Any Catholic who obstinately denies that abortion is always gravely immoral, commits the sin of heresy and incurs an automatic sentence of excommunication.
Canon Law and Church Teaching
Canon 1398: "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication."
Canon 751: "Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."
Canon 1364 n. 1: "an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication."
The phrase "latae sententiae" means a judgment or sentence which has already been brought, in other words, a sentence or judgment which does not need a future additional judgment from someone in authority; it refers to a type of excommunication which is automatic. Such a sentence of excommunication is incurred 'by the very commission of the offense,' (CCC 2272) and does not require the future particular judgment of a case by competent authority.
Apostasy, heresy, and schism are all offences which incur a sentence of excommunication automatically. Heresy is the obstinate denial of any truth of the Catholic faith, on a matter of faith or morals, which has been definitively taught by the Magisterium. The Magisterium has repeatedly and definitively taught that abortion is always gravely immoral. (CCC 2270 to 2275)
Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 57: "Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."
Obtaining an Abortion
Any Catholic who deliberately and knowingly obtains a procured abortion commits a mortal sin and is also automatically excommunicated, under canon 1398.
Under the laws of secular society, if one person commits a crime, then anyone who deliberately and knowingly provides essential or substantial means for that person to commit that crime is called an accessory to that crime and is also subject to the penalties of law. Similarly, any Catholic who deliberately and knowingly provides essential or substantial means for any woman to procure an abortion also commits a mortal sin and also incurs the same sentence of excommunication.
Any Catholic who substantially assists another in the deliberate sin of abortion is also guilty of serious sin and also incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
Believing in Abortion
Any Catholic who obstinately denies that abortion is always gravely immoral commits the sin of heresy. The sin of heresy also incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
Unfortunately, some Catholics obstinately deny that abortion is always immoral, and some Catholics claim that abortion can, at times, be a morally-acceptable choice, and some Catholics claim that a person can, in good conscience, choose abortion. Under the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church, canons 751 and 1364, all such Catholics are automatically excommunicated for the sin of heresy.
This sentence of latae sententiae excommunication applies to any Catholic who denies that abortion is gravely immoral, regardless of whether they keep this denial hidden or publicly reveal it.
Those Catholics who publicly announce their denial that abortion is always gravely immoral, or who publicly promote abortion, or who publicly argue in favor of legalized abortion, also commit a mortal sin and also incur a sentence of automatic excommunication.
This sentence of excommunication applies to Catholics who are politicians, as well as to those Catholics who are political commentators, or public speakers, or who write or otherwise publicly communicate their erroneous view that abortion can be morally-acceptable or that abortion should be legal. This sentence of excommunication also certainly applies to those Catholics who claim to be theologians or Biblical scholars, but who believe or teach that abortion is not always gravely immoral.
Those Catholics who promote abortion are automatically excommunicated for two reasons. First, they have fallen into the sin of heresy by believing that abortion is not always gravely immoral (canons 751 and 1364). Second, these Catholics are providing substantial assistance for women to obtain abortions by influencing public policy to make abortions legal, and to keep abortions legal, and to broaden access to abortion. Those who provide such substantial assistance commit a mortal sin and incur a sentence of automatic excommunication (canon 1398).
Voting for Abortion
Any Catholic politician who casts a vote with the intention of legalizing abortion, or of protecting laws allowing abortion, or of widening access to abortion, commits a mortal sin.
When such a vote indicates that the Catholic politician believes that abortion is not always gravely immoral, such a politician incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication, under canons 751 and 1364, because of heresy.
When such a vote is intended to have the effect of making abortion legal, or more easily obtainable, or more widely available, such a politician incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication, under canon 1398, as someone who is attempting to provide substantial or essential means for women to obtain abortions. Catholic politicians who pass laws which legalize, protect, or widen access to abortion, are providing essential assistance to women who want to obtain abortions.
It is not sufficient for Catholic politicians to claim that they are 'personally opposed' to abortion. If any Catholic politician favors legalized abortion, despite a claim of personal opposition, such a politician commits a mortal sin by promoting abortion and by voting in favor of abortion.
The same is true for any Catholic who casts any vote with the intention of legalizing abortion, or of protecting laws allowing abortion, or of widening access to abortion. Such a voter commits a mortal sin and incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication for two reasons. First, they are committing the sin of heresy by believing that abortion should be legal and available. Second, they are committing the grievous sin of providing women with substantial or essential assistance in obtaining abortions, by attempting to legalize or broaden access to abortion.
However, if, for a period of time, Catholic politicians and voters are unable to enact a law prohibiting all abortion, then Catholic politicians and voters may in good conscience vote for whichever law offers the greatest restrictions and limits on abortion. Subsequently, Catholic politicians and voters are required by the moral law to continue to enact further restrictions and limits on abortion, to the greatest extent possible, and, at every possible opportunity, to vote for laws which completely outlaw abortion.
Voting for Politicians
In general, the moral law requires Catholic voters to vote for those candidates who oppose abortion over those who favor abortion. However, there are exceptions to this general principle. For example, if a political candidate favors abortion, but is a member of a party which generally opposes abortion, a Catholic voter may, in good conscience, vote for that candidate, with the intention of giving more political power to the party which opposes abortion.
In another case, a Catholic voter might, in good conscience, vote for a pro-abortion candidate, if the political office would offer no opportunity for the elected candidate to vote for or against abortion. Even so, every Catholic voter should consider that anyone who supports abortion, as if it were a woman's right, or as if it could ever be a moral choice, must necessarily be someone who has a seriously limited understanding of morality and justice. Such a person would not often be the better candidate for any office in place of one who understands that abortion is gravely immoral.
In every case, a Catholic should vote in such a way as to obtain as many restrictions on abortion as possible, and so as to obtain the end to legalized abortion as soon as possible.
Within any constitutional form of government, it would be ideal to have a constitutional clause or amendment which permanently and completely outlaws all procured abortions. Such an amendment must ban all abortions, regardless of circumstance, so that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent prenatal human being will be always contrary to human law, just as it is always contrary to the moral law.
A constitutional amendment can permit certain medical procedures, which are absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother, and which indirectly result in the unintended and unsought death of the prenatal, only if there is no possible way to save the life of the prenatal. A prenatal is defined as any human being from conception to birth. Every reasonable effort should be made to save the lives of both mother and prenatal. If the life of the prenatal can be saved by no other possible option than by risking or allowing the death of the mother, then the prenatal must be saved.
Catholic teaching clearly allows for certain medical procedures, which indirectly and involuntarily result in the death of the prenatal, to save the life of the mother, but only when all options to save the life of the prenatal have been exhausted. Such a procedure is not an abortion and is not an exception wherein abortion is allowed.
On the other hand, a constitutional amendment which bans abortion with exceptions for various cases, such as rape, incest, or a risk to the mother's life, would be worse than having no such amendment at all.
Any woman who is willing to commit the sin of abortion, would also be willing to lie. If a constitutional amendment permitted abortion in cases of rape, then any woman willing to lie and to falsely claim that she was raped, would be able to also claim that she had a constitutional right to an abortion. The result would be that a constitutional amendment, which seems to ban abortion with some exceptions, would end up giving every woman who is willing to tell a lie, a purported constitutional right to abortion. This situation would be worse than having no such constitutional amendment at all.
Therefore, the only acceptable pro-life constitutional amendment would be one that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, bans all procured abortions without exception.
Here is an example of a just constitutional amendment protecting human life.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
May 20, 2004