St Francis Q&A

Friday, March 24, 2006

A sixth grader's question about abortion

This is my response to a question on abortion from one of the sixth graders in our Religious Ed program (please see his question under "comments" for this post). Pretty amazing question and writing from a 6th grader!
Hey, buddy, thanks very much for your great questions! Wow, did you write these yourself? You think and write much more maturely than a sixth grader...I am impressed! So, because you have such sophisticated questions, I will have to get a little sophisticated, but will try to keep it as simple as I can.

First of all, a baby can never be aborted, no matter what the circumstances are. If it's going to die after birth, then the best thing would be to give birth to the child, and have a priest or deacon baptize him/her right away. That couldn't happen if the baby is aborted. Not only do you give the baby every chance to live, but you give the baby eternal life (through Baptism).

You then talk about if the baby's birth is going to kill the mother, and shouldn't we save one life instead of losing two. Well, this situation is very, very rare. In almost all cases like this, there is another reason (for example, she has a cancerous tumor) that the woman might die if she gives birth. I don't know if I've ever heard of a woman dying just from giving birth, and no other reason.

So, let's say a pregnant mother has cancer. The doctors try to remove her cancerous tumor, and in the process of removing it and saving the life of the mother, they unintentionally kill the fragile baby in the womb. If their intention and the intention of the parents is to save the mother's life and don't intend on killing the baby, this is not a grave sin. The Church says they should do everything they can to save the life of the mother and the baby, but sometimes (and this is extremely rare) the baby dies in the process. This is called an indirect abortion. Abortion is not directly intended; it is the result of saving the life of the mother.

The Church is against any and all direct abortions: "direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law" (# 2271, Catechism of the Catholic Church). That means it is always a grave sin to directly abort a baby, in all circumstances. If people intend to kill the baby in the womb (even if it's to save the mother's life), it is a direct abortion and always evil. If they are doing a procedure that is mainly to save the mother's life, and during the procedure, the baby dies, it is an indirect abortion and not an evil act. It's all about what people intend to do.

Keep in mind that over 95% of all abortions in the United States occur because people don't want a baby, so they choose to kill it. Less than 1% of all abortions occur in the example I gave, as a result of saving the life of the mother. This can get very complicated, but the main point is that it is always a serious sin to kill a baby or anyone...God has said "thou shall not kill".

Finally, there are a few examples of some women who chose to go through with their pregnancy, even though they knew it would kill them. St Gianna Beretta Molla lived in Italy about 70 years ago. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, doctors told her that she had cancer and that she should abort her child. She chose to give birth, and the baby was born healthy, and is now a beautiful woman. Gianna died within a year of giving birth. She chose to die so that her baby might live; she is a true hero. She was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2004, and is now the Patron Saint of the Pro-Life movement.


  • I am in one of the 6th grade R.E. classes. This past week we have been discussing the church's views on abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. I had a specific question: If doctors know that the baby will die either way (whether it is born or not), and if the baby is born, it will kill the mother, is it justifiable to abort the fetus, since they can have one person alive as opposed to both dying?

    Catechism of the Catholic Church (second ed.) does not help. In paragraph 2270, it simply states "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person." Afterwards, it simply goes on about assisting in such operations and the consequences.

    Would the catholic church allow such a thing? They seem very steadfast in their views, but, in respect for human life, you can save the mother. The baby has no hope, while the mother does. What is the Church's stand on this issue?

    I also have a feeling that the Church would not allow this, but would they or would they not allow an abortion if the baby would live, but will kill the mother when born?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:09 PM  

  • To this very wise 6th grader.....

    Yes, Deacon Greg, this student is a very mature 6th grader. I have to admit that I know who this 6th grader is and remember the class discussion and questions asked by many of the students on abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. This student, however, always impresses me with his questions in class. So his question here doesn't surprise me at all. Good for you anonymous !!! Deacon Greg, I hope, answered many of your questions.

    Let me say how proud I am of this particular student for seeking to get a clearer understanding of what his church believes and for not being afraid to ask the questions, and more importantly to know where to turn for his answers(ie. parents, RE class, in the Catechism, and from a Priest (or Priest to be). My comments here are directed more to the courage and desire of our young parishoners to seek church answers to important issues. It is very exciting to me to see young people like your self (anonymous) seeking more understanding and knowledge regarding these difficult and sensitive issues. I'm not sure when I was a 6th grader I would have even known how to spell euthanasia or abortion let alone to want to seek a clearer understanding of where the church stood on them. It is refreshing to know that our up and coming adult Catholics (like yourself) are starting young in their quest for knowledge and understanding of God's truth in all matters. Even when it is hard to understand the church's answer, we trust in Her teachings and continue to seek a clearer understanding, if needed, through prayer and continued research, just like you did here.

    I hope that you found some answers in your quest. Thank-you for posting it on this Blog site. It allows many of us adult parishoners to see that there are concerned / questioning kids out there too.

    By Anonymous RE teacher, at 4:09 PM  

  • The Church's position on The Right to Life is against abortion, but also against capital punishment. Why do so many Catholics vote for politicians who are vocally against abortion but are silent on capital punishment and condone it? Aren't these Catholics selective in their support and even hypocritical?

    I would also point out that the Conference of Catholic Bishops' position on the Right to Life includes the right to medical care and housing. While Catholics go in buses to protest abortion rights each year, no one mentions that the Government has all but dismantled the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the past five years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:41 PM  

  • Wonderful question from the student, and great job to all who've had a part in his instruction, especially his parents and you too RE teacher!

    One thing I hate is the use of the word fetus, as if that word implies it is something other than a human being (and some pro-abortionists I know use the word in the sense that it does imply something other than in...abortion is only killing a fetus, not a person), and yet, our definition of fetus is a "human" of a certain in-utero age.

    To the second anon, unfortunately, the hypocrisy goes both ways as there are politicians, some even Catholic, who vocally condemn capital punishment and yet are vocally for abortion rights (with the added disclaimer of being "personally against abortion"). One feels as if they must choose between the worser of two evils. As far as I understand, capital punishment is not intrinsically wrong, although in American society, we certainly have the means to avoid it. (CCC 2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.)

    By Blogger Magnificat wannabe, at 2:23 PM  

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