Catholic and Pro-Choice? I Don’t Think So

Back in my pro-life atheist days, long before I had kids, I used to spend a lot of time on bulletin boards debating abortion. One thing that always astounded me were the number of self-proclaimed Catholics who supported abortion rights. Many of whom unabashedly defended their own abortions, too. Who insisted they had every right to call themselves “a Catholic in good standing” despite choosing to support the heinous evil of abortion.

I’ll admit: I was frighteningly back then naive about the number of Catholics who dissent from Church teaching on major moral issues. But then I converted myself. And suddenly I was forced to deal with the people who wanted all the rights and privileges of being Catholic but none of the responsibilities. I often found myself beside them in the pews, then behind them in the Communion line. It made me really think about what it means to call yourself a Catholic.

So I read the Catechism, which beautifully articulated not only my special purpose in life, but why that special purpose rendered the act of abortion unacceptable:

Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being (CCC, 2258).

In other words: God gave us life for the ultimate purpose of living in loving union with Him. And as the Author of Life, God is the only person with the authority to take it away.

Consequently, Catholic abortion supporters have only two possible choices. They must believe that 1) God does not create us, or 2) the authority to take life is not solely God’s domain. The problem with the first is that it is essentially atheistic. The second, while acknowledging God’s existence, attempts to put man on the same level as God.

It’s the practical, everyday ramifications of the “pro-choice Catholic” philosophy, however, that lead us to the real reason these terms are oxymoronic: abortion advocacy is a spiritual cancer that permeates the most important aspects of one’s practice of faith, ultimately rendering the person’s relationship to Christ and his Church virtually meaningless.

And as we know, those who support abortion rights almost always also support contraception, which the Church also calls “intrinsically evil” (CCC, 2370). After all, how can anyone who supports abortion logically condemn any of the other chemical abortifacients available that achieve the same end? Think about it: have you ever met a pro-choice Catholic who didn’t also use and/or promote contraception?

The Church is clear in her teachings and has been from the beginning: abortion is evil, always and everywhere. It’s a mortal sin that’s never justified under any circumstances. Meaning that people who procure an abortion, assist in one, or promote and support abortion rights are committing mortal sin. You know, the deadly kind. The only way to be reconciled with God and His church for these sins is the sacrament of Confession. Yet no one who’s convinced she’s wiser than the Church’s 2,000-year Sacred Tradition against these things is going to contritely confess those sins to a priest.

Which leads us to the “the source and summit of the Christian life”: the great privilege of communion with Jesus Christ through the Eucharist. “In the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself,” (CCC, 1324). The Lord invites us to partake of His own divine flesh and blood and it’s only fitting that we spiritually prepare ourselves for so great and holy a moment. Accepting the Eucharist while we knowingly are guilty of unabsolved mortal sins is, in the words of St. Paul, committing the worst sin of all by “profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (Mt. 8:8). The Church reaffirms that individuals have a responsibility to accept Christ’s sacrifice in a state of grace: “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC, 1385).

For someone who has already rejected the Church’s teachings about God’s sovereignty over human life, the sanctity of life, the fecundity of marriage, and the necessity of Confession, it’s no large step to disregard the Church’s beliefs about the sacredness of Holy Communion, too. As is likely witnessed at Masses with some of our more notorious pro-choice Catholic politicians, these people have no more regard for the Eucharist than they do for the rest of their self-professed belief system.

I can’t help but wonder at those pro-choice Catholics who insist they believe in the Real Presence. If you truly believe the Catholic Church really can turn bread and wine into God himself, what’s your basis for denying the full moral authority of that Church? Even as an atheist, I remember hearing what Catholics believed about the Eucharist and thinking, “Whoa, that’s crazy!” But I also remember that flicker of fear in my heart, the voice that whispered, “But what if it’s true?” It scared me, because it was obvious to me that any institution that had the authority to summon God himself into the room was one that demanded my full obedience.

Can pro-choice Catholics truly not see how self-serving it is to give their stamp of approval to the Church’s teachings on social justice or the Eucharist, while rejecting so much of the rest? Personally, I’ve never understood how those in our ranks who pick and choose what to follow can have any faith in the parts they DO agree with. I mean, if the Church could make such egregious mistakes about abortion and contraception (and women’s ordination and homosexuality, etc.), how can you have faith it’s right about ANYTHING?

