So many intellectuals and bright guys entering the fray of protracted disputes in connection with the issue of artificial contraceptives, abortion, and sexual morality. Such a din and babel that people will be presently asking: “and where are we now?” We all know, however, deep in our conscience, that God knows all things, He rewards the good and punishes evildoers.
The Church’s stand against the use of artificial contraceptives and abortion has been held firmly since time immemorial and clearly stated at the famed Encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968) of Pope Paul VI. In all the mingled controversies, definitely we do not question man’s innate freedom. Man is free to choose between heaven or hell, salvation or damnation. But he has to act according to a properly formed and informed conscience. As Pope Pius XII explained, “Conscience is a pupil, not a teacher.” It is not enough that an action “feels right,” a person must know what the Church teaches about it and honestly assess the situation, after sufficient prayer and reflection. And of course, no one in any instance may commit acts that are intrinsically evil – such as contraception, abortion, sterilization, adultery or sodomy – regardless of what his “conscience” tells him.
The Canon and its Requirements.
Canon 2350 states that all who procure abortion shall be automatically excommunicated.
Canon Law Number 1398 states, quite simply, in Latin and English:
Qui abortum procurat, effectu secuto, in excommunicationem, latae sententiae, incurrat – “Those who successfully abort [a living human fetus] bring on themselves instant excommunication.”
Latae sententiae means the person brings instant excommunication upon himself or herself with his act. No solemn pronouncement need be made by the Church or a bishop or priest, and no one else need even know about the abortion. For automatic excommunication to take place, the woman (and those who cooperate in the abortion) must meet three conditions:
(1) They must know that abortion is a mortal sin. Most Catholics have probably never heard this preached from the pulpit. However, if a person reads about or hears of the Church’s teachings on abortion from any source, he or she has been informed. Even if a person does not agree with or accept the teachings, he or she knows the Church teaches that abortion is a mortal sin.
(2) The woman and those who cooperate in the abortion must know or suspect
She is pregnant. Many women use abortifacients, including oral contraceptives, Norplant, mini-pills, Depo-Provera and intrauterine devices (IUDs), and may be aborting several babies a year. It is important to note that the woman must have full knowledge of her act. Most people (even many doctors) are completely unaware of the abortifacient effects of these devices and drugs and therefore generally would not be liable to excommunication. If a woman knows a method is abortifacient and uses it anyway, she risks excommunication.
(3) The woman must freely choose abortion. This does not mean she can interpret a boyfriend’s, husband’s or parent’s disapproval of her pregnancy as coercion; she must make a vigorous and positive attempt to avoid abortion, no matter how much pressure she feels. If she believes that she is in danger of physical harm, she should turn to other family members or social service or law enforcement agencies for assistance. In protecting her preborn child, she must exert the same degree of effort she would if the child were an infant or toddler.
Effectu secuto means the excommunication takes place only if the abortion is completed. At the moment the woman’s child dies, she is cut off completely from all the Sacraments, and cannot return unless she sincerely repents and makes a good confession.
People of conscience desire to know the truth since they are concerned of the welfare of their souls and that of others. So they seek a guarantee of the truth amid all these hullabaloo of voices and opinions. They know they must seek the security of their souls’ ultimate salvation. They heed Christ’s voice who tells them: “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul in the end” (Mt. 16:26). It’s not here a matter of the opinions of the “wise guys” [or false prophets, ravenous wolves who come disguised as sheep] (cf. Mt. 7:15), but the official stand of the Church to which Jesus Christ has affixed the guarantee of truth and rectitude. “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:18).