The Real Gospel of Life

The moral teachings of the Church are of a piece with her teachings on faith. Christ’s supernatural revelation to the Church, along with the natural law also entrusted to her, constitute a “seamless garment”1 of truth about God, man, and the destiny of man in God. To abstract one or another of the constituent truths out of this totality, and reduce the rest to a status of lesser importance, is very dangerous. Doubtless, there is a hierarchy of truth, with some doctrines being higher in rank than others, the Trinity and the Incarnation taking the uppermost places. But we are not entitled to invent our own hierarchy of truths based on subjective criteria.

Oftentimes, this is exactly what Catholic pro-lifers do. They speak of the “Gospel of Life,” in naturalistic terms, putting man’s supernatural end in a secondary position to the abortion issue. This approach is backward, and its prevalence is one reason why we’re losing the culture wars.

Of all the issues affecting society, the ubiquitous crime of abortion has an importance that cannot be diminished. But it is positively disastrous when a Catholic allows his Catholicism to take a back seat to the abortion issue, and makes the “Gospel of Life” override the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is none other than the Catholic deposit of faith.

Unhesitatingly and unambiguously, I adhere to the Church’s moral magisterium on both “beginning of life” and “end of life” issues, which are the contents of the “Gospel of Life” as I understand that term. I also applaud and encourage effective political, social, and pastoral activism dedicated to this noble cause, which actually pertains to the natural law, and not to supernatural revelation.

Revelation gives a much loftier perspective from which to view the question. For instance, the worst evil of abortion is that it robs little ones in original sin of their one remedy for that sad condition that affects us all. As a result, it robs them of the Beatific Vision. I am well aware that, even if unborn babies could go to heaven, their murder would remain a crime, but I reiterate: abortion’s worst evil is depriving babies of Baptism, and, consequently, of salvation.

This is not popular among pro-life Catholics, but the reason for its unpopularity is not that the hard saying is wrong, but, rather, that it goes against the popular Pelagianism that most who call themselves Catholic have imbibed.

Yes, the theologians on the International Theological Commission (ITC) presented the world with a study that postulated the possibility of heavenly beatitude for unbaptized babies. A study of that paper reveals that its conclusion flies in the face of the actual theological data it presents. And besides, this masterful example of modernist “evolution of dogma” has no magisterial authority whatsoever. (For more on the ITC document, I suggest a look at There is a Hell, and It Makes Perfect Sense; scroll down to the subheading “The Essence of Hell: On Loss and Torment.”)

Aside from the Pelagian hérésie du jour, another error many Catholic pro-lifers espouse is indifferentism, which dictates that it doesn’t matter what religion one professes “as long as you’re a good person, you don’t hurt anybody, you try to help your neighbor, etc.” In the context of the pro-life movement, we may formulate it this way: as long as someone is pro-life, and against the culture of death, that person is not in need of conversion. While we might not find many pro-life Catholics who would state their case in those terms, few would disagree with the proposition.

So, at pro-life events, many Catholics consider the Rabbis for Life, Anglicans for Life, Lutherans for Life, or any one else “for Life” to be their allies in the single most important battle of our day against evil. They’re not. The single most important battle against evil is the Catholic battle. It is the war between the Woman and the serpent, whose head she will crush. It is the battle to assert the Rights of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, and of His Immaculate Queen Mother. It is the battle to save from everlasting hell the souls redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus, uniting them to the Trinity by faith, baptism, and submission to the authority of the Church. And in that battle, these folks are on the other side.

I am not saying that we should not, for reasons of practical prudence, ally ourselves with non-Catholics with whom we have common cause in politics and the culture wars. But we must realize that those things which constitute a common cause with non-Catholics are, ipso facto, not the most important things.

Why?

The most important things are the truths of the Catholic Faith, which is an integral whole. Denying one doctrine undermines the principle of the Church’s authority to teach truth, and therefore denies the unity of truth. To take one example: the Holy Eucharist is more important than the abortion issue. The most sacred thing a Catholic does is to become concorporial with his God in Holy Communion. And this is something in which our non-Catholic friends have no common cause — not until they convert.

The doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, that “unbelief is the greatest of sins,” might give us some perspective.2 “Unbelief,” for the Angelic Doctor, is not limited to atheism; it includes rejection of the Trinity, and even Christian heresy. The only non-Catholics that would be included as “believers” by Saint Thomas would be certain schismatics, who lack charity but still have faith.