More to the point: why would anyone cling to a label that represents beliefs and practices they find contemptible?

For the record, we’re not talking about Catholics who struggle to accept some of the Church’s teachings. We’ve all been there and it can take time to find the answers and receive the grace you need to truly commit to a complex and difficult teaching. In no way do I condemn those who suffer interior spiritual struggles or suggest they abandon the faith because they can’t accept everything immediately. But there is that person, and then there is the Catholic who intractably dissents from Church teaching, who publicly and unabashedly sets his own wisdom above that of the Church. Who proudly proclaims his dissent and doesn’t hesitate to try to convince others to dissent. This includes laity, priests, and yes, even bishops. These are the folks whose dissent is a grave scandal to our faith…that I challenge to explain why they insist on superficially participating in a religion they insist is so odious and flawed.

When Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his time for hypocritically calling themselves “rabbis” while living scandalous lives, He taught us that words are important and that titles should be backed up by integrity. Jesus knew that such people are a source of scandal for the church as a whole and for the faithful as individuals. The hypocrisy apparent in the pro-choice Catholic position is a major impediment to our goal of becoming a “holy people” and creates barriers for non-Catholics that greatly encumber our ability to share the Gospel. No doubt, Christ would have harsh condemnation for those who proudly call themselves both.

Obviously, no one can force a pro-choice Catholic to stop referring to himself as such. But as members of Christ’s  church, we have a responsibility to not only point out these individuals’ hypocrisy when it’s encountered, but to ensure non-Catholics understand why abortion support is in no way “Catholic.”

  • LizzyOctober 4, 2012 - 8:48 am

    So are you advocating that people who are pro-choice should leave the Catholic Church? I’ve just come back to the Church recently, and I’m having a hard time with the teachings of contraception and abortion. I don’t receive the Eucharist, and don’t tell anyone what I believe and battle with (I am also not involved in the Church at all, I don’t want to risk doing or saying the wrong thing). I’ve spoken to a priest, read many books, prayed about it, but nothing changes. I won’t let the door hit me on the way out.ReplyCancel

  • MartinaOctober 4, 2012 - 9:12 am


    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think you share a common misunderstood point about the topic at hand – I wanted to clarify a bit on behalf of Misty, who can comment later to see if I tackled this correctly or not.

    What Misty’s writing about is the defiance of those who tout that they support abortion/contraception. It’s one thing to sincerely struggle with what the Church teaches. I don’t think many of us are exempt from having a struggle at one time or another. The key is that through that struggle, we strive to submit to the Church and Her wisdom vs. our own flawed understanding if that makes sense?

    I think there’s a huge difference between saying “I really struggle with x, y, z” and “I disagree with the Church and I know best because I’m going to proclaim I am right and the Church is wrong” from the hilltops.

    From what you posted, I gather you are probably struggling with these teachings but are likely {I hope} not leading others down the path away from Church teaching by proclaiming proudly your dissent?

    In any case, I hope you will continue to read and learn more about the Church’s teachings on the life issues. At its core, is Christ’s love for us. I hope you’ll stick around with us and continue reading. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • AllisonOctober 4, 2012 - 11:27 am

    A personal example:

    When we first came into the Church 8 years ago, we believed all that She taught as truth, but we had trouble not contracepting. We did not proclaim this as enlightened or wonderful, but as Our Problem. That’s very different than what Misty is portraying here, with aggressive, public denial of Church teaching.

    We continued reading and thinking about chastity and Church and marriage and children and sex (HaHa) and then just enjoyed things au naturale. We did the right thing and aligned ourselves with TRUTH and it’s never been better!

    So the point of my comment here is that feelings don’t make the decisions, facts do. Doing the right thing (What the Church teaches)is what counts. And because our humanity is body, mind, and soul, those good feelings often follow.

