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Conscience and the Right to Life


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

The Church clearly teaches that faithful citizenship begins with protecting innocent human life

Carl A. Anderson

RECENTLY, Pope Francis was asked to counsel Catholics in America on how to approach this year’s election. “During political campaigns, I never say a word,” he replied. “I would only say, study the proposals well, pray and choose with your conscience.”

So, how do we choose with our conscience?

“Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened,” explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (1783).

Our popes have provided just such authoritative teaching to guide Catholics making moral decisions in the political process.

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said this: “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable.”

He then listed those non-negotiable principles, the first of which was the “protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death.”

In his exhortation on the mission of the Catholic laity, Christifideles Laici, St. John Paul II stated the reason for this primacy of the right to life: “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with the maximum determination” (38).

And in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II stated with maximum clarity the definitive teaching of the Catholic Church: “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it’” (73).

This is because, as John Paul wrote earlier in the encyclical, “the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral” (57).

During last August’s Supreme Convention, I affirmed that the responsibility of faithful Catholics is to build a culture of life and a civilization of love. I also observed that I did not see how it is possible for us to do this when Catholic voters elect public officials who promote abortion, which in the United States alone has resulted in nearly 60 million deaths since 1973.

Legalized abortion in the United States has become a form of killing on such a massive scale that no other political issue outweighs its human devastation.

In my annual report, I said, “We need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians.”

It has been said that the legal regime of abortion established by the Supreme Court in its Roe v. Wade ruling and subsequent decisions constitutes what the Catechism calls “structures of sin.”

This election presents us with candidates throughout the United States who are dedicated to building up and strengthening this “structure of sin.” They are pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment restriction of taxpayer funding of abortion that has saved more than 2 million unborn children. And they are committed to the appointment and confirmation of judges who will oppose abortion restrictions. As a result, this election presents the greatest threat to the right to life of unborn children since the Roe v. Wade decision.

I urge every brother Knight to take the words of Pope Francis to heart – study, pray and vote your conscience! And when you do, remember also these words of the pope: “Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ.”

Vivat Jesus!