Handling abortion

Question: Today, many politicians who call themselves Catholic are pro-choice when it comes to abortion. Are these politicians committing a sin by not forcefully condemning abortion? And why do the Catholic bishops not forcefully discipline them?

— Name Withheld
San Clemente, Calif.

Answer: To be supportive of the so-called “right” to abortion is indeed sinful and erroneous. Further, to vote to fund abortions is indeed a grave sin. The degree of culpability will vary based on how directly the legislator votes for abortion. To go directly to fund abortions is clearly a grave evil. Sometimes however, abortion funding is tucked inside omnibus bills. And thus the culpability of the politician involves a more indirect cooperation with evil.

Bishops and pastors have a serious obligation to warn those who serve in public life against directly supporting, and especially funding, abortion. How this is best done, is a matter of tactics and prudence.

Consider, for example, that a man has some obligation to protect his family from home invasion. Theoretically, any number of alternatives might be possible for him. Perhaps he might booby-trap his property with lethal weapons that would instantly kill any trespasser. On the other hand, he might reasonably conclude that such a method would also endanger others whom might happen upon his property. Thus he might use lesser means, such as alarms, extra locks and warning signs.

Which methods are employed might vary from place to place. If a man lives in the country where civil wars are raging, he might use more severe methods. On the other hand, if a man lives were civil law is generally in place, he may feel it is reasonable to use lesser methods.

It is the same with the bishops on how best to deal with dissenting and wayward Catholic politicians. In some cases, public disciplining and refusal of Communion may make some sense. But in other settings, many bishops have concluded such measures might make martyrs out of such politicians. Perhaps the bishop will prefer to privately warn a pro-choice politician that they will have to answer to God.

Many who are quick to criticize the bishops ought to recall that matters such as these require careful prudence. Catholics do well to pray for priests and bishops, who have obligations to correct, but must do so in ways that do not cause more harm than good. Pray!

Women’s ordination

Question: What do you think about women being ordained to the priesthood? I think if Christ wanted women in this role, he would have ordained his mom.

— Allen Eberle
Hague, N.D.

Answer: Your answer is not far from the point. People often give the Church exaggerated power, as though it can do anything it pleases. But, as the last three popes have all stated, the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women. This is because Jesus, though he broke many conventions of his day, nevertheless called only men to be apostles.

The Church can no more alter the matter and form of this sacrament than it can use beer and pretzels instead of bread and wine. There are just some limits we must observe.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.