment in all states (undisputably against the Catholic stance on "life"), opposes reasonable gun control laws, supports the deprivation of basic civil rights to hundreds of uncharged Arab-Americans, adopts policies which irreparably damage our environment, and opposes laws which would afford basic health care insurance for the needy. And with that, Father Ward, I honestly cannot agree.

For the record, I do agree with the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life. However, fervent advocates on both sides of the abortion issue have done much to heighten the rhetoric and hostility and little to reduce the incidence of abortions (and the social ills which foster
them), which, in my view, is where common efforts should lie.

Your suggestion (along with those of other priests recently) that we, as mere lay members of the Church, somehow lack the intelligence or resourcefulness to understand the complexities of the many serious issues that face us as voters is repugnant to me. Let me assure you that I have done my homework, as a Catholic and American voter, and as a citizen of the world, on ALL the issues and will make up my own mind on which candidates are best.

Condemning those of us who make their decisions in good conscience as "sinful," "collaborators of evil," and "accomplices in all abortions" is not only a gross overstatement, but is thoroughly inconsistent with teachings of our merciful Lord.

Respectfully, N.

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I can't help but post my response to this one:

N., in Christ,

Thanks for taking the time to write. A couple reflections from your note.

1. First of all, I appreciate you actually reading the homily online. I think more than a hundred have written to me, the VAST majority have been supportive. (I put a few of the responses, friend and foe, on my web site, to continue the exchange for those who are interested) A few have written to me based on the freep article, or what a friend told them. I appreciate the effort you put into it, I sincerely mean that.

2. There's no need to get personally offended. All I did was present the Magisterium's teaching to all. I never insulted you, nor did I accuse you or anybody, that they "somehow lack the intelligence or resourcefulness to understand the complexities of the many serious issues." I appeal precisely to that intelligence knowing that, the more one thinks about the abortion issue seriously, the truth will eventually triumph.

3. First a moral principle. Among people in first world western nations, I have observed, there's a rampant problem of "proportionalism." This is a moral philosophy that tries to measure the "amount" of evil deed A has vs. deed B and whichever seems to be worst, based on some subjective and arbitrary criterion, is considered evil, and whichever seems to weigh less is called good.

This is an error very clearly condemned by the Church, who teaches on faith and morals infallibly because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. But I'm sure your studies in Catholic Theology have covered both proportionalism and ecclesial infallibility, so you understand these arguments well.

4. Now, some questions.

How can you honestly compare the execution of criminals to 1.5 million executions of innocent babies every year? Even a proportionalist would lean radically in favor of putting the abortion issue not only first, but way first. Besides, capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, whereas abortion is. The Church teaches the nuances involved here in CCC 2267. But I'm sure that, as a well educated Catholic, you have read this and are familiar with its context and know the history of the debate in Catholic Theology since the times of St. Augustine. For your ease, you can find it here. Incidentally, you can find some points about abortion a few paragraphs up; it's the section dealing with the commandment, "thou shalt not kill."

Next question. How can you compare the owning of a gun to an abortion? I think a more serious reflection about the use of force in civil society, and other related questions, is due. But as you are a well educated and intelligent person, I'm sure that with reflection you'll see what I mean.

Next question. How can you compare imprisonment, environment, and health to abortion? When one kills a baby in his or her mother's womb, that baby will never enjoy freedom, nor the environment God created so beautifully, nor health, nor love, nor possessions, nor friends, nor homes, nor language, nor anything. Furthermore, not all these things are intrinsically evil.
I'm sure you're familiar with the term "intrinsically evil" from moral theology, as a technical expression. But as refresher: For a moral act to be good, it needs to be good in all three of the following:

* THE OBJECT (the thing done, what the will chooses to actually do)

* THE END (the finality, goal, reason why or ulterior motive)

* THE CIRCUMSTANCES (place, time, etc.)

Intrinsically evil acts are those whose object is evil. That is, in all times and in all places it's wrong, and nothing can justify it. Some things are good, for example, the chaste and loving embrace of spouses who engage in the marital act posing no unnatural obstacle to life. Change the circumstances, and that which is good becomes evil; if it is done in public, filmed and sold for pornography, etc. Abortion isn't like that: it's always evil. There's never hope for any good to come of it.

My last question. Supposing that war is an intrinsic evil - which it is not -, and supposing the war in Iraq is unjust, just for the sake of argument: do you seriously think we kill 1.5 million Iraquis every year? If we killed as many Iraquis as we have aborted babies in America, Iraq would have had a population of zero long, long ago. I know you are too intelligent, however, to imagine a bunch of soldiers just walking down the street killing millions of people; you know that's not the case. And if you have a Dan Rather version of the war in Iraq, I encourage you to look at it again a bit deeper, starting about the sixth century. But I'm sure you have done that, as you are a well educated and intelligent person.

Further demonstrations of why it is immoral to vote pro-abortion are found in Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life") and Veritatis Splendor ("The Splendor of the Truth"). But since you are a well educated Catholic, I'm sure you have read these encyclicals already.

5. A few no's are in order.

I wish to inform you that, in fact, you do not agree with the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life. Otherwise you would agree with these things. It is this teaching which obliges those who have the political power of a vote to use it in favor of life. I invite you as Jesus said in the beginning of his public ministry: "Do penance, and believe the Good News!"

No, it's not rhetoric. Tell me it's rhetoric when someone's trying to kill you. These are acts, an average of about 4000 acts a day in fact, not words. And much has been done to save countless lives, if you don't know what that is, don't say that it's not happening; admit simply that you don't know it's happening.

No, you don't vote in good conscience. You openly reject the demands Jesus Christ has made in the Gospel, a Gospel of Life, a Gospel which the Church has passed on to me and which I have passed on to my brothers and sisters in the faith. A good conscience follows the precepts of revelation; it's very reasonable to do so, especially on such an easy to understand problem like abortion.

Indeed, without life, THERE IS NO OTHER GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN A SOCIETY for whom a government can make laws. But as you're an intelligent woman, the simple logic of this assertion, you will realize, is irrefutable.

Indeed Americans don’t have the luxury to vote on other political things because of the abortion issue; you have it backwards, as logic demonstrates.

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See the related papers:

How on Earth Can Christians Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidates? (Dave Armstrong)

Dialogue on the "Hard Cases" of Abortion (Particularly Rape) (Dave Armstrong vs. Sogn Mill-Scout)

On Politicians (Like Mitt Romney) Who Waffle on Abortion (Dave Armstrong with "CPA")

Abortion and a "Progressive and Humane Nation" (Al Kresta)

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