Pro-Choice: A Sickness in Need of a Remedy
Right-to-life is one of the most visibly defended truths of the Church in our culture. Yet, many Catholic politicians vote for abortion legislation, seemingly, without conscience. Their vote creates a conflict between what they profess as Catholics and what they do as politicians. Moreover, because they are public figures, their stand against life grows in severity by adding the sin of scandal.
So, how can the faithful reconcile a politician’s reception of the Eucharist, with his public separation from what Christ and His Church teach? That’s the question Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, IL, addressed on February 13 when he blocked Senator Richard Durbin from receiving Communion. Durbin voted against the passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a proposed ban on abortions performed after the first 20 weeks, the point when a baby’s ability to feel pain is fully documented. Although 51 people voted against the bill—14 of them Catholic—Paprocki focused upon Durbin who represents his diocese.
Paprocki reacted to Durbin’s public act with an equally public refusal to give Communion. He confronted the state of Durbin’s soul, but also protected the souls of his flock who might be influenced to believe what is not true. His acted blind to party affiliation; political parties have no souls.
Another question, however, precedes the first. Why is it wrong for anyone in a similar situation to receive Communion? The answer rests in the will. It’s not about an instance of sin, but about a state of sin. As sin progresses in severity, if it’s persistent and obstinate, it literally darkens the soul to the light of Christ. It hardens the heart, ultimately, separating it from Christ. As a state, disobedience is no longer a weak moment or impulse; it is willful.
A willful, obstinate sin blasphemes the Holy Spirit (1). In other words, the sinner refuses to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross (2). According to St. John Paul II, the willful sinner radically refuses to accept…forgiveness (3). So, it’s a grave contradiction and an act of irreverence for someone to approach Christ in the Holy Eucharist with an attitude of contrition and love while, at the same time, refusing to obey or to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s grace. If someone sinned in ignorance, then they didn’t disobey willfully. Unfortunately, Durbin and other Catholic politicians who vote in the same way, can’t claim ignorance; they know what the Church teaches. Thousands of people file past their office windows each year in the Pro-Life March.
Derive no pleasure, but seek a remedy
Still, no one should derive any pleasure (4) from seeing someone being publicly scrutinized. Paprocki prays “that [Durbin] will repent and return to being pro-life” (5). In this desire, he imitates the Lord who would rather rejoice (6) in someone’s repentance. We should pray for Durbin’s re-conversion and for the docility of all pro-choice advocates to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Their conversion potentially saves babies’ lives as well as their own souls.
A pro-choice advocate makes two simultaneous and horrifying choices. His first choice closes the door on a baby’s life. That’s horrifying in itself. But he closes another door on Christ who leads to life (7). The advocate turned away from Christ’s teachings and commands, choosing to obey another voice instead (8). What does that do to his soul? His choice reveals a sickness in need of a remedy.
Paprocki’s decision to withhold Communion might be difficult for Durbin to hear. But is it better to be silent and jeopardize souls, or in love and humility, admonish sinners—a spiritual work of mercy—in order to bring them back to Christ in the hope of eternal life? We live in fellowship with Durbin and with all people in the common experience of sin. We’re all sinners. But, happily, we should also be in fellowship with each other in the desire for life and salvation.
This Lent, come to know Christ in the secret of your heart (9) and in your conscience, man’s most secret core and…sanctuary (10). Go to Confession, then approach Christ in the Eucharist with both a pure heart and a pure conscience. Live according to His will (11) as the Church reveals it. Be an example and voice in the world, both, for the protection of the unborn and for the salvation of souls. And I’ll try to do the same.
1. Mt, 12:31
2. Dominum et Vivificantem, 46
4. Ez 18:23
5. Statement from Bishop Thomas John Paprocki on Senate Failure to Pass Pain-Capable Unborn Children’s Act, February 13, 2018
6. Ez 18:23
8. Dt 26:17
9. Ps 51
11. Ps. 143:10