Friday, October 12, 2012

Is the Ryan Abortion Position on Abortion Contrary to Catholic Teaching?

(Edited 10/13/12 to fix a statement that could be misinterpreted as saying Ryan's position is absolutely wrong)

One of the aftermaths to the Biden-Ryan debate is the argument that the position described by Ryan is also contrary to the Catholic teaching.  Some pro-lifers seem to take the view of a plague on both your houses, while some liberal Catholics argue that since neither candidate holds a Catholic position, they are free to vote for whoever they want.

In light of my last column which pointed out the despicable conclusions that follow from Biden's views on abortion, I figure I should also offer comment on what Ryan described as the Romney/Ryan view on the subject.  I must admit that, at first glance, their views hardly seem ideal when Ryan says:

Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

According to some Obama supporters and some pro-lifers, Ryan seems a problem here.  If the fetus is a human person from the moment of conception, it follows that the protection of that human life is not removed in the cases of any of those exceptions.  In the Catholic teaching, "One may never do evil so that good may result from it" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1789).  The good sought is the protection of the mother.  The evil done is the deliberate killing of the unborn child.  Since we may never choose an evil means to achieve a good end, it may seem the Ryan position is not compatible with Catholic teaching.  We Catholics cannot – and should not—deny the fact that abortion in any circumstances is impermissible.

The teaching of the Church has made clear our obligations when faced with a voting choice where neither party is fully pro-life.  In speaking on such laws, Pope John Paul II has said (Evangelium Vitae #74)

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

Now, since it is impossible at this time to overturn the unjust Supreme Court decisions on abortion, we can make a case that the Romney/Ryan position falls under this criteria.  When faced with  a president who feels that abortion should be legal under all circumstances, the Romney/Ryan position is definitely aimed at limiting the harm done by legalized abortion.  Since Ryan's position is well known in opposing abortion, his position on the limiting abortion to rape/incest and the life of the mother can reasonably be considered to lessen the effect of an unjust law and is not cooperation with an unjust law.

We need to realize the difference though between choosing a lesser evil willfully compared to tolerating the effect of a lesser evil.  We are simply not allowed to choose to do evil.  Because Ryan is not saying he supports abortion rights in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, and his rating with the National Right to Life Committee is 100% and his rating with NARAL is 0% it seems safe to assume that Ryan is not advocating some form of abortion rights, but is rather trying to limit abortion as much as he thinks he can.

So I believe we can say that his position is not one of dissent, but one who recognizes his Catholic obligation to save innocent lives and is seeking to limit the evil of America's unjust laws on abortion.

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