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No. 34 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program March 1991
John Courtney Murray: A Reliable Interpreter of Dignitatis Humanae? (Part II) 
by Brian W. Harrison
Wanted and Unwanted Children  by Edward P. Atzert

by Brian W. Harrison


        If our argument so far has been correct, John Courtney Murray was not successful in attempting to harmonise the following two theses with Catholic doctrine by appealing to mankind's "growth in personal and political consciousness," and to the "historical conditioning" of earlier papal statements:

        (1) The Catholic Church can demand from political authority, as a matter of right or divine law, only freedom, and not recognition of her unique truth;

        (2) Political authority is not competent to recognize the unique truth of Catholicism, much less to allow any juridical effects on the lives of citizens to flow from such recognition.

        As we saw in Part I of this article, Murray claimed in his commentary on the conciliar Declaration Dignitatis Humanae that these theses have in effect been taught by Vatican II. It is now time to consider the truth of this claim.

        In regard to thesis (1) above, Murray makes this claim in commenting on article 13 of Dignitatis Humanae, which, after citing Leo XIII to the effect that the Church's liberty is "pre-eminent" or "outstanding" (praestantissima) amongst those things which "concern the good of the Church" and are "always and everywhere" to be safeguarded, makes the following assertion:

The principle of the liberty of the Church is fundamental in her relations with the public authorities and with the whole civil order.

        This translation maintains the ambiguity, which, owing to the absence of definite and indefinite articles in Latin, is found in the original text (Libertas Ecclesiae est principium fundamentale ...). Murray, in the Abbott edition, translates this as "The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle ...,"54 although official Vatican translations into Spanish and Italian maintain the same ambiguity.55 Nevertheless, even if we were to concede to Murray that the Council means to say that this liberty is the fundamental principle in Church-State relations, not just a fundamental principle, this would by no means justify his footnote comment that "freedom, nothing more" is the only claim which the Church can make on the State as "a matter of right or of divine law." This inference is no more logical than arguing that, if it is "the fundamental" duty of the public authorities (in purely temporal matters) to protect the lives, property, and freedom of citizens from violent attack, it follows that they are not bound by any other temporal duties. We can say that, in any kind of human enterprise, guarding against what is destructive or evil is more "fundamental" than the positive promotion of what is good, in the sense that warding off serious damage or destruction has a logical and temporal priority over proceeding with the further construction or perfection of what already exists.56 If I am half-way through building my house and floods start to undermine the foundations, it will be foolish to neglect them in that moment in order to start putting on the roof. And if my little daughter is ill with hepatitis, sending her to hospital takes priority over sending her to school. But this does not imply that the house needs no roof, or that my daughter needs no schooling. Nor does Dignitatis Humanae 13 in any way imply that there is no obligation in divine law for civic authorities to recognize the unique truth of Catholicism.

        In the same footnote, Murray attempts to enlist the support of Pope Paul VI, quoting the conciliar Fathers' address to the world's political rulers at the end of Vatican II:

And what is it that this Church asks of you, after nearly two thousand years of all sorts of vicissitudes in her relations with you, the powers of the earth? What does the Church ask of you today? In one of the major texts of the Council she has told you: she asks of you nothing but freedom - the freedom to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love God and to serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life.57

        But once again, it is vain to look for any stated or implied conclusions about divine law in this passage. Indeed, the first two interrogatory sentences, emphasising the constantly changing nature of the Church's de facto relationships with civil rulers throughout history, support a merely prudential and pastoral interpretation of this message, in keeping with the Council's overall goals. It simply answers the question as to what the Church deems appropriate "today" as a realistic request to modern political powers in general, not the question of what rights pertain to the Church in strict doctrinal principle. Given the fact that the populations of very few nations today are more or less united in the profession of Catholicism, it might only lead to harmful confusion to present the entire community of national governments with a direct request for the immediate fulfilment of divine law in all its fullness - that is, national, communal recognition of the unique truth of Catholicism. Such a request would be analogous in its imprudence to standing on a street corner in modern London or New York and handing out leaflets to all passers-by telling them that, as a matter of divine law, all men and women are required to receive valid Holy Communion, in the Catholic Church. This would of course be true: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man ... you will not have life in you" (John 6:53). But the obligation to receive Holy Communion is an aspect of divine law the fulfilment of which presupposes the prior fulfilment of other more basic aspects - faith, baptism, and if necessary, sacramental confession. Likewise with the obligation of governments to recognize the truth of Catholicism. Civil rulers whose task is the representative government of largely or predominantly non-Catholic populations cannot reasonably be expected to enact laws recognizing Catholicism as the true religion under those existing conditions.

        Looking at the same question from the viewpoint of the rights of the Church, as distinct from the duties of governments, the same basic point can be made by recalling that one does not renounce one's rights simply by not insisting on them in a determined situation. All that Vatican II's closing message to world rulers implies is that, given today's conditions, the Church deems it wisest to adopt a uniform global policy of insisting only on her right to freedom from State harassment or interference. No more than the text of Dignitatis Humanae does it imply, as Fr. Murray supposes, that the Church, by divine law, possesses only that right and "nothing more."

        If the Declaration on Religious Liberty said no more than what we have already quoted, the above criticism of Murray's misleading commentary would be valid. But in fact it says significantly more. Not only does Dignitatis Humanae not teach the liberal thesis which Murray attributes to it in this footnote; it reaffirms the contrary traditional thesis.

        This traditional thesis is implied in the very next paragraph of article 13, where the Church presents a twofold justification for that demand for liberty which she sees as "fundamental" in her relation to the State. One reason for this demand is simply the common humanity which her members share with all non-Catholics: she is a "society of men" who have the right to live in civil society according to their faith. Non-Catholic and secular powers and nations could reasonably be expected to sympathize with this claim, since it merely appeals to a natural human right.

