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A Matter Of Conscience

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November 2008

Life in the Catholic Church is sacramental, and generally speaking, Catholics do celebrate the sacraments.  Babies are baptized soon after birth, and each year thousands of adults enter the Church by baptism.  The Eucharist is celebrated throughout each day, and many Catholics are daily communicants.  Catholic teens are confirmed in droves.   Most Catholic couples want to be married in the Church, and even interfaith couples often seek the Church’s blessing.  Dying or infirm Catholics and their families find healing and peace through the anointing of the sick.

But one sacrament is little used: Penance.  Lines for Sunday Communion are long, but lines for Saturday Confession are short.  Why don’t we go more often? It’s probably because of our fear of honestly examining our consciences. We avoid Confession like the plague because we don’t like to admit that we are sinners.  We invent a personal morality that turns our big sins into little sins and makes our little sins disappear. And by confusing our consciences, we often cause a world of hurt.

We will soon vote for our next president. The candidates’ differences on abortion are stark: Barack Obama supports abortion rights; John McCain opposes them. Voting for these candidates (and others) may come down to a matter of conscience. But as faithful citizens, we must vote with a well-formed conscience.  The bishops remind us: “Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere ‘feeling’ about what we should or should not do.  Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil.”  Forming Consciences For Faithful Citizenship, par. 17 (Nov. 2007).

Blessed Mother Teresa said that abortion kills not only the child but also the conscience.  Fifty million deaths have numbed our consciences to the horrible reality of abortion.  All too often we have ignored the plight of the unborn, and even ignored their existence.  We dehumanize them through terms like mass-of-tissue, zygote, embryo, or fetus.  Those are our words, not God’s.  We know the truth: at every stage, every unborn is a life with potential, not a potential life. Would He want them aborted?

Some justify their support for abortion-rights candidates by claiming that abortion is just one of many problems.  They argue that those candidates overall have better solutions to today’s problems.   But there is a two-word difference between abortion and every other problem: legalized evil.  No candidate proposes that we end poverty by killing the poor.   No one suggests that we solve our immigration, education, and health care woes by killing immigrants, school kids, and the sick.  But to solve the problem of unwanted pregnancy, some would have us kill the unborn.  And we have ⎯ by the millions.  Do we honestly believe that God approves our sacrificing the most innocent and defenseless humans of all because we like a candidate’s views on other issues?

Some try to justify their supporting abortion-rights candidates by arguing that we may not impose our morality on others. But if so, why does our society prohibit theft, fraud, prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, discrimination, and a host of other moral wrongs.  Long before Christ instituted the Church, God wrote in all hearts that we must not kill.  Freedom from abortion is a human right, one advanced by all religions and even supported by atheists.

Some argue that they may morally adopt a “pro-choice” position in voting for candidates.  The pro-choice-not-pro-abortion argument is the concoction of those mistakenly seeking moral cover for immoral votes.  Whatever their personal beliefs, pro-choice voters actively support the right of others to kill the unborn.  By knowingly and willfully giving support, they “cooperate with evil.” Forming Consciences, par. 30.  Would God ever approve of our helping another to kill an unborn human?

For some, voting for a candidate is a matter of family history and party loyalty.  The pull to remain faithful to the past is strong.  It can be subconscious.  But the stakes are too high to let those influences control our votes; innocent humans are being slaughtered.  So we must remember another history and a greater fidelity.  To ransom a slave, God gave up His Son.  We are the slaves.  If He can sacrifice His own Son for us, can’t we sacrifice a party vote for Him?

Barack Obama intends to restore partial-birth abortion, appoint pro-abortion judges, eliminate right-of-conscience and parental notice protections, and require taxpayer funding of abortions.  John McCain won’t. For voters, there will be no avoiding the abortion issue.  The lives of millions hang in the balance.  So before you vote, imagine yourself saying to God: “I may let my vote support legal abortion because . . ..”  You complete the sentence.  Ask God for His advice.  Listen with your heart, and follow.

God sets before us fire and water, life and death, and tells us to stretch forth our hands over one; He will give us what we choose (Sir. 15:16-17).  It is a process much like voting.  For far too long we have chosen death, and it has been given us.  If we open ourselves to the voice of God speaking to our hearts, we will make Godly choices.

Choose life!

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2008.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us on the web at

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