Opposition to Abortion Does Not Take Away the Sins of the World

Opposition to Abortion Does Not Take Away the Sins of the World

We welcome guest blogger Mark P. Shea, author of the new book The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ from Servant Books.

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat. Abortion is the single most serious moral issue of our time. Nothing in our civilization equals the gravity of a society that can look straight at a newborn baby, made by God, helpless, innocent and beautiful—and stick a pair of scissors in her brain while declaring that a sacred right which must be guarded and extended to all the world, by imperial force if necessary. Such repellent worship of Moloch is biblical in its epic, almost theatrical, level of evil. It is a mark of how deeply corrupted our culture has become that so many people can not only fight to protect this evil as though it were a sacrament, but even joke about it and spit on those who seek to protect the unborn with utter contempt. No issue is of graver import.

That said, however, it is not the case that opposition to abortion exhausts the moral obligations of the Christian in the world and it is *emphatically* not the case that opposition to abortion takes away the sins of the world.

What do I mean? I mean that many serious, believing Christians have begun to embrace a false soteriology when it comes to abortion. What’s “soteriology”? It’s a three dollar word referring to that branch of theology pertaining to salvation. We humans are always looking for someone or something to save us—besides Jesus. And there are lots of candidates out there. Some people look to correct liturgical practices to save them. The Pharisees thought that attention to religious niceties would do the trick. Lots of people look to money, sex, and/or power to do it. Others hope that the correct tribal affiliation in politics will do it. Still others have a lively faith that the correct views on, say, global warming, or recycling, or Obama, or Romney, or those damn libruls, or those Neanderthal conservatives are salvific. Conversely, a taste for Justin Bieber, Manga, disco, country music, disposable diapers, SUVs, or tobacco are thought by various tribal groupings to definitively consign people to the ranks of the damned—or whatever stands in for damnation among those who do not believe in heaven or hell.

Now, among conservative Christians (my own tribe) abortion has rightly been seen as the most appalling social evil of our time. But as the years have rolled on, many of my tribe have slowly evolved from treating it as the most important issue to treating as the only issue. And in doing so, many of us have concurrently moved to hitching our wagons to any politician who promises to “do something” about abortion—even when that same politician demands our vote so that we will support his plans to launch an unjust war, or torture people, or vote to force you to pay for contraceptives which are (irony of ironies) abortifacients. We buy into agendas which totally ignore or treat as completely disposable virtually the whole corpus of Catholic moral teaching—and then declare that it’s okay because Our Guy says something about being against abortion.

That’s a very dubious theory of salvation. Opposition to abortion is a *necessary* condition of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. But it is not a sufficient one. Opposition to abortion does not take away the sins of the world: Jesus does. And Jesus commands far more of us than mere opposition to abortion. How much more?

That is summarized in the Church’s teaching on the 14 corporal and spiritual works of mercy. These are:

Feed the Hungry

Give Drink to the Thirsty

Clothe the Naked

Harbor the Harborless

Visit the Sick

Ransom the Captive

Bury the Dead

Instruct the Ignorant

Counsel the Doubtful

Admonish Sinners

Bear Wrongs Patiently

Forgive Offenses Willingly

Comfort the Afflicted

Pray for the Living and the Dead

Any theory of salvation which imagines it is possible to ignore or minimize these is doomed. So it is vital that we return to the embrace of the Church’s *whole* teaching and not continue to allow it to be whittled down, even for the very good cause of saving the unborn. We must teach our political tribes that they are to be the servants of the least of these, whether they are babies *or* unwed mothers, poor children before they are born or after, babies born here or abroad in some country where we are planning our next adventure in nation building at gunpoint. And we must continue to care for those babies even when they become poor men and women, or deeply sinful, or hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in prison. The whole world, not just the unborn, is the least of these.

Mark P. Shea is a popular writer and speaker. He is the coauthor of the bestseller A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions About The Passion of The Christ and author of the acclaimed Mary, Mother of the Son trilogy. He is a regular contributor to the National Catholic Register and InsideCatholic.com and is a regular guest on Catholic radio.

Meet Mark! Watch him discuss his book.


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  • Anonymous

    I would even go so far as to say that accomplishing the 14 corporal works of mercy, will eliminate 98% of the abortions in this country.

    How can we continue to defend crony capitalist indentured servitude to Wall Street and the Big 5 banks, when we KNOW FOR A FACT that women are being talked into abortions using the threat of losing the family home over another mouth to feed?

    How can we justify not feeding the hungry when we know for a FACT that Planned Parenthood uses the fear of “another mouth to feed” to encourage the death penalty for children?

    How can we support spending a billion dollars a day in wars of foreign aggression (for whatever cowardly reason you support wars of aggression in the first place), while 10% of our fathers are unemployed and unable to provide food for their families through work, and while terminally ill people are being encouraged in Oregon to choke down 9 grams of pills to end their lives?

    Priorities.  It helps if we get them straight.

    • http://www.facebook.com/peg.demetris Peg Drebena Demetris

      Forget the “How can we support spending a billion dollars a day in wars of foreign aggression” rhertoic. How about how in the WORLD can tax-payers spend $1 billion on abandoned pets and $52.87 billion will be spent on our pets in the U.S and we can’t take care of unwanted children?? Can you say Broken Moral Compass?

