“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb ... ’” (Luke 1:39-42).
In the sacred verses of the Gospel according to Luke, a poignant moment unfolds, resonating with the importance the Catholic Church holds for the sanctity of life. The passage, narrating the encounter between the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, paints a vivid picture of the divine recognition bestowed upon the unborn. As Mary, bearing the Son of God in her womb, greets Elizabeth, the unborn child within Elizabeth – John the Baptist – leaps in response.
Mary would have been pregnant with Jesus for a mere few days to at most three months. Remarkably, within the parameters of contemporary gestational benchmarks, Jesus in her womb aligns with the period deemed acceptable for abortion in our modern era. Yet, this seemingly ordinary pregnancy bears extraordinary significance, for Jesus is not merely a clump of cells; the biblical account presupposes Him as possessing both divine and human natures. Even within the womb, John the Baptist responds to the divine presence of Jesus and does so with a leap, an eloquent testament to his mission intertwined with that of Jesus.
This momentous encounter underscores a basic truth: both Jesus and John, though unborn, possess distinct and intact identities, ordained by a higher purpose. Their existence, even before birth, challenges our modern era’s understanding of life, identity, and the sanctity of every human life.
This biblical account encapsulates the essence of the Catholic Church’s unwavering belief in the sanctity of every human life, starting from the moment of conception. In fact, the church’s steadfast conviction against abortion echoes across the annals of history, resonating in her texts from the earliest days of the first century to the present moment. One of the earliest accounts can be found within a first-century Greek text called Didache (translated as “Teachings”). It quite simply states, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”
Abortion has been around since the time of Christ and the earliest Christians were writing morality texts instructing people to stop having abortions. This enduring belief, found within the corpus of the Church’s writings, unflinchingly acknowledges abortion as a grave and serious sin, a moral stance that has stood the test of time and remains unwavering in its clarity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it best, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” (CCC 2270)
No matter the reason or excuse that causes the desire for an abortion, the unwavering truth is that it is an egregious procedure. So much so that Canon Law states that one will be excommunicated if they formally cooperated in the abortion process. Abortion is a serious sin, and if one finds they have helped procure an abortion or had one performed in the past, it is highly encouraged to confess those sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That individual must start their healing process with an act of conscious repentance and pray, not only for their soul but for the soul of the child whose life they have snuffed out. God’s mercy knows no bounds and Confession is the pathway to His inexhaustible mercy.
“The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right to life,” (Donum Vitae Sec I.1) This right to life is the most basic and fundamental right we possess.We pray for a changed society where our good conscience will not allow us to kill the weak and defenseless. Until then, we as Catholics must fight for the rights of the ones who cannot fight for themselves. We must be advocates for the unborn and live as an unwavering pro-life example for the rest of our society.
Jeremy Lezniak — SFA Theologians Guild Member