Contradictory statements and faulty reasoning give readers a firsthand look at how one Catholic politician justifies his support for abortion – without feeling at odds with the Church’s teaching.
I have just finished reading a book entitled Abortion, Conscience and Democracy.
The author is Mark MacGuigan, who was a Member of Parliament from 1968 to 1980. The book shows an extraordinary breadth of reading and research, far beyond anything I have achieved or ever shall. Unfortunately it is also a tissue of contradictions and false conclusions.
The author’s first line is very impressive and encouraging for a pro-life Catholic reader: “I am a practicing Catholic. Unlike some fellow Catholics, I accept the Vatican teaching that directly induced abortion is always morally wrong and people should be guided by this view in their daily lives. To this extent, my position is entirely orthodox.”
MacGuigan devotes much of the remainder of the book to proving that his statement is entirely false. He does not accept the Church’s teaching that induced abortion is always morally wrong.
Conscience & Viability
In chapter 7, page 93, MacGuigan takes a position on what I can only term “Semantic gymnastics.” In order to comment on it I’m afraid it is necessary to quote at length: “Whether abortion is an expression of negative or positive conscience is a serious question with enormous consequences. If looked at from the point of view of the aborted fetus, it is an aggressive act of the strongest sort, causing its destruction. Considered from the side of the pregnant woman, it is simply not requiring her to carry her pregnancy to full term, in circumstances where, in her opinion, it would be inappropriate.” In passing I would like to remark that “inappropriate” is a very weak adjective, when measured against such expressions as, “enormous consequences,” “an aggressive act of the strongest sort,” “causing life destruction.” The position stated here is certainly at variance with what the author avers on page 88 of the same chapter. “The values that underlie our political and philosophic traditions demand that every individual be free to hold and to manifest whatever beliefs and opinions his or her conscience dictates, provided, inter alia, that such manifestations do mot injure his or her neighbours” And where does the aborted baby come in? Apparently his or her right to life can be swept away with impunity because the mother did not consider it “appropriate” to let her child live.
In my opinion, the weakest argument which the author presents in favour of abortion is that based on the almost “divine” status he attributes to conscience. Again a rather lengthy quotation is necessary. “…what we have first to take into account is the fact that, until viability, the mother and the fetus have to share the mother’s body (using it in different ways). Most important is the fact that the only conscience is that of the mother. Since the freedom of conscience is in question, the only viewpoint until viability can be that of this conscience; so that the issue is whether this conscience can be forced to act in a way contrary to its beliefs, viz., to continue a pregnancy which, for perceived good reasons of conscience, has become unwanted. From this point of view abortion is a matter of negative freedom, which is an absolute freedom and not subject to intrinsic legislative limitation.” I don’t think I have ever heard a weaker argument for the killing of a child. But the quote must continue:- “However, after viability, when the fetus with its conscience can survive on its own apart from the mother’s body, the question becomes one of positive conscience, and the justification for abortion would have to be on a different and more limited basis. Where, as in most Western societies today, the majority of people or a very large minority believe that the law must permit abortion, even after viability for therapeutic purposes (i.e. to save the mother’s life or health) in order that their rights of conscience be fulfilled, I am led to conclude that society must accept that claim but only in so far as the abortion is therapeutic.”
The only conclusion I can deduce from these statements is that, in the author’s opinion, subjective conscience is supreme. If a woman thinks she has a right to have her baby aborted, it becomes moral by that very fact. If this is true, why confine it to the killing of an unborn baby? If a woman believes she has a right to kill her week old or year old baby – by this logic – she has a right to do so. This theory opens the door to total anarchy in society. We can apply it to every crime in the book – robbery, rape, murder, etc.
The second fallacy stated in the above quotation is that morals are decided by vote. If the majority – or even a large minority – believe that abortion – or anything else – is moral in particular circumstances, then the state has no right to take action. Under these circumstances there would be no need for ministers of justice, attorneys general or judges. There would be no such thing as crime, for each one would be the judge and jury of his or her actions. I know this sounds ridiculous – and it is – but it is theological conclusion to be drawn from the principles enunciated by MacGuigan. Some scriptural scholars believe that the correct translation of the Devil’s words to Eve in the Garden of Eden, were, “You will be as gods, deciding what is right and wrong.” That is what this complete freedom of conscience implies.
MacGuigan asserts in his introduction that he considers induced abortion to be “always morally wrong.” Reading the book I cannot help feeling that the writer seems to be oblivious of the fact a defenceless baby is the bottom line in all discussions on abortion. He floats around in the academic spheres of law and politics, apparently unaware that it is thinking like his that has led to the murders of one hundred thousand Canadian babies per year – one million in ten years. “Oh judgment thou has fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason.”
I would ask the reader to try to reconcile these two statements.
A. “I am a practicing Catholic – I accept the teaching of the Vatican that induced abortion is always morally wrong.” (Introduction)
B. Where a majority of people believe that the law must permit abortion even after viability – I am led to conclude that society must accept that claim but only if the abortion is therapeutic.”
For me these two statements are completely contradictory. If induced abortion is always “morally wrong” it can never be “morally right.”
If I were asked to sum up my assessment of the book in a few lines I would say this. MacGuigan tries to worship at two shrines, the Shrine of God and the Shrine of Caesar. Before the Shrine of God he makes a polite bow. Before the Shrine of Caesar he falls on both knees and offers to his political god the holocaust of 100,000 Canadian babies per year. What he does not seem to realize is that these babies belong to God and not to Caesar.