The non-Catholic is not part of Christ’s Mystical Body, which is coterminous with the Catholic Church, whose dogmas, morals, and priorities are those of her Mystical Head, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. We learn them from Scripture and Tradition as authoritatively proclaimed by an infallible magisterium. By the very fact that a non-Catholic is a non-Catholic, he is not possessed of this sacred deposit of faith. He therefore lacks the proper supernatural outlook on reality. It is good when he agrees with us, but it is not enough; agreeing with God on one or two points is not sufficient. In charity, we must labor to help our non-Catholic friend agree with God on all points. To avoid challenging him with the Catholic faith, and instead promise him salvation because of his pro-life stance, is not only a sin against faith (indifferentism), but also a sin against charity.

In short, if we want a pro-life America, our only hope is to make it a Catholic America. “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

It is a beautiful thing when a new life comes into this world. It is an infinitely more beautiful thing when that child is regenerated in the waters of Baptism. The words of the traditional baptismal rite give us a terse summary of the real Gospel of Life:

P: What are you asking of God’s church?

All: Faith.

P: What does faith hold out to you?

All: Everlasting life.

P: If, then, you wish to inherit everlasting life, keep the commandments [Matt. 19:17], “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets. Now faith demands that you worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the Persons one with the other, nor making a distinction in their nature. For the Father is a distinct Person, so also the Son, so also the Holy Spirit; yet all Three possess the one nature, the one Godhead.

  1. This is not to be confused with Cardinal Bernardine’s liberal doctrine of the seamless garment, authored in part by Father Bryan Hehir, and properly criticized by many pro-lifers, like Joe Sobran.
  2. Though he also says that despair and hatred of God could be worse, depending on the formality under which they are considered. Note that these are all sins against the theological virtues.
  • defiant12314

    Surely Brother you’re not saying that X goes to hell just because he/she was butchered in the womb? For one thing they are incapable of actual sin, and whilst they undoubtedly lack Original Justice and therefore cannot enter the beatific vision Limbo seems a far more logical solution than the one I think you’re discribing.

    Next thing I know you’ll be telling Catholic mothers that the child they miscarried is roasting simply she had the termerity to be hit by a joyrider and the baby died before the doctors could perform a ceaserian.

    By the way, what happened to that annoying little thing called the Mercy of God? Now I expect that being a student of Br. Francis that you’re theological education exceeds mine but are you seriously telling me that the salvific effects of the Most Holy Sacrifice are limited to the Sacraments? Surely Jesus can just wish something (so long as it is logically possible) and it happens.

  • Raymond L Sifdol

    Brother Andre Marie,

    There seems to be a “club” against the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Why is this? I have read many of Cardinal Bernardin’s writings and I can’t find anything to suggest that he was anything but a devout person. Why is it that he is maligned so much?

  • Raymond: Among other reasons, he expressed the opinion that we ought to edit the Gospel of Saint John to remove the parts considered offensive to non-Christians. But some would consider this just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Jack: I’m glad you bring up these objections, if only because many people will think them and not make a comment as you did. Thank you.

    What I am saying is that unbaptized babies to not partake of the Beatific Vision. I believe that the Church has been pretty clear on this in the past. If you read the piece I linked to — http://catholicism.org/there-is-a-hell-and-it-makes-perfect-sense.html — you will see that there is a section discussing Limbo. In that piece, I distinguished the “pain of loss” from the “pain of sense,” noting that this distinction is what gave rise to the concept of Limbo. I also said that this state of Limbo — lacking the Beatific Vision but also lacking the “pain of sense” — may admit of a perfect natural happiness. This is how I conceive Limbo, and so did Brother Francis and Father Feeney.

    I would never tell a Catholic mother that her deceased infant is “roasting.” That is a cruel caricature. In fact, I have more than once been in a position to console parents who have suffered miscarriages — even repentant, post-abortive women — and have used the doctrine of Limbo to console them without denying the necessity of Baptism.

    The doctrine of Limbo, believed by many holy and intelligent minds in the Church’s history, in no way contradicts the mercy of God.

    I would encourage you to read these two pieces:

    http://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-141.html

    http://catholicism.org/the-limbo-of-the-infants.html

  • Here is another article on our site concerning Limbo. It is a section of a much larger article, but it can be taken as a “stand alone” piece:

    http://catholicism.org/doctrinalsummary.html#c%29%20The%20Limbo%20of%20the%20Children

  • Dan

    Raymond,

    Cardinal Bernadin requested, on his deathbed, that he have the “Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus” sing at his funeral. Let us ponder that for a moment. Let us look beyond the sentimental thinking that suggests he was only “being nice.” Let us look deeper.

    Let us look at what has become known as the “Chicago Boy’s Club”, a secretive organization of sodomite priests who go in for buggering adolescent boys. This story is so hideous that it defies description, but if you want the gory details you can certainly look it up. Cardinal Bernardin was well-acquainted with this little group. In fact he covered it up and protected it.

