Sunday, February 28, 2016
MORAL TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH CAN NEVER BE DOGMATICALLY DEFINED IN A RIGID WAY IN EVERY SITUATION, BE IT LIFE OR DEATH! AND EVEN THE POPE'S OFF-THE-CUFF REMARKS ON ARTIFICIAL BIRTH CONTROL ARE NOT FORIEGN TO CATHOLIC MORAL THEOLOGY PRE OR POST VATICAN II!
But is there ever a decision of conscience one can make to kill someone who is innocent? Yes, in a just war situation,which by the way is taught by the Church not as a doctrine but as a theological proposition or theory. And with an unjust aggressor one has the right to kill in self defense if that is the only recourse to prevent injury or death to the one being attacked. A person may kill himself by jumping on a small bomb to save the lives of others.
When it comes to artificial birth control and abortion, these would seem to be on the surface as binding a the 5th Commandment, thou shalt not kill. But in fact, many conservative Catholics give a more dogmatic spin on these teachings than they do on the 5th Commandment. They allow for no wiggle room or decisions of conscience based upon sound moral principals or theology.
I have been and continue to be critical of Pope Francis reducing his papacy to soundbites and off-the-cuff remarks in interviews. It is unfortunate and we can ask His Holiness in the most respectful ways to stop doing it and to be clearer or unambiguous in his teachings and to be consistent as well. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth in many ways. I suspect there are those among the Cardinals and the College of Bishops who are sounding the alarm bell to His Holiness directly. It is their specific responsibility to do so. Others who have access to the pope can do so as well, directly or by mail. St. Catherine of Siena comes to mind in this regard.
However, despite the non magisterial occasion for these comments aboard a flight back to Italy after a long, exhausting pilgrimage for the pope, what the pope said is not foreign to Catholic moral theology.
Theology tries to explain doctrine, but it isn't doctrine and in pastoral settings a priest must let people to know what their options are in terms of a well formed conscience and how to reach a decision of conscience in very difficult circumstances. The Church is clear about artificial birth control. But there are some women for whom a pregnancy would be a death sentence. She needs to consult with her doctor as well as with the Church and her family. If she chooses sterilization or artificial birth control that does not cause a spontaneous abortion, this is a decision of her conscience and she and she alone will be held responsible by God the just Judge at her particular judgement. The Church should not interfere in that decision of conscience made for clear moral reasons but also because of legal liability if the person gets pregnant and dies and she as she dies or her family says the Church told her not to use artificial birth control or be sterilized despite knowing that if she got pregnant she would die. The family could sue in court and the priest could be charged in some places with "giving a gun to a person to shoot themselves."
The same with abortion. If a mother is diagnosed with a quick moving cancer during pregnancy. She can choose chemotherapy during the pregnancy even though it will indirectly cause a spontaneous abortion. The intent is not to end the pregnancy but cure the cancer.
She could choose, though, to forgo the chemotherapy and die in order to save the baby. That is her decision of conscience, as a Catholic she must make it in consultation with the Church, her doctors and family. She is ultimately the responsible person before God.
This is what the Filipino bishops said and it is sound theology, but not doctrine, but Catholic theology it is:
"Pope Francis is reported to have given a press conference while en route to Rome after his historical trip to Cuba and to Mexico. He was apprised of the Zika virus and the possibility that pregnant women afflicted by the disease would seek abortion.
"The Holy Father was very clear and uncompromising about the evil of abortion. And we, your bishops, reiterate Church teaching: No matter that the child in the womb may be afflicted with some infirmity or deformity, it can never be moral to bring a deliberate end to human life. It is never for us to judge who should live or die!
"He then proffered the view that the evil of contraception was not of the same magnitude as the evil of abortion. Clearly, this was sound moral reasoning. The evil of stealing a few pesos cannot be compared with the evil of plunder.
"The Pope was in no way changing Church teaching on the unacceptability of artificial means of contraception. He however usefully called attention to two important moral precepts.
"First, there may be circumstances that invite a re-evaluation of the judgment on artificial means of contraception. Second, the prodding of conscience should always be heeded, as long as every effort is made to form conscience properly.
"These positions are not in any way new. They have always formed part of Catholic moral theology and belong to the treasury of the Church’s heritage in health-care ethics.
"Once more, the Pope has shown his sensitivity to complex human situations, allowed the world see the merciful face of the Church – the sacrament of a Merciful Lord – as he has remained the faithful steward of the message of the Gospel."