People like Jon O'Brien of "Catholics for Choice" spread confusion about conscience in order to promote their own deadly agenda. Not only do our consciences need to be formed, they can become deformed.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - One of the privileges I have as Editor in Chief of Catholic Online is working with Catholic men and women who love the Lord and His Church and want to defend her in the public square. They realize that we are in a new missionary age and that the Church is under ferocious assault because she is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15) Recently, one of our writers, Billy Atwell, said "yes" to another invitation to serve. He became the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Venice in Florida and no longer writes for us so that he can offer his gifts to the Diocese.
I thought about Billy during the Easter Vigil when 30 men and women entered into full communion with the Church in my parish. This was multiplied by hundreds of thousands around the globe. Many who were received in my parish were young - and they all are eager to defend the Catholic faith, just like Billy. I prayed for Billy and his family at the Vigil as I knelt beside our priest at the moment of consecration. The Diocese of Venice received a gift, a seed of the New Springtime. Then, Monday morning I came across the following Press Release from the Diocese of Venice in Florida, from Billy Atwell, Director of Communications:
Statement Regarding "Catholics for Choice"
Despite that we are heading into the holiest week in the Church's calendar, it is important to address an issue of immediate concern. In our diocese, it is sad to say, there is an attempt to distort Catholic teaching to advance a particular agenda that is offensive to Catholics and likeminded people of good will. So-called "Catholics for Choice" seeks to mislead the public by displaying advertisements about an upcoming workshop.
The workshop, which is scheduled to be held in Collier County, purports to do the impossible to bridge the gap between the Catholic teaching that all human life is sacred and worthy of protection, and the notion that abortion, the deliberate killing of unwanted human life, "can be a moral choice," as the group states. The Catholic Church is unquestionably clear in Her teaching that, "direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (Evangelium Vitae, § 62)."
While praying for the unborn children who are killed through abortion, the Church also prays for and reaches out to women who have had abortions. It is hoped that families impacted by the scourge of abortion may receive the healing they need. For this reason the Diocese of Venice supports an after birth home for mothers and their children, and a post-abortion healing outreach and helpline. It is our prayer that the members of this organization reconcile their position with that of the Catholic Church, rather than promote a belief contrary to the Faith they claim to profess. This statement is made for the sake of clarity and honesty in understanding the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Well done, Billy! The statement is clear, compassionate, strong and loving. You are right where you belong.
Since I can editorialize a bit, I will. This group called "Catholics for Choice" is neither Catholic nor supportive of authentic human choice. There are some choices which are always and everywhere wrong such as the taking of innocent human life. I am very familiar with this group. I remember when their "foundress", Francis Kissling retired at the beginning of 2008. Her retirement would have been welcome news but for the fact that she replaced herself with an equally notorious dissident named Jon O'Brien.
O'Brien came to the organization from the International Planned Parenthood Federation's European Bureau in London. Archbishop Charles Chaput once rightly said of this nefarious organization that it is "a tool to use against the Catholic Church, nothing more". Kissling retired after 25 years of opposing the Catholic Church leading an organization that has the audacity to actually use the name "Catholic" in its title. This anti-Catholic, anti-choice, anti-freedom, and anti-life group has been openly and repeatedly renounced by the Catholic Church.
O'Brien called Kissling a "a prophetic voice," in an article he wrote in 2007 entitled "How Catholics for a Free Choice Saved Civilization." In 2008, in an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled "Pelosi views on abortion in synch with most Catholics" he wrote, "The U.S. bishops are erroneous in not reflecting the fullness of Catholic teaching on abortion nor what the majority of Catholics nationwide believe." He compounded his lack of integrity with this claim, "It is telling that the conference of bishops chooses to omit mention that no pope has proclaimed the prohibition of abortion an "infallible" teaching." He lied.
The section in Evangelium Vitae which Billy Atwell cited in the Diocesan Press Release is only one of the multiple instances. Here is a larger section: "Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
"The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action". (Evangelium Vitae, Gospel of Life, Par. 57)
Jon O'Brien rejects the teaching of the Catholic Church. He makes his living confusing the public. His notion of "conscience" is wrong and he knows it. He wants to not only confuse the public but lead Catholics astray. He also wrote in that 2008 article "Catholic theology tells individuals to follow their personal conscience in moral matters - even if it is in conflict with church teaching." In an article published in "Religion Dispatches" on April 14, 2011 entitled "Where's the Catholic 'Conscience' in Opposition to Planned Parenthood?" he wrote "The Catholic tradition also promotes the primacy of conscience, and thus that every person has the right to make choices according to that conscience." What O'Brien deliberately leaves out is that our conscience is to be formed in accordance with the truth.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats Conscience thoroughly in Article 6 entitled "Moral Conscience" (See, Sections 1776 - 1802). This need to inform our conscience is what St. Paul had in mind when he instructed the Christians in Rome on the implications of living their faith in a culture which was being corrupted by many of the problems we currently face in the West "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect". (Romans 12: 1-2)
The problem is that some Catholics do not even know that we must educate our consciences in order to ensure that they conform to the truth which is revealed in the Natural Law and expounded upon in Revelation. This is why people like Jon O'Brien spread confusion about conscience in order to promote their own deadly agenda. They feed on poor teaching in the arena of moral theology in some circles and years of lacking catechesis among the faithful. Such poor teaching has led to Catholics speaking as though "conscience" equates with our "feelings" or is an aspect of our own opinion. Not only do our consciences need to be formed, they can become deformed and regularly need to be re-formed.
One of the Catholic warriors in the public square opposing people such as Jon O'Brien- who are not only NOT Catholic but anti-Catholic- is Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League. He released his own Press Release on this upcoming "workshop". In characteristic style, it had none of the nuance. It was entitled "Catholics for Choice Lies"
Catholic League president Bill Donohue addresses a Catholics for Choice workshop scheduled for April 28 at Planned Parenthood of Collier County, Florida:
Catholics for Choice has twice been condemned by the bishops' conference as a fraud-there is nothing Catholic about it. Indeed, it has never raised as much as a dime from practicing Catholics, relying almost exclusively on donations from the Ford Foundation and other establishment groups. Its agenda-to champion child abuse in the womb-is anything but Catholic. But it is fitting that Planned Parenthood, the captain of the abortion industry, is hosting this workshop.
The Diocese of Venice in Florida has it exactly right when it declares that this event is "an attempt to distort Catholic teaching to advance a particular agenda that is offensive to Catholics and like-minded people of good will." The central message of Catholics for Choice-"you can be prochoice and Catholic"-carries as much credibility as saying you can be pro-genocide and Catholic.
To say, as they are advertising, that "abortion can be a moral choice," is to say that the intentional killing of innocent human life can be morally justified. It cannot be, notwithstanding the positions of Catholics for Choice and Planned Parenthood, both of which have a track record that is as deceitful as it is bloody.
We invite our readers to do everything they can to expose the sophistry and horrid misrepresentations of Jon O'Brien and "Catholics for Choice." For our readers in Collier County, you have the opportunity to start a counter movement against this organization. We hope you rise to the moment.
Of course, we encourage prayer for Jon O'Brien to be converted and stop his campaign against the Catholic Church and in opposition to the fundamental human right to life. However, we need to stand courageously in the public square against the misuse of the name of the Catholic Church in such subterfuge. It is time for a New Catholic Action.
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