        But this is presented only as a secondary reason in article 13. The first reason why the Church demands freedom is at the supernatural level - that of revealed truth:

In human society and before all civil authorities whatever (coram quavis potestate publica) the Church claims liberty for herself in her character as the spiritual authority (utpote auctoritas spiritualis), founded by Christ the Lord, which by divine mandate has received the task of going out to the whole world and preaching the Gospel to every creature.58

        By stressing that this "divine mandate" is presented to "all civil authorities whatever" as a reason for the Church's title to liberty, the Council clearly implies that in principle all civil authorities ought to accept it as a good reason. Nobody makes an argued appeal to another person or authority unless he believes that this other person or authority, at least in principle, should be capable of perceiving the argument's validity. But for any government to recognize this argument's validity would be for it ipso facto to recognize the unique truth of Catholicism, since the Catholic Church certainly does not claim - before civil governments or anyone else - to be merely one of a number of "spiritual authorities" bearing a divine mandate to evangelize the world.59 Thus, both the doctrinal and the pastoral aspects of Vatican II's teaching on the Church's freedom become clear. For modern prudential and pastoral purposes the Church today has decided, in dealing with civil governments, to insist explicitly only on her right to freedom. But the very grounds given for that right to freedom implicitly assert the other right affirmed by traditional doctrine: the Church's divinely guaranteed right to be recognized by all human authorities and powers as the true religion.

        Perhaps even more importantly, that same traditional doctrine, which Murray did not accept, was eventually reaffirmed more explicitly in the text of Dignitatis Humanae by late amendments which the Jesuit theologian simply ignored in his commentary in Abbott's edition of the documents. In the third-last draft (the textus reemendatus) only a very brief statement was made (in the preamble) to safeguard the new declaration's continuity with traditional doctrine:

Moreover this treatment of religious liberty leaves intact the Catholic doctrine concerning the one true religion and the one Church of Christ.60

        Many Fathers complained that this was too cursory, so in the next draft (the textus recognitus of October 1965) this was expanded so as to affirm that the Council's teaching on religious liberty

leaves intact the Catholic doctrine concerning the one true religion, the one Church of Christ, and the moral duty of men towards that Church.61

        This draft still left a good many Fathers unsatisfied, and during the Council's final month conservative objections were taken more seriously than ever before by the drafting commission. In presenting the final text to the assembled Fathers, the commission's spokesman, Bishop Emil de Smedt, acknowledged that "some Fathers" had still expressed concern that previous drafts did "not sufficiently show how our doctrine is not opposed to ecclesiastical documents up till the time of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII."62 In fact, an influential group of conservative Fathers had expressed their problems of conscience in regard to article 6, which spoke of "special recognition" being given by the State to one particular religion only "in the light of historical circumstances." That seemed to suggest that State neutrality towards the different religions was now to be seen as doctrinally normative, in contradiction of the 19th-century Encyclicals.63 In his final relatio de Smedt explained the Commission's response:

As regards the substance of the problem, the point should be made that, while the papal documents up to Leo XIII insisted more on the moral duty of public authorities toward the true religion, the recent Supreme Pontiffs, while retaining this doctrine, complement it by highlighting another duty of the same authorities, namely, that of observing the exigencies of the dignity of the human person in religious matters, as a necessary element of the common good. The text presented to you today recalls more clearly (see nos. 1 and 3) the duties of the public authority towards the true religion (officia potestatis publicae erga veram religionem); from which it is manifest that this part of the doctrine has not been overlooked (ex quo patet hanc doctrinae partem non praetermitti).64

        This explanation is of supreme importance, as it constitutes the only official commentary on the final and definitive version of the vital passage in the preamble whose textual evolution we have been considering. This final text (in which we have emphasised the words added) asserts that the Council's doctrine of religious liberty

leaves intact the traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ.

        As we have just seen, the Council Fathers were officially informed that, in casting their votes for or against this final draft of the religious liberty schema, they were to understand it as reaffirming the doctrine of earlier Popes such as Leo XIII on the duties of the "public authority" towards the true religion. And as we have seen, these duties of "society" as such, acting through its public authority, were always said by those Popes to include, as a matter of divine law, not only respect for the freedom of the Church but also theoretical and practical recognition of her unique authority as bearer of the true religion.

        Strange to say, these vital amendments included in the definitive text of Dignitatis Humanae, together with the official explanation given for them, are passed over in complete silence by Fr. Murray, even though his footnotes on this section of the document, the preamble, are extremely copious - about three times as long as the text itself!65 Indeed, as we saw earlier, Murray attributes to the Declaration, in his notes on article 13, the very thesis which it rejects by these last-minute additions to article 1 - the thesis that the Church, by divine law, can claim from the State "nothing more" than freedom.

        The fact is that the amendments in article 1 are the Council's last word on this subject, so that the rather inadequate general formula of article 6 on special State recognition of one religion must be interpreted in the light of article 1, not vice versa.66 In any case, article 6 itself was also changed in the final draft so as to avoid the apparent insinuation that such special recognition of one religion is more or less a relic from the past. The final text (which of course refers to the 'establishment' of non-Catholic and non-Christian religions as well as that of the true religion) speaks of such special recognition as obtaining not "in the light of historical circumstances," but "in the light of particular circumstances" (circumstantiis peculiaribus).67 As applied to Catholicism, that still seems to imply that the Church's 'establishment' is some kind of exception to a norm. But in the light of the final amendments to article 1, this cannot be understood as a doctrinal or de jure norm, only as a de facto sociological or demographic norm. That is, article 6 must simply be understood as observing implicitly that most countries in today's world are composed of citizens of varying religions or