The 38th Maryland March for Life was held last week, and one of the largest crowds to rally in Annapolis gathered in opposition to physician-assisted suicide and abortion. These two issues are of primary concern to Catholics, and more than 100 Catholics from Carroll County joined the march to have their voices heard.
Often, the media either ignores the pro-life movement or confuses how to represent Catholic faith. Other issues, especially related to immigration, seem to get more attention than the pro-life movement, and these problems are compounded when Pope Francis's opposition to "wall building" are sensationalized.
A media that understood the Catholic faith would realize that assisted suicide and abortion are fundamental positions adopted by the Church that are incontrovertible, whereas immigration is left for open debate.
In 2004, Pope Benedict XVI — then Cardinal Joseph Ratziner — issued the document "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles" as an official statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's office that stands against heresy. It is from this office that the official clarification on Church teaching is disseminated.
Benedict begins in straightforward terms: "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion."
It might seem odd to focus on "worthiness to receive Holy Communion," but it allows us to determine when a belief fundamentally contradicts the Catholic faith.
He continues, "While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
The heart of Catholic political belief is rooted in the pro-life movement, and to join in opposition to abortion and euthanasia is a moral obligation of all Catholics.
Abortion fundamentally challenges the natural bond between mother and child, undermines the relationship between sex and reproduction, and denies the right of life to the innocent. In a similar manner, euthanasia demeans and devalues the lives of the elderly, the vulnerable, and those with special needs.
Assisted suicide is a form of euthanasia, as it deems a quality of life no longer worth living, thus devaluing the lives of individuals and placing pressure on them to terminate their lives. That is why The Arc of Carroll County and Special Olympics actively oppose such legislation. As it turns out, a Maryland senator withdrew a measure on March 3 to allow terminally ill residents to legally end their lives with drugs prescribed by a doctor.
When it comes to Catholic politics, there is room for debate over civil issues, including immigration, welfare and education. However, there can be no room for disagreement regarding abortion and euthanasia.
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Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.