Gospel Joy: Protecting Unborn Children

Gospel Joy: Protecting Unborn Children

It might seem surprising to have a post about protecting the unborn child in a series about Gospel Joy.  It is true that abortion isn’t mentioned in the Gospel and, whatever one’s view, it’s axiomatic that the killing of unborn children is not a subject of joy.  Yet Pope Francis addresses the matter in his Apostolic Exhortation (paragraphs 213 and 214).  The reason he does so is that the Gospel is all about love: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children” whom he describes as  “the most defenceless and innocent among us”.

It is because we Catholics love our neighbour, made “imago Dei” – i.e. with the profound dignity of being made in the image of God, that we believe abortion is fundamentally wrong.  It is not a position which is somehow anti-women or “ideological, obscurantist and conservative” but a stance that reflects our love for our shared human life. If we stop loving the very gift of life, what remains?  How could one profess to love God the creator, and destroy His creation?

It is inconceivable that the Church’s position with respect to the unborn child will change, however expedient it might seem to some.  This is because recognition of the fundamental human dignity and inviolability of every life is not so much a teaching of the Church as a reality.  As the Holy Father says himself: it’s a reality which can be understood by “reason alone”.  And you don’t have to be a theologian, philosopher, scientist, doctor, or women’s rights campaigner to engage with this reality.

Yet it’s a reality which is often unrecognised or ignored.  Across the world, 42 million abortions take place annually; 115,000 every day.  Closer to home, in the UK, over 6 million abortions have taken place since 1967; the present rate is about 600 per day.  These statistics are truly shocking.  It’s enough to make one weep.

Where does one begin?  Let’s come back to love. If we really love God’s children and abhor abortion, we will work hard to stop it; if we want to stop abortion, we will love, support and provide real alternatives for vulnerable women and build a culture of life; and, if we want to build a culture of life, we will love and forgive those who have had abortions and are in need of healing (even if they don’t know it).

So the most important way of protecting unborn children, it seems to me, is to love their mothers. In that regard, the Gospel has much to teach us.

There are many excellent organisations working in this field – one I can recommend, from personal experience, is Life.

Samuel Burke OP

Fr Samuel Burke is based in St Albert the Great in Edinburgh, where he serves as a university chaplain.