Catholic Bishops Wrong on Abortion History

Wat Abortion

Bas-relief at Angkor Wat, dated circa 1150, depicting a demon performing an abortion by pounding a mallet into a woman’s belly.


Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joseph Biden has been in the news lately:

Abortion: Hypocrite Catholic Joe Biden

By J. Grant Swank Jr. (09/11/08)

Roman Catholic of sorts Joe Biden says that he believes life begins at conception. But as a Roman Catholic, he does not want to impose his in-line-with-Vatican ethic on others., a Vatican-supporting news service had the following related article:

DENVER, Colorado, SEPT. 8, 2008 ( NBC’s “Meet the Press” has inadvertently become the stage for some Catholic politicians to display “flawed moral reasoning,” according to the bishops of Denver.

In the second statement in two weeks responding to comments made by Catholic politicians on the Sunday morning program, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver are telling politicians “who describe themselves as Catholic,” to begin to “act accordingly.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared first on the program in late August. When asked to comment on when life begins, she said that as a Catholic she had studied the issue for “a long time” and that “the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition.”

Senator Joseph Biden, Senator Barack Obama’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket, appeared on the same program last Sunday. The senator “compounded the problem” with his explanation of when life begins, according to the bishops.

The senator said that although he knows “when [life] begins for me,” he claimed it to be fundamentally a “personal and private issue.”

And, even though as a Catholic he is “prepared to accept the teachings of my Church,” the senator said that in a pluralistic society it would be “inappropriate” to “impose that judgment on everyone else.”

Always wrong

In the wake of Pelosi’s appearance on “Meet the Press,” Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, responded that her answer “misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.”

The prelates noted that since the first century the Church has “affirmed the moral evil of every abortion.”

A series of statements were released by other bishops across the United States, including Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.; Archbishop Charles Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver; Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York; Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota; Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago; and Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco.

Responding to the comments of Biden, the bishops of Denver refuted the claim that the moment when life begins is “a personal and private issue.”

“Modern biology knows exactly when human life begins,” they explained, “at the moment of conception.”

“Religion has nothing to do with it,” the prelates continued. “People might argue when human ‘personhood’ begins — though that leads public policy in very dangerous directions — but no one can any longer claim that the beginning of life is a matter of religious opinion.”…

The statement continues: “If we claim to be Catholic, then American Catholics, including public officials who describe themselves as Catholic, need to act accordingly.

“We need to put an end to Roe and the industry of permissive abortion it enables. Otherwise all of us — from senators and members of Congress, to Catholic laypeople in the pews — fail not only as believers and disciples, but also as citizens.”

Now I agree with the Catholic bishops about when life begins and that abortion is wrong.

But the problem with that is that the Catholic Church itself has allowed abortions in the third century and certain other later ones–thus suggesting that it has always opposed them is simply not true.  Beginning with the simonist Bishop Callistus in the early third century, various Bishops of Rome have allowed abortions.

The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

Callistus allowed the lower clergy to marry, and permitted noble ladies to marry low persons and slaves, which by the Roman law was forbidden; he had thus given occasion for infanticide (Chapman, John. “Pope Callistus I.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 11 Sept. 2008 <>).

Another writer reported:

Most Catholics are not aware that the infallible Church and popes have changed their minds several times on this topic–unthinkable from today’s perspective.

From the fifth century onward, Aristotle’s view that the embryo goes through stages from vegetable to animal to spiritual was accepted. Only in the final stage was it human. Thus Gregory VI (1045-6) said, “He is not a murderer who brings about abortion before the soul is in the body.” Gregory XIII (1572-85) said it was not homicide to kill an embryo of less than 40 days since it wasn’t yet human. His successor, Sixtus V, who rewrote the Bible, disagreed. His Bull of 1588 made all abortions for any reason homicide and cause for excommunication. His successor, Gregory XIV, reversed that decree. In 1621 the Vatican issued another pastoral directive permitting abortion up to 40 days (Hunt D. A Women Rides the BeastHarvest House Publishers, Eugene (OR), 1994, pp. 519-520).

I, of course, remain opposed to abortion and believe that the true Church of God always has been.  Abortion is one of the areas that the Church of Rome has sometimes compromised on.  While it is good that it is not wishing to compromise on it now, the truth is that history shows that the Church of Rome has allowed abortions.

Several articles of possibly related interest may include:

Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
“Pope” Callistus (217-222) He is the first bishop known to have been a criminal prior to his election. He was also accused of a variety of corrupt acts, including allowing indulgences and infanticide (abortion).
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Abortion, the Bible, and a Woman’s Right to Choose Do you know what the Bible teaches on this?
Should a Christian Vote? This article gives some of the Biblical rationale on this subject. Would Jesus vote for president? Is voting in the Bible? This is a subject Christians need to understand.
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.

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