    Cardinal Bernardin encouraged the foulest desecrations of Mass in his diocese that were said for the “benefit” of his homosexual friends. He was a crazy liberal who concocted the ludicrous “seamless garment” theory the only effect of which was to minimize the fight against abortion. He was a clever, conniving disgrace to his cloth.

    Add up these three points and one can come to no other conclusion than that Bernardin went to his grave as an unrepentant homosexual. In other words, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

    It is not pleasant for me to go over these dreadful facts but the truth is the truth is the truth. Bernardin is unworthy of your high opinion of him.

  • Donald E Flood

    Jack,

    No one in the history of the Catholic Church has ever taught that infants who die without Baptism are “roasting.” Saint Augustine taught that such infants would suffer the “mildest of punishments,” such that they would want “to continue to exist.” Such teaching was universally held and taught for over 800 years from the time it was infallibly declared at the Council of Carthage by Saint Pope Zosimus until the scholastics of the Middle Ages came to the realization that the “mildest of punishments” did not necessarily mean “punishment by fire.”

    Limbo is simply the highest abode of Hell, as envisioned by Dante. As for it being a place of “perfect natural happiness,” such a view is recent in the history of Catholicism, having only emerged, like “implicit faith,” after the Council of Trent. Even though it was taught by Father Feeney, it was not something that was universally taught by those theologians who still accept Limbo (a minority, to be sure), at least until recently. The Catechism of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Pegues, O.P. 1922 teaches that Limbo is not a perfect natural paradise.

    As for providing hope to mothers who have lost children in the womb, I believe that angels can baptize, and so if you believe that ensoulment is a miracle, then angels, if they truly exist, can baptize the unborn. It’s something, however, that would need to be prayed for; a historical example is that of Saint Jehanne la Pucelle (aka, “Joan of Arc”) who, along with others, prayed for several days over the lifeless body of an infant, who was returned to life to be baptized.

    Consider what Saint Thomas taught:

    “As was observed above in the preceding article, the local motion of an angel can be continuous, and non-continuous. If it be continuous, the angel cannot pass from one extreme to another without passing through the mid-space; because, as is said by the Philosopher (Phys. v, text 22; vi, text 77), ‘The middle is that into which a thing which is continually moved comes, before arriving at the last into which it is moved’; because the order of first and last in continuous movement, is according to the order of the first and last in magnitude, as he says (Phys. iv, text 99). But if an angel’s movement be not continuous, it is possible for him to pass from one extreme to another without going through the middle…” (Summa Theologica, Ia, q.53, a.2)

    “This objection is based on continuous time. But the same time of an angel’s movement can be non-continuous. So an angel can be in one place in one instant, and in another place in the next instant, without any time intervening. If the time of the angel’s movement be continuous, he is changed through infinite places throughout the whole time which precedes the last ‘now’; as was already shown (a. 2). Nevertheless he is partly in one of the continuous places, and partly in another, not because his substance is susceptible of parts, but because his power is applied to a part of the first place and to a part of the second, as was said above (a. 2).” (Summa Theologica, Ia, q.53, a.3, ad 3)

    Non-local space, quantum teleportation & entanglement, faster-than-light travel — such things angels are capable of, which means that they are capable of baptizing the unborn:

    “But it must be observed that as God did not bind His power to the sacraments, so as to be unable to bestow the sacramental effect without conferring the sacrament; so neither did He bind His power to the ministers of the Church so as to be unable to give angels power to administer the sacraments. And since good angels are messengers of truth; if any sacramental rite were performed by good angels, it should be considered valid, because it ought to be evident that this is being done by the will of God: for instance, certain churches are said to have been consecrated by the ministry of the angels. But if demons, who are ‘lying spirits,’ were to perform a sacramental rite, it should be pronounced as invalid.” (Summa Theologica, IIIa, q.64, a.7)

  • John

    I sure do appreciate this article.

    Was not Luther the biggest pro-abortionist when he said, “sin boldly, but believe more boldly still?”

  • Raymond L Sifdol

    In other words, Bernardin is unworthy of my “high opinion” because you say so based on the information you have that claims the late Cardinal was apparently the Gayest of the Gay. Sarcasm aside, I find this “amusing” but only to the extent that whoever promotes any views that so called conservative Catholics don’t like is automatically liberal (whatever that means these days), and he or she is automatically branded as either pro Gay and Lesbian if not actually Gay or Lesbian. So here is a priest (Bernardin) who became a Cardinal, which begs the question that whoever made him a Cardinal made a mistake. If (according to what you say) Bernardin is so very evil, than why was he made a Cardinal in the first place? I would appreciate some sort of a reply.