My name is [name withheld]. I am a life-long Catholic.
For a while now, I’ve been struggling with something. Though I love the Church, I’m really torn because I deeply believe in the right of women to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Don’t get me wrong: abortion is a tough decision, and can be an even tougher reality to deal with when it’s done. But the challenges women face in this world—many of which men can only hope to understand—the decision to end a pregnancy must, in my opinion, ultimately rest with the woman. I know there are many lay Catholics who are divided on this issue. Some Catholics are “pro-life”, but there are just as many who are “pro-choice” to some extent—including those going to Mass. I know my views put me at odds with Church teaching, and that the bishops have been clear about their “pro-life” stance.
The reason I’m writing is to ask whether I could still take communion if I’m so strongly “pro-choice.”
I appreciate whatever guidance you can provide me on this matter. I’m available at this email address, and would be glad to hear from you at your convenience.
Thank you for your thoughtful e-mail. It might be best for us to sit down together to discuss your question about receiving Holy Communion. We could set up an appointment.
That said, here’s a short answer. You write that abortion is a “tough decision, and can be an even tougher reality to deal with when it’s done.” You mention that it’s hard for men to understand. I agree.
It is also true that an abortion is an act of violence. It results in the death of an innocent and defenseless human being.
Expectant mothers can face enormous pressures. But the worst pressure of all would be the pressure to have an abortion. As a Church, we stand for the idea that no woman should have to face that particular pressure. There is always a different path, a better path to take.
Being ‘pro-choice’ seems to entail condoning violence against the innocent. I think that would trouble anyone’s conscience and get in the way of receiving Holy Communion in peace.
The Church does not stand for the government, or anyone else, making choices about a woman’s life. We simply insist that the unjust violence of abortion is really no choice at all. As a family of faith, we stand ready to help any mother. After all, none of us can make it through life alone.
Please do write back with any more thoughts you have.
Love, Fr. Mark
I began composing my response without giving a second thought to the idea that the original e-mail comes from a sincere questioner. I still hope and pray that is the case, and I hope to hear back.
As I was writing, though, I began to wonder about the original e-mail. Maybe I am being paranoid, but it seems like almost too-perfect a set-up, as if some organization is trolling for a priest to write something intemperate in response. Then that could be published to embarrass the Church. This internet is such an inhumane place sometimes…