Justin Cardinal Rigali: 'Abortion Is Not Health Care'
Justin Cardinal Rigali again expresses the clear teaching of the Catholic Church, 'ABORTION IS NOT HEALTH CARE'
As our country addresses the important issue of health care, there is always a danger of falling into emotionalism and of forgetting that a good end does not justify an immoral means.
A basic moral principle
There is a basic principle of morality which states: “The end does not justify the means.” Just what is the meaning of this statement? Each of us can be faced with an array of problems. Our goal may be to solve those problems. That, in itself, is a good thing. However, simply because we wish to bring about a good solution, or end, as it is more technically called, does not mean that we can use any and every way, or means, to bring that about. To give a simple, and somewhat exaggerated example, let us propose the following: “I would like my family to have a nice vacation.” In itself, that is a good and praiseworthy end. However, if I then go out and rob a bank in order to pay for that vacation, I am not using a legitimate means!
The confusion of a praiseworthy end, along with the blurring or justifying of any means to attain that end, is not a new problem. Satan tempted our first parents in the garden by promising them great knowledge if they gave in to his temptation. Knowledge is a good thing. Disobeying God’s commands in order to achieve such knowledge is not.
Saint Paul also addresses this in his Letter to the Romans (3:8), in which he answers those who accuse him of claiming that the end does justify the means.
Saint Augustine reminds us that no morally wrong action may be taken, even if we seem to have a good reason for that action, and even if we have a good intention motivating us (Contra mendacium, chapters 1 and 7).
Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) was always conscious of giving clear direction in the midst of a society which was undergoing great upheaval after the Second World War. He restated the Church’s traditional moral teaching on this question in these words: “God desires us always to have, above all, an upright intention, but that is not enough. He also requires that the action be a good action. It is not permissible to do evil in order to achieve a good end” (Address, 18 April 1952).
Appeal to emotions
We know that we live in an age of instant communication. This instant communication, which is good in itself, can also lead to the “sound bite” and mere appeals to emotion. A quick word or statement can take an issue out of context and present an incomplete, and sometimes false, version of an issue. Similarly, as I have stated in this column before, emotion is a good thing and is a beautiful part of our human nature, but emotionalism, which is a momentary, shallow appeal to what often becomes an unthinking response, is not good.
As our country addresses the important issue of health care, there is always a danger of falling into emotionalism and of forgetting that a good end does not justify an immoral means. Charity, especially towards those who are sick, poor and in the greatest need, has always been a part of Christian teaching. In fact, at Pennsylvania Hospital in our own city of Philadelphia, which was the first hospital founded in the United States, there is a beautiful reminder of the foundation of Christian charity towards the sick. On a large etched glass, there is an engraving of the scene of the “Good Samaritan” from the Gospels. Underneath is this translation of the words of that Gospel: “Take care of him and I will repay thee.”
From the earliest times, the followers of Jesus have engaged in the work of caring for the ill and the weak. This is one of the reasons why the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is the second largest provider of care to those in need in the state of Pennsylvania, second only to the government itself. This is also why there are 624 Catholic Hospitals, 499 Catholic Long-Term Care Nursing facilities, 164 Home Health Agencies and 41 Hospice Organizations sponsored by the Catholic Church in the United Sates alone. All of these services help us to fulfill the mission entrusted to us by Christ.
Consistent concern with health care on the part of the U.S. bishops
Since the Catholic Church in the United States has played, and plays, such a significant role in health care and since we are called to uphold the dignity of the human person, the bishops of the United States have voiced their concern many times for a just and equitable health care program for all our citizens.
Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Chairman of the United States Bishops’ Committee for Domestic Justice and Human Development, voiced our concern in a letter he sent to all United States Senators and Representatives in July. In ...
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