Daily Archives: August 16, 2007

What to the Vatican, Chile, El Salvador, and Malta have in common?

They’re the only countries where abortion is always illegal, with no exceptions.

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Pontifical Academy for Life on Incrementalism

If you go through the staff and membership of the Pontifical Academy for Life, you will see many names from the USA. Many are people I’ve never heard of. One is John Haas of National Catholic Bioethics Center. One is Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Paul VI Institute (Creighton Method and NaPro Technology). Down at the bottom, under “Correspondents,” you will see the name of Judie Brown, the executive director of American Life League, who is currently serving a second term in the PAL.

Now, one might respond that the she was on the PAL before the current situation (here’s her EWTN Q&A on the controversial “open letter”), but there are two problems with such a judgement. First, this is not the first time Judie has taken the USCCB or individual bishops to task. Secondly, this particular case is not nearly as direct as those past cases were. The worst they accuse the USCCB or Priests for Life of is being “misled” or “misinformed.”

Anyway, if you look on the PAL membership, you won’t see anyone from NRLC.

Continuing on the series about _Evangelium Vitae_, then (I tried to include this quote in the last post, but the formatting got messed up), let’s hear from the PAL’s document on the fifth anniversary of the encyclical (my emphasis bold):

“We accept the urgency and difficulty of this task, knowing well that Christians are called to be active in the real world of today: uncertain and changing, tempted to sacrifice transcendence to immanence and the supreme values to prosperity, they are also prompted to take refuge in pragmatic and utilitarian conventionalism, rather than to ally themselves with truth and reason. However, our hope is based not only on help from the Lord of life but also on the conviction that the sacred value of human life can be recognized in the natural law alone, written in the human heart, disregard for which is at the root “of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience’ (Evangelium vitae, n. 70).”

John Paul II on "incrementalism"

The usual defense of incrementalism is based upon a passage from John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical _Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)_. In it, he states that a politician, who is known to have “absolute personal opposition to procured abortion” may in good conscience vote for measures which will restrict or limit abortions when there is no other alternative (paragraph 73.3). That does not say that Catholic politicians *should* pursue an overall “incrementalist” agenda, but merely that they can vote for incrementalist laws while actively working for a more immediate end to legalized abortion and contraception. It certainly does not mean that a Catholic can actively support an agenda or organization which leaves exceptions in its ultimate goals (e.g., “outlaw abortions except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother” or “I favor outlawing abortion, but not contraception”).

Earlier in the document, he writes that, in response to the popular acceptance of legalized abortion,

“we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception” (paragraph 58.2; my emphasis bold).

He later says,

“In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2)” (82.3; my emphasis).

In February, 2000,Pope John Paul II gave an address to commemorate the fifth
anniversary of _Evangelium Vitae_, in which he says (my emphasis bold),

“there is no reason for that type of defeatist mentality which claims that laws opposed to the right to life – those which legalize abortion, euthanasia, sterilization and methods of family planning opposed to life and the dignity of marriage – are inevitable and now almost a social necessity. On the contrary, they are a seed of corruption for society and its foundations. The civil and moral conscience cannot accept this false inevitability, any more than the idea that war or interethnic extermination is inevitable” (Address at the
Commemoration of the Fifth Anniversary of the Encyclical “Evangelium
vitae”, 14 February, n. 4; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 23
February 2000, p. 4
).