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


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