    Lizzy, it doesn’t sound as if you are aggressively and publicly talking ugly about the Church and Her teaching, but trying to understand. No need to leave. These discussions and questions and passing on the truth and beauty of Catholicism is what Catholic Sistas is here for!ReplyCancel

  • MistyOctober 4, 2012 - 12:48 pm

    Martina explained exactly what I mean. I also went into the article and clarified the difference. I truly see a serious difference between the Catholic who struggles to accept, but who DESIRES to submit to the Church’s wisdom, and the Catholic who proudly and openly dissents from Church teaching. From what you described, you’re not leading others astray with your own doubts or inability to believe, whereas the “professional dissenters” are. There are plenty of those people in our ranks and few of them are as publicly scandalous as the Bidens and Pelosis. Most of them are everyday Catholics who encourage their family members to contracept or sterilize (or abort), who use and encourage others to use pornography, who use and support in vitro fertilization, who support gay marriage initiatives, who present themselves as “thinking, enlightened Catholics” who don’t let a bunch of old, white men tell them what to do.

    I teach RCIA classes at my parish expressly to help those who are struggling like you are to embrace teachings to have the benefit of the Church’s history and wisdom on the tougher teachings. We are talking about apples and oranges here: I pray for and love those souls who are on the journey and doing their best to submit to the Church (and thus, to Christ himself), but I abhor and challenge those who are trying to tear our faith apart by their public and harmful dissent from the truth.ReplyCancel

  • MicheleOctober 6, 2012 - 10:58 am

    Misty, I think you are too harsh and almost vindictive in your article. Although you have a very valid point, it is the way you convey it, the way you draw a line in the sand and say that YOU CAN’T BE Catholic and BE pro-choice.
    By the way, just to set the context, I will state that I am a devout and active and grateful returning Catholic and I am definitively and actively pro-life. So I basically agree with lots of what you say. But – and here is the rub – by stating things so black and white, by dangling ultimatums in people’s face about being a substandard Catholic and needing to get out of the Church, I think you crossed a line. Look, what Christ has asked us to be and to do first and foremost is to become saint, to be perfect just like his Father is perfect. He has asked us again and again to love each other and to promote peace, he sends us at the end of each Mass to be His peace to the world. I just don’t think that your point (of aligning our faith with our own lives in our own and most intimate and essential behaviour such as freedom and sex and chastity!) in the manner that you wrote will convert the hearts of those pro-choice Catholics. You will only convert the ones that are already aware of personhood and life-at-conception. If I were your spiritual director and your editor 🙂 I would say rewrite the article, keep the part explaining how to become more in line with the Church teachings, but take the threats out and don’t threaten anyone to get out of the way because they are not good enough. Remember, the truth can only be offered, not imposed, especially not with a hammer over one’s head. Charity and love trumps even a valid point. Remember the adultery women? How did he convert her? He saved her life FIRST! He changed even the heart of each threatening man around her and then after all this, at the end, he said don’t sin no more. As a devout and grateful Catholic, I understand how terrible is the sin of adultery, how it destroys numerous lives even besides the two involved. If you knew about one famous Catholic who is committing adultery, would you write a public article for them to get out of the Church?ReplyCancel

  • AllisonOctober 6, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    The definition of “am” is the first person singular indicative of “be,” which means “to exist or live.” To say “I AM Catholic,” then, means to exist or live the Catholic faith, which holds abortion and contraception to be mortal sins. If one does not believe the tenets of Catholicism to be true, one is not Catholic. Having trouble with believing while asserting that the Church teaches truth is not the same as publicly, proudly dissenting.

    To use a sports analogy, I can swear up and down that I’m a Celtics fan, but if I proudly and openly wear Lakers gear and cheer on the Lakers team, my words mean nothing. It’s clear that I’m not really a Celtics fan.

    Jesus often did call out hypocrites and of course, did fashion a whip and drive cheaters out of the temple. Sometimes, a call-out is appropriate.ReplyCancel

  • […] Catholic and Pro-Choice? I Don’t Think So – Misty, Catholic Sistas […]ReplyCancel

  • Guitar ManOctober 9, 2012 - 9:28 am

    It’s simple. When we receive Holy Communion, the minister says “The Body of Christ”, and reply “AMEN”, which means “I believe” or “it is truly.” When we reply “AMEN” we confirming or acknowledging our unity for Jesus Christ and His Church, which is His Body here on Earth. When we are one with Christ, we are to believe and hold firm to EVERYTHING He and His Church believe. EVERYTHING. If we don’t, we make ourselves out to be liars or hypocrites– we basically say “AMEN– I believe, but really…I don’t”

    It doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to have struggles or difficulties accepting His teachings. We all struggle with the perfection that is Christ and His Church (we all have a fallen nature). But we shouldn’t turn our back on Christ and His Church when the teachings are hard to accept, like his disciples did in John chapger 6 (see Bread of Life discourse).ReplyCancel

  • WSquaredOctober 9, 2012 - 10:37 am

    Brava, Misty! All of this is cogent and spot on. Thank you!