      • tedseeber

        Just wanted to point out the math. You are completely right, but my figures were 365 times greater- we spend a billion a day on war and a billion a year on abandoned pets. You would think we could easily care for an extra million children a year with those funds.

  • marie77_00

    A few weeks ago I read your article about voting for the choice you most wanted to win, vs voting for “our guy” because at least he’s not “their guy”. The first time I read it, it made me sick to my stomach. The second time I read it, it made me angry. But the third time I read it, it made me think.  I just wanted you to know you did reach someone. Thanks for helping me break free of my serdom to politics, that was not an easy thing to do. Keep up the good work.

    • Sean O

      Good thing you read the piece 3 times. Most never make it to thinking stage. That’s why even sound reasonable arguments fall on deaf ears. Most people don’t process new positions that don’t match their existing convictions, but rather fall back into reflexive defensive anger.

      Good things come in threes.

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  • Kristin

    Too many people view elections as a horse-race — that’s how it devolves into “Our Guy” as the only legitimate choice amongst the front-runners, because he postures as pro-life.  The rest of his platform hardly needs scrutiny, because we are first required to vote for politicians against abortion.
    I used to vote this way too, until I became too disgusted with other unchristian elements of those platforms.  Now I vote for whoever is the best candidate for the job (pro-life AND otherwise morally acceptable positions).  I don’t care whether they only have 0.00001% chance of winning – my conscience is much clearer.

  • Holly Gatling

    The problem is that an unborn child has no more rights than trash in a garbage can. The human being must have her right to be born restored before any of the 14 corproal works of mercy can begin to apply.  Our culture is way past merely killing the unborn.  The Journal of Medical Ethics ran an aricle in February proposeing that newborns should be subject to execution for any reason a preborn is subject to abortion.  It’s called “after birth abortion” and follows the same philosophy of pro-infanticide “ethics” professor as Peter Singer.  And then there is Terri Schiavo. The USCCB’s 1998 document “Living the Gospel of Life” expresses the teaching of the church on voting pro-life more clearly than anything else I have restudied.  http://old.usccb.org/prolife/gospel.shtml

  • Tonyaparker

    THIS IS WONDERFUL!!!!!!!! And I am as pro life as it gets..thank you for the reminder.I guess some people cant understand the disclaimer.some people will argue anything Mark.Great article..and well well received!! my friends have reposted it on facebook too!

  • MVoisinet1

    These women most certainly should not terminate the life of their unborn child. There are approximately 1.3 million abortions performed each year in the United States. In 2006,Planned Planned Parenthood had performed 289.750 abortions,or approximately 23% of all abortions,making it the largest abortion provider in the United States.

    These poor innocent young children have already endured enough pain and suffering. And they most certainly don’t need to endure any more. They hereby claim and they further contend that a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her own body.

    Yes,a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her own body as long as she doesn’t engage in illicit sexual intercourse or terminate the life of her unborn child. That child has rights. And they must be properly respected at all times.

    They further ascertain that a woman has the right to terminate the life of her unborn child in the cases of rape and incest. Absolutely positively not!! If the mother doesn’t want her unborn child any longer she could always opt for adoption as opposed to terminating the life of her innocent born child.

    Or she could enlist the help of friends or family members to assist her in tending to the needs of that particular child. In the Catholic Church if you procure any kind of an abortion you are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. If you so desire to get reinstated into the Catholic Church you must go to confession on Saturday Afternoon and confess your sins to God.

    And you must make full amends for what you have done. After you have received full absolution for your sins and are truly repentant of them then you will be deemed worthy to get reinstated into the Catholic Church and not before. You must fully resolve not to commit the same sins over and over again.

    As the old saying goes: Actions do speak louder than words. Showing that you are truly sorry is much more important than the actual words used.

    Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the first moment of conception. 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 to every innocent being to life.

    Since the first century,the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion,that is to say,abortion willed as either an end or a means,is gravely contrary to the moral law.

    Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,by the very commission of the offense,and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather,She 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.

    A man and a woman most certainly shall not engage in any kind of sexual intercourse until they are properly married both in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of God. God has instituted sex for marriage and that’s where it belongs.

    Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover,it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.

    Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself,isolated from it’s procreative and unitive purposes.

    Abortion is homicide. It is murder. Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if,without proportionate reasons,he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death,even without the intention to do so.

    1 Corinthians 6:13: Foods are for the stomach,and the stomach is for foods,and God will destroy them both. But the body is not for sexual immorality,it is for the Lord,and the Lord is for the body. God raised up the Lord and he will raise us up too by his power.

    1 Corinthians 6:18: Keep away from sexual immorality. All other sins that people may commit are done against the body,but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

    1 Corinthians 6:19: You are not your own property,then,you have been bought at a price. So use your body as the glory of God.

    1 Corinthians 6:20: You are not your own property,then,you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God.

    Matthew 5:27-28: You have heard how it was said,You shall not commit adultery. But I say this to you,if a man looks at a woman lustfully,he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    Let us all pray that abortion comes to an abrupt end effective immediately.