Last week we went to Washington, D.C. to assist CrownRights.org with filming on the upcoming Babies Are Murdered Here documentary. Our goal was to gather interviews from participants in the March for Life. Frankly, it was stunning to see the crowd of more than 500,000 people marching on the National Mall to protest abortion. The march is organized mainly by Roman Catholics. It is quite a testimony to the organizational ability of the Roman Catholics and the March for Life that they are able to mobilize this many people on one day (one c-c-c-old day) in DC.
This has been the story of the pro-life movement from the beginning. The Roman Catholics have mobilized and the evangelicalProtestant church has either hemmed and hawed or they have supported abortion (in the case of the mainline denominations). Forty years later churches in the evangelical community which are sound theologically (and many that aren’t) are loathe to do very much about the slaughter of the innocents in the womb. Why? The “elephant in the room”, whenever the topic is discussed, is the Catholic church. If we stand with Catholics in front of the abortion clinics, aren’t we somehow supporting their doctrine? In good churches, doctrine matters.
After seeing the March for Life, conducting interviews, and our own experience with pro-life Catholics I can only conclude that while we can stand in front of clinics while Catholics are present, we cannot join hands with them intentionally for the purpose of: 1) proclaiming the truth about abortion or 2) doing sidewalk counseling ministry. The theological tension between the Catholic church and the leadership of the pro-life movement effectively neuters the pro-life cause. Worse, it offers no real hope to women who have had abortions.
At this point, Catholics reading this blog will get up in arms and point to their long record of standing against abortion. I am grateful for their willingness to act when so many of us have been silent. It is to our shame. Some will say that this kind of message will fragment the pro-life community, weakening it. I disagree. The way that truth works in the Kingdom of God is that it sets people free. Besides that, the pro-life community is already fragmented. It is fragmented into groups that call abortion murder in no uncertain terms and those that equivocate.
Two Important Questions
At the March, we asked the participants two important questions. 1) Is abortion murder? 2) Is a woman who has an abortion a murderer? The answers were not what we expected at a pro-life event.
To question #1, the results were split. Some would say, yes, it is murder and not bat an eye. Others would hem and haw a bit and use just about every euphemism you can imagine to describe what a woman does when she has an abortion. To question #2, the results were much more uniform. I do not believe we had one person respond in the affirmative. In every case, the woman having an abortion was portrayed as a victim.
Watch the video below and see some of the responses that will appear in the film.
We did a lot more filming that day, but on the way to dinner we began talking about the disconnect. Why could some say it was murder and then not call the woman having an abortion a murderer? This isn’t a great leap of logic. Further, how could you be anti-abortion, march against Roe v. Wade, and then not be clear about abortion being murder in question #1?
As we chatted, Marcus finally asked, “What do Catholics believe about mortal sin?” This question and its answer is the keystone to not only this disconnect between the two questions, it is the keystone to understanding the present pro life movement and how ministry is done amongst women who are potentially abortive.
Let’s answer Marcus’ question. What do Catholics believe about mortal sin? In order to find the answer, you have to go to their documents. You do not go to writings which are not formally endorsed. You do not go to a Catholic friend or relative to find the answer. For our purposes, we will use the Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter referred to as the CCC) which was published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (the publishing arm of the Vatican). The copy in my library is the Second Edition published in 2000 and appears to be the 7th printing of this edition.
In the CCC, (section 1855) it states, “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.” In contrast, venial sin “…allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.”
The big question is, “What is a mortal sin?” According to the Roman Catholic church it must meet three conditions: 1) it is a grave matter, 2) it is committed with full knowledge and 3) it is committed with deliberate intent (Section 1857). Murder falls under the “grave matter” condition according to section 1858. I submit that murder is always committed with full knowledge of its evil since Romans 2:14-15 says that the law of God is written on the hearts of all men and their conscience bears witness that this is so. Finally, murder is committed with deliberate intent whenever it is committed except in cases of self defense (Ex. 22:2-3). The CCC states, “Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest” (Section 1860). Note the use of the terminology “grave” and “gravest.” In the Roman Catholic understanding, a mortal sin is worse than the average sin.
What is the penalty for a mortal sin? The CCC answers, “If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of Hell…”.
Therefore murder is a mortal sin and is deserving of Hell. This is the clear teaching of the CCC.
The next question for the CCC is, “Is abortion murder?” The CCC answers in the affirmative. It states, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable” (Section 2271). The same section goes on to cite the Didache and other early writings as proof. In the next section, it states, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life” (Section 2272).
So what’s the problem? Abortion is murder and murder merits Hell in Roman Catholic theology. Why don’t Roman Catholics speak more plainly on the issue of abortion if this is all that there is to it?
It suggests the question, “Is there a theological loophole in the CCC which allows a Roman Catholic the freedom to sidestep the question, “Is a woman who has an abortion a murderer?” It turns out that there is.
Section 1860 reads, “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders.” It is worth noting that in this section, there are no footnotes. There are no cross references to Biblical passages because the Bible does not teach this.
