A Franciscan nun (whose name we shall not disclose out of respect to her Order’s founder) has written a letter published in a “Catholic” newspaper, in which she argues in favour of abortion because, after all, God Himself is pro-choice. “Obama may be pro-choice,” she writes, “but so is God.” She then reminds her readers that “God gave everyone a free will.” Her point is that God does not seem to oppose our using our freedom freely. Consequently, abortion is a free choice that is modelled after the Divinity.
It is profoundly sad to find indications that a person who has renounced marriage, children, and sundry legitimate worldly pleasures, would direct her consecrated life to supporting the slaughter of unborn children (“Yes, abortion is the killing of an innocent life,” she writes). In choosing Christ, our misguided Sister has somehow decided to follow Herod.
How does moral confusion of this magnitude come about? Let us be charitable and assume that this nun’s problem is not of a spiritual, but of a logical nature. One may be disabused of a fallacious argumentation if the logical flaw is clearly exposed. Logic is wonderfully impersonal and we are all guilty of the logical faux pas now and again.
What is wrong with the following syllogism? Nothing is better than Heaven. A loaf of bread is better than nothing. Therefore: A loaf of bread is better than Heaven.
The conclusion of this syllogism is not likely to convince anyone, even the boastful baker who calls his sweetbread “heavenly”. Obviously, something is wrong with it. Specifically, the word “nothing” is used equivocally. In the first instance “nothing” means “no thing” or “not anything”. In the second instance “nothing” means “nothing at all” or “the absence of anything”. The two meanings are actually antithetic – one refers to everything, the other to nothing. While a loaf of bread is better than nothingness, there are some things that are better than a loaf of bread. We can say that “no thing” is better than Heaven; we cannot say that “nothingness” is better than Heaven.
Likewise, “pro-choice” has two distinct meanings. God is “pro-choice” in the sense that he has endowed his rational creatures with the capacity to choose. But God is most assuredly not “pro-choice” in the sense that Obama, for example, is. In the latter case, being “pro-choice” includes the object of choice, which is abortion. The following syllogism contains the same fallacy of equivocation as does the first: Being pro-choice is a capacity that God gives us. Whatever God gives us is good. Therefore: Being pro-choice is good.
The Franciscan nun may have a vocation, but it seems to rest on an “equivocation”.
Philosophers who knew something about morality have been meticulous about distinguishing between freedom of choice, which we are born with, and freedom of fulfillment, which results when we direct our freedom of choice toward our ultimate good. The purpose and value of being free to choose is that it allows us to choose what is good. Freedom of choice, in itself, is not a terminal value. It is the good that is chosen that crowns freedom of choice. Freedom of choice exists for freedom of fulfillment. We are free to choose to play the violin, but unless we subordinate that freedom to studying, practicing, and learning the art of violin playing, we will not be free to be violinists. We do not become violinists because we have freedom of choice, but because we direct that freedom, reasonably and realistically, to one that is higher and infinitely more fulfilling.
God is pro-choice in the sense that He has given us the freedom to choose. But that is not all He is. God is also Love, which means that He wants His human creatures to choose what is good. God is both a Creator of life as well as a Promoter of life. This is made evident in His Command not to kill, and in Deuteronomy (30:19) where He says: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”
God is not “pro-death”. He wills that we choose life.
To limit God to being “pro-choice,” while neglecting His love, goodness, and passion for life, is blasphemous. It is a wilful act of reducing God to our own arbitrary concept of Him. We are made in the image of God. It is sacrilegious to think that God should be re-made in our image of Him.
The freedom to choose is a psychological capacity. To be able to choose what is good is a moral capacity. Morality enters the picture at the moment choice involves either good or evil. To exclude the object of choice by reducing it to a mere psychological status is to de-moralize the existential situation. To de-moralize inevitably produces a state of demoralization. People who think that abortion is permissible because God is pro-choice are demoralized (confused and bewildered) because that have de-moralized a situation that requires a moral decision. G. K. Chesterton put the matter in a nutshell when he said: “Let us not decide what is good, but let us decide that it is good not to decide.”
The refusal to include the moral dimension of abortion is not a victory for freedom, but a rejection of our own nature as inescapably moral beings. It is nothing more than an act of self-abortion. This is why, in choosing death, one becomes ensnared by that very choice.
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