This can be a very difficult question to answer because it asks about a “supporter” of abortion uniting himself or herself to the Lord in Holy Communion. It can be confusing as to what kind of “support” is meant. At the same time, it is a good question for it should call each and every one of us to examine our own conscience regarding this absolutely critical issue, because one day, God will hold us accountable for our actions. Therefore, let us be clear as to what the Church, in the name of God, teaches about what our stance should be regarding abortion.
In 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy approved the following guidelines on the reception of Communion: “In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. 'A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible' (Canon 916).”
The Catechism teaches that “[f]ormal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication…by the very commission of the offense and subject to the conditions provided by canon law” (CCC# 2272). In other words, according to canon law, the person must have had an abortion or directly participated in one in some way (like helping someone to get one) to be prevented from receiving Holy Communion. This excommunication is something that the person would bring on themselves, as a result of their action.
We know clearly that abortion is the deliberate and intentional killing of an innocent, unborn child. The fact that the child is in the fetal stage of life does not in any way lessen or take away his right to life as a human person made in the image and likeness of God. It has always been the teaching of the Catholic Church that “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (CCC# 2258)
There are those who might say, “I support a woman’s right to choose abortion, but I would never have one myself.” The reality that they do not see is that to “support” abortion usually means that one aids directly or indirectly in making abortion more possible. If the person is being verbal in their support of abortion, they run the risk of being guilty of the sin of scandal (an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil). “Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense” (CCC# 2284). Jesus Himself warned, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Matthew 18: 6-7)
The Catholic Bishops of the U.S., in their 1999 document, Faithful Citizenship wrote: “Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. The conviction that human life is sacred and that each person has inherent dignity that must be respected in society lies at the heart of Catholic social teaching. Calls to advance human rights are illusions if the right to life itself is subject to attack. We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death; that people are more important than things; and that the measure of every institution is whether or not it enhances the life and dignity of the human person.” Hence, as individuals we must examine our conscience as regard to this issue and where we stand.
Some will undoubtedly claim ignorance later by saying, “I didn’t know.” This is why we must teach, because even our ignorance will be accountable before God, especially when we had the means to know but chose not to. We must always remember, of course, that God is infinitely merciful to those who seek His forgiveness in a true and sincere way, and He is always ready to welcome us back with open arms to feast at His table. Yes, abortion is a forgivable sin, but we must first ask for that forgiveness. We should pray daily for the blindness that some have in their hearts and minds regarding the killing of innocent, unborn children. Even from the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
© Copyright 2001 Grace D. MacKinnon
Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Readers are welcome to submit questions about the Catholic faith to: Grace MacKinnon, 1234 Russell Drive #103, Brownsville, Texas 78520. Questions also may be sent by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may visit Grace online at www.DearGrace.com.