So here is what is happening. In the pro-life movement, if you can deem the woman who has an abortion to be “unintentionally ignorant” or a victim of their own “feelings and passions”, you can conclude that she is indeed a victim, not guilty of mortal sin, and is therefore not a murderer. This is the only theological rationale that makes sense in light of the answers we received in DC at the March for Life. This victim mentality is evident at a March for Life. The vast majority of signs, usually provided by the Catholic organizers, emphasize a positive message. Their own website states, “Purposefully, the Life Principles are not framed in the negative tone of “thou shalt not,” and are framed in the positive tone of duty and responsibility of each human being and of society.” The signs at the march which state that abortion is murder are usually made by individuals and not mass produced and handed out to marchers.
The problem is that the Bible teaches the exact opposite. We cannot plead temporary insanity regarding our sin. In Exodus 21:22-25, the situation of two men fighting in a heated emotional argument is given. If in the course of their fight, they hurt a woman who is with child unintentionally and the baby miscarries, the death penalty is given for the man who is guilty, in spite of his emotion. It is eye for eye, tooth for tooth and life for life. In the context, it does not appear that it is their intent to murder the baby in the womb. If they do, intentional or not, they are given the death penalty.
In short, Roman Catholics who are pro-life who will not call abortion murder or women who abort, murderers are NOT in conflict with their own catechism. They ARE in conflict with the Word of God. By the way, so are evangelicals who adopt this same victim mentality of the woman at the abortion clinic.
Listen, if we ever have the opportunity to repeal Roe v. Wade and abortion is illegal in this nation, then what will a woman be guilty of if she has an abortion after that point? She will be guilty of murder. I am quite sure that lawyers will plead mental duress or temporary insanity, but the charge will be murder. The law will be right to say so. Marching at the March for Life and stopping in front of the Supreme Court to protest Roe v. Wade while equivocating on abortion being murder is a contradiction in the same act of protest. It doesn’t make any sense logically and even less sense theologically.
I’m not Catholic. I believe in sola Scriptura, the Reformation doctrine of Scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice. The CCC carries no weight in my theological thinking. The Bible defines sin as transgression (rebellion) against God’s Law (1 John 3:4). It does not distinguish between mortal and venial sin. All sin condemns people to Hell: murdering and disobedience to parents all fall under the scope of God’s law. There is no free pass for being emotionally traumatized when you commit it.
Therefore, with this right view of sin we’re all in the same boat. We are also dealing with an extremely urgent situation at an abortion clinic. Carrying this truth to the abortion clinics, I can minister to women going in AND coming out of the clinics without internal conflict. I can say, “Please don’t murder your baby” and “You can be forgiven if you repent and believe the gospel” because I too am a sinner who has sinned grievously before God. I can talk about the gospel without referring her to the priest for the sacrament of penance (which includes confession to a priest and whatever reparation he prescribes) or requiring them to become Catholic. These things are not the gospel. They forgive no sins. What I have to offer is the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to them in place of their sin via repentance and faith (2 Corinthians 5:21). I can tell them that Jesus Christ has satisfied God’s wrath against them and we can be declared innocent on the basis of true repentance and trust in Him, not the sacraments.
All sin is mortal sin. All of it. It’s not just the “really really bad” people who deserve Hell. We are all really really bad: totally depraved (Romans 3:10-18). If you consider murder to be a worse sin than the average venial sin (or skate around it altogether) you’re not going to refer to abortion as murder or the woman as a murderer. What matters in most pro-life counseling ministry is the life of the baby and if you have to lie to get a save, then so be it. I want to see the baby saved AND the woman who was planning on murdering it saved from Hell. This requires plain speaking.
If you deny total depravity and want to see Roe v. Wade overturned you win support by following the cultural trend of soft-selling sin. Yet we all know that abortion is murder. It’s self evident to anyone who doesn’t have an agenda. Our nation will not repent of a choice. No one will. It might repent over a sin. If the March for Life was a call to this nation to repent, it tried to do so without naming the sin we’re guilty of, just as it does not use the word “murder” on their website.
The Victim Lie
This may seem harsh to those who have been trained to do Crisis Pregnancy Center ministry by Roman Catholic activists, but if you have spent any time outside of an abortion clinic pleading with the women going in to save the life of their baby, you know that these women are not victims. They may be very emotional but they are not deceived by their emotions. They are murderers and in most cases, they act like it. They cuss you out, they spit at you, they threaten you and in some cases they attack you. The men who sometimes have the guts to bring them are just the same. When they come out of the clinic they often joke about having just murdered their baby. Abortion is murder. Period. No equivocation, no compromise.
To my evangelical friends who either are doing abortion clinic ministry or plan on it: you do not help a woman find forgiveness in Christ by soft-selling what she is doing at the clinic. Biblical repentance includes an acknowledgement of the sin: they will call it what God calls it. When women justify their actions based on circumstances or emotions you are not looking at Biblical repentance. You might be able to talk them out of the abortion by sympathizing with them, but until they admit that what they were planning on doing was premeditated murder there is no repentance. Biblical repentance looks like Psalm 51 and not a session with a psychologist.
If you have been doing pro-life ministry with Roman Catholics and have adopted their victim mentality of the women who are having abortions, you need to repent. Open your eyes to the behavior that you are seeing and call it what God calls it: murder. Only then will you have the ability to offer real forgiveness and hope to those whose lives have been wrecked by their decision to murder their child in the womb.
Jon Speed & Marcus Pittman