    Michele, I think you really need to read the part of Misty’s article that deals with the Eucharist and receiving it knowing that you have mortal sins on your soul. That really does undercut a person’s ability to believe in the Real Presence, so there is no reason for anyone to mince words on this: spiritually, it’s a matter of life and death, and lies and truth.

    You speak of Jesus and the adulterous woman, that “He saved her life FIRST!” Well, it is the same case here: to tell deliberately dissenting Catholics that they are eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves and that their philosophy of thinking that they can have it both ways is logically inconsistent will put them in a far better position spiritually than if they were to continue to receive the Eucharist. Basically, it comes down to this: Holy Communion is a public act. It says, “I believe everything the Catholic Church teaches to be true.” To receive Communion and willfully dissent is not only logically untenable, but a lie. So there is no line that Misty has either crossed or drawn. Rather, the line draws itself due to the logical consequences of what Catholics profess to believe (which we profess publicly every Sunday Mass in the Nicene Creed, we might add).

    This is not just about “winning the hearts and minds of pro-choice Catholics.” Rather it’s about What Do Catholics Actually Believe? The Church is very clear on this, and anyone calling themselves Catholic must also know what the Church teaches and actually assent to it, for the simple reason that saying that you are Catholic does indeed have logical implications regarding what we believe and don’t believe. You cannot convert or win any hearts and minds to the Catholic faith in any case if you don’t know what it is that Catholics actually believe about who Jesus is and isn’t.

    Furthermore, I should add that Christ Himself gave us those ultimatums and lines in the sand: “Whoever eats and drinks the flesh and blood of the Son of Man without discerning the body eats and drinks condemnation upon himself” [1 Cor 11:29]. Christ also said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” [Jn 15:5-7].

    Those are apt reminders to each and every single one of us, and they are especially important in a culture that likes to call itself Christian, wherein a favorite spiritual catchphrase is “WWJD?” but who barely even knows– or cares– Who Jesus actually is. Ross Douthat of the New York Times has written an entire book on this, Mr. Obama tells us that he is a follower of Jesus Christ, we have some pro-choice Christians thinking that they can pray for abortion rights, and we apparently have pro-Obama Catholics trying to call up Catholic voters, asking them, “how can you vote for a man who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ?” (i.e. Mitt Romney). In the midst of all of the many Jesuses that our culture gives us, made in its own image, don’t you therefore think it prudent to actually care about who He says He is [Mk 8:29]?

    “If you knew about one famous Catholic who is committing adultery, would you write a public article for them to get out of the Church?”

    …the problem is that anyone who persists in manifest grave sin are already “out of the Church” re what the Eucharist is and discerning the body, whether they want to admit it or not. They have excommunicated themselves, and to be restored to Communion, they need to go to Confession. This is not the same, however, as someone who struggles with hard teachings, and who has not yet been given the grace to understand (which is why this must be asked for persistently in prayer. It is more than okay, and in fact encouraged to do so). Furthermore, for a sin to be mortal, there are three conditions: grave matter, full knowledge, and full, deliberate consent. Also, what do we mean by “Church”? Is it just some human organization, or is it the Body of Christ, built up through Him, with Him, and in Him? This is basic Catholic sacramental theology. Furthermore, you cannot have real love without the Truth. The truth cannot be imposed, no. But even the love with which one approaches must be rooted in the Truth, or it most certainly isn’t true, and it therefore isn’t love, either.

