Voting by Roman Catholics opposed to abortion
Applicable church teachings
Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about sin:
The Church teaches that certain actions can be mortal sins. They will cause a
person to be separated from God, and will result in an eternity of suffering in
Hell if they die in
this state. The Church also teaches that there is no mechanism by which a mortal
sin can be forgiven after death.
For a sin to be a mortal sin and threaten one's eternal destiny, the Church
- It must be serious transgression.
- The person must have committed the act with full knowledge of the sin and of its
- "It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent."
Choosing to have an abortion or actually performing an abortion would
certainly qualify as serious transgressions. Voting for a candidate who may
influence government regulations and laws to increase the number of abortions
would be another serious transgression.
There is a diversity of opinion among Catholic commentators about voting for
pro-choice candidates. If you are concerned that voting for the wrong candidate
-- or not voting at all -- will cause you to be guilty of a mortal sin, we
recommend that you discuss the matter with your priest.
Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about abortion:
The Catholic Church has historically held various
conflicting beliefs concerning the personhood of embryos and fetuses, and
whether abortion involves the killing of a human person. However, it
teaches, clearly and ambiguously, that each fertilized ovum, pre-embryo, embryo and fetus is a full human person
-- "from conception until natural death." 2
The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the embryo and fetus have:
"... an equal right to its life with its mother; therefore neither
the mother, nor medical practitioner, nor any human being whatever can lawfully
take that life away. The State cannot give such right to the physician; for it
has not itself the right to put an innocent person to death. No matter how
desirable it might seem to be at times to save the life of the mother, common
sense teaches and all nations accept the maxim, that 'evil is never to be done
that good may come of it'; or, which is the same thing, that 'a good end cannot
justify a bad means'. " 3
Many people would disagree that "common sense" would indicate that both the
mother and fetus should be allowed to die rather than save at least the life of
the woman by aborting the fetus.
In his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI wrote:
"It is not licit, even for the gravest reasons to do evil so that
good may follow there from, that is, to make into the object of a positive act
of the will something which is intrinsically disordered, and hence unworthy of
the human person, even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual,
family or social well being...directly willed and procured abortion, even if for
therapeutic reasons [is] to be absolutely excluded." 4
Again, many would argue that it would be preferable to save the life of the
woman so that she could continue to parent her other children (if any), to be a
partner with her spouse (if any), and to continue living.
Priests For Life are circulating a statement that they are asking every Catholic
priest to sign. It says in part:
"As Catholic priests, ordained to preach the Gospel of Life, Justice,
and Peace, we ...
In short, the church teaches that no abortion can be justified, even to save the life of the woman.
Abortions are to be absolutely eliminated. In those extremely rare instances
where the choice is between:
c) echo our bishops' teaching that 'No public official, especially one
claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or
actively support direct attacks on innocent human life'."
the only moral action is to do nothing other than supplying comfort care.
- Performing an abortion by killing the fetus in order that the woman would live, or
- Standing idly by and allowing both the fetus and woman to die
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Mortal Sin," Wikipedia, at:
- "Dignity of man, from conception until natural death, is primary, says
Pope," The Vatican,
- "Abortion," New Advent. Translated from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (1907). Online at:
- Pope Paul VI, "Humanae Vitae. Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the
regulation of birth," 1968-JUL-25, at:
- "Statement of Catholic Priests on Political Responsibility ," Priests for
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2008-OCT-26
Latest update and review: 2008-OCT-28
Author: B.A. Robinson