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Evans: The pro-choice Catholic

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | OCTOBER 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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Election season brings both animosity and reflection. Questions asked and discussed in open forum among friends and family usually end with contempt-laced zingers but simultaneously spur self-reflection and discovery.

One of the major questions brought up by this election season, specifically by the vice-presidential debate, continually floats into my periphery and creates massive schisms in my political and personal life: How can a person be Catholic and pro-choice at the same time?

Vice President Joe Biden shortly explained the classic Catholic Democrat’s position on abortion.

“With regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception,” Biden said. “I accept that position in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims, and Jews.”

The obvious question regards how a person can accept something in his personal life but can reject it in his public life.  

Since I was raised in the Catholic faith in a conservative household, this question was simply answered, “You can’t.” But, also being raised in a household that encouraged independent thought, my answer to this question is, “You can.”

Allow me to explain.

Canons 751 and 1364 of Roman Catholic law explicitly state all Catholics who believe any type of abortion is morally permissible are automatically excommunicated for committing a sin of heresy.

Obviously, that’s cut and dried — believe that abortion is acceptable, and the church kicks you out. But what’s important here is why abortion is morally impermissible according to the Catholic Church: because human life beings at conception.

Now, it should be said, I believe this: I’m 100 percent on board with the idea that human life begins at conception and not at birth, and I’m crazy enough to take it a step further and say anything with the potential to become human life is sacred.

That’s my moral, ethical belief: If you don’t want to get a girl pregnant, don’t have sex; if there are fertilized embryos in a lab somewhere, then they should be promptly named; if you don’t want to raise a child, give the baby up for adoption.

That’s canon law and those are the rules — for me. Those are the rules for me because I’m a Catholic. But the thing is, the United States is not ruled by Catholic canon. It is a group of secular states ruled by a secular government made up of secular laws meant to maintain order in a secular society.

Some people don’t believe human life begins at conception, and it’s not scientifically proven that it does. A person cannot in any sense say with scientific certainty that life begins at conception because there is this inconvenient process called birth. When someone asks me how old I am, I don’t subtract nine months from the day I was born — I was born on the last day of April in 1991, and I’ve been alive ever since.

So, I speak out against abortion, I preach to people about responsibility and the sanctity of life, and I encourage people to do the same — but the government does not have the right to legislate on this issue.

The core of the debate is a question derived solely from moral ideology, from religious canon, and in the United States, I’m not allowed to force my religious ideology onto someone else, even if I wanted to.

And that is how a person can be Catholic and pro-choice at the same time.


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