MARYSVILLE, PA, MAY 22, 2007 - Your letter of May 10th is self-incriminating. While criticizing the Pope for doing his job as supreme pastor, you yourselves betray your own duplicity as Catholic lawmakers. The supreme pastor of the universal church has jurisdiction over every Catholic Christian in the world. Canon Law makes it clear that every baptized Catholic is under the authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Hence, when the Roman Pontiff upholds and enforces the Divine Positive and the Natural Moral Laws, he is not interfering with man-made civil law, rather, he is reminding you of its subservience to the higher laws to which it must conform for the common good of all.
Canon 1398 states that “a person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” Anyone who supports abortion is a formal cooperator in evil while those who ‘personally oppose abortion but uphold a woman’s right to choose abortion’ are material cooperators in evil. When he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict sent a letter to the US Bishops in 2004 which said “a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.” He also said that Catholic politicians who consistently campaign and vote for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws are formal cooperators in evil and they are “not to present themselves for Holy Communion.” Our words and actions make us worthy or unworthy. Church law merely ratifies our decision by telling us to refrain from Communion when we should not be taking it.
The Pope has the right, the obligation and the duty to enforce the moral law, which is superior to all municipal, state, federal or even international law. The Nuremburg trials proved that when Nazis were convicted of the heinous evil and injustice of genocide despite the apparent civil legality at the time. The government enacted immoral laws which society and decency said should never have been upheld or enforced.
Your letter insinuates that the Bishop of Rome is interfering with American jurisprudence. He is not. Pope Benedict is merely reminding Catholic Americans that their first and foremost loyalty is to God and the common good. Any and all civil laws which contradict the Divine and/or the Natural Law are invalid and have no obligation upon anyone. If that were not the case, then slavery, segregation and anti-Semitism would have to be tolerated if some legislature or court upheld laws supporting these atrocities. Thankfully, even the evil of apartheid is finally gone though it had been legal for centuries in South Africa.
Learn from history and remember that it has usually been religious people of faith who have convinced lawmakers and judges that immoral laws must be abolished no matter how ‘constitutional’ they may appear. Our inalienable rights do not come from any document, not even the Constitution nor are they bestowed upon us by any government. The right to life comes from the Creator and once given, it cannot be unjustly taken away. The unborn children murdered by abortion have had no due process yet their civil rights have been denied them. Even though they are in their mother, the unborn are no more ‘property’ than was any slave. No one owns another human being, whether in the womb or out of it.
On the one hand you state “advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our church has taught us, our own life’s mission,” yet you remonstrate the spiritual leader of our one billion member church simply because he reaffirms the innate evil of abortion. How can you advance ‘respect for life’ and the ‘dignity of every human being’ without a complete and total ban on all abortions? Reducing abortions and providing moral alternatives, like adoption, are very laudatory, but they are not enough.
All abortions must be outlawed and Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned once and for all. Would abolitionists and African-Americans been satisfied if slavery had merely been ‘reduced’ rather than abolished? Of course not. Though shamefully our nation legalized slavery at one time, limiting and reducing an immoral evil and a civil injustice was not enough. Even though the Supreme Court issued their infamous Dred Scott and (1857) and Plessy v. Furguson (1896) decisions, slavery and racial segregation remained unjust, evil and immoral, despite their apparent ‘legality’ by the highest court of the land. Likewise, Roe v. Wade (1973) may have ‘legalized’ abortion across the land, but its inherent injustice to the unborn human child remains a moral and civil evil upon our country.
Catholics, whether politicians, judges or voters, need to act responsibly. If they give direct and proximate material cooperation in evil, from abortion to euthanasia, then Divine Law, Moral Law and Canon Law say they are ineligible for Holy Communion. You do not need an official excommunication, either. Hopefully, more bishops and pastors will remind their people and enforce this so as to discourage any and all cooperation in these moral evils.
Rev. John Trigilio, Jr.