St John's Q&A

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"It's complicated"

Here are some questions from anonymous bloggers:

1) “Recently, someone told me they stopped going to Mass b/c they voted for a pro-abortion candidate. They said that someone told them their actions had excommunicated themselves from the church and, until someone (from the church) told them otherwise, they weren't going back. I didn't quite know what to say to that but thought I'd pass it along.”

First, it depends on why they voted for a pro-abortion candidate and what they knew. If they did so because of the candidate’s pro-abortion views and with the knowledge that these views were in opposition to Church teaching, then they are correct that they excommunicated themselves from the Church. In other words, they committed a mortal sin. But, if they voted for such a candidate for reasons other than their pro-abortion views or didn’t have sufficient knowledge that the candidate’s pro-abortion views were opposed to the Church’s views on life, then they didn’t commit a mortal sin.

Second, please tell your friend that they simply need to go to Confession to clear this up. If there’s any question in their mind about whether they committed a mortal sin by voting for a pro-abortion candidate, then they should confess it. It sounds to me like their conscience has kicked in and is telling them that there is a problem. Whenever that happens, the person should resolve the problem in the sacrament of Reconciliation. But it’s an especially helpful solution in this situation because of any confusion with all of the different statements from priests or bishops that have been in the media since the election. Whenever someone commits a mortal sin, they excommunicate themselves; Confession forgives mortal sin and brings the person back into the Church.

2) “Science seems to be moving ahead faster than most can catch up. So, it’s good to be reminded of, and for some introduced to, the church’s positions. However, there are still dilemmas for which the church doesn’t offer guidance. I still am unclear- once (the) embryos are created via scientific means, does Rome have a definitive position on what should be done with them, or is the issue left up to the individual conferences of bishops to react to issues as legislation is introduced in their regions?”

My post on 11/14/08, “Frozen Embryos: Children on Hold”, addresses this. The write-up by Archbishop O’Malley presents a good understanding on why the Magisterium hasn’t given a definitive statement on what to do with the embryos. As the cliché goes, ‘it’s complicated’.

3) “Does the following comment give us something to contemplate? ‘I hope that when the Bishops do decide to discuss the stem cell issue that they will inform themselves more of the observations of scientists and embryologists than to simply rely on what they believe are truisms’”.

Answer by another Anon: “I don’t understand the point the author is making. The Bishops aren’t wrong about embryonic stem cell research. The embryos aren’t left untouched and they aren’t given the opportunity to develop to their full potential- no scientist or embryologist will dispute that. Since the church teaches that life begins at conception, and Catholics accept this teaching as truth, what other position could the church possible have other than to say that embryonic stem cell research is wrong? There is no misunderstood science here.”


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