    But ultimately, those pro-choice Catholics, like every single one of us, must choose for Christ or against Him. They can’t have it both ways: they cannot choose mortal sin and still have the Eucharist. The spiritual logic is simply nonexistent.ReplyCancel

  • Ben @ Two MenOctober 9, 2012 - 4:00 pm

    I think technically, if you are baptized Catholic, you are Catholic no matter what. But just like a living body is made up of live cells, it also contains dead cells. The dead cells will be expelled from the body eventually.ReplyCancel

  • AllisonOctober 9, 2012 - 6:29 pm

    Oh, I agree with Ben above, as well. Jesus did say that the wheat would grow among the tares and that He would separate it all at the Final Judgement (No time to look up the reference…). We can still call ’em out, though! Thanks for that reminder!ReplyCancel

  • ErikaOctober 9, 2012 - 7:01 pm

    Michele — As others have already pointed out, Misty isn’t the one drawing the line in the sand, or overstepping a line, those who openly oppose the Church’s teachings have done so themselves. The Church openly says that abortion is an intrinsic evil. There isn’t a grey area in that statement. The Church also openly says that anyone that complicit in an abortion commits an intrinsic evil. Again, there isn’t a grey area in that statement. The only grey area is in those dissident “Catholic”s minds.

    What many in the US fail to realize when they dissent is that the Church is NOT a democracy; it is a Theocracy with God at its head. In opposing the Church teaching (that has maintained through severe opposition over the years) about abortion, these “Catholics” are openly saying God is wrong. If they truly believe God is wrong about the life issue, why would they want to remain in God’s Church? If God is wrong about this very important issue, what other, smaller, issues is God, the Church, wrong about?

    While it is true that Jesus forgave the adulterous woman, His most profound statement to her was to “Go and sin no more”. In your comment, you imply that Jesus just accepted her as she was. In a way you’re right, but He didn’t intend for her to continue in her sinful ways, instead He challenged her to change her life. The same is true of us as Catholics; we are challenged to change our lives as members of Christ’s body on earth. He humbled himself to save us and become our food and drink. Surely we, as His followers, should humble ourselves to obey the Church that He created. Unless we claim to be better than the Son of God, we should follow His commands through His Church. If someone doesn’t believe that Hs Church is the Catholic Church and the Truth, then they should not profess to be members of Her.ReplyCancel

  • 28th Sunday | St. JohnOctober 13, 2012 - 3:25 pm

    […] Catholic and Pro-Choice? I Don’t Think SoBack in my pro-life atheist days, long before I had kids, I used to spend a lot of time on bulletin boards debating abortion. One thing that always astounded me were the number of self-proclaimed Catholics who supported abortion rights. Many of whom unabashedly defended their own abortions, too. Who insisted they had every right to call themselves “a Catholic in good standing” despite choosing to support the heinous evil of abortion.…more […]ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous RespondentMarch 29, 2013 - 6:36 pm

    Several months later, I’ve stumbled across this blog while engaging in my own struggle with many of the Church’s teachings. While I understand your concerns about Catholics who differ with the moral teachings of the Church, your statement about being in the pews with or behind these people in the Communion line during Mass is upsetting. It is certainly not our place to stand, sit, or kneel in church and judge others. In fact, I can think of many things that would be a better use of time during Mass (and outside of Mass for that matter). If the Eucharist is the most important “meal” I will receive in my life, I am humbled to know that I am not Christ eating with the tax collectors but that I will always be one of the tax collectors regardless of how strictly I agree with the catechism or how often I go to confession.ReplyCancel

  • JayMay 9, 2013 - 6:26 am

    I’m sure the interpretation will vary from priest to priest from bishop to bishop to dioceses to various orders.

    In the end, debating aside.

    Abortion is a Mortal Sin.

    Mortal Sin IS forgivable.

    If a woman chooses to have an abortion, she will have to suffer the consequences of it- not so much from her peers. But from Christ and God in the end via her pastor, her priest, her clergy, etc.

    I truly don’t believe the RCC, Christ or God wants all women running around having abortions. But I think in the end, in extenuating circumstances (will the mother die if she gives birth, this is a rape baby, this is a baby that will be born w/o proper care of a single mother with no family or friends, etc) its really- a case by case basis. I don’t think God would wish duress on the pregnant.

    Ultimately, the act is handled via Confession, atoned for with Christ and with God if that is what Christ and God choose. And probably with much penance to accompany it.ReplyCancel

  • JayMay 9, 2013 - 6:51 am

    I’d also like to add if one is considering an abortion, regardless of their belief or lack thereof:

    1. to consider adoption

    2. and to definitely talk with a priest or someone in their parish before giving up the child via abortion.

    I think the church will do its best to help those in need in that situation, that is what they are there for- to help people.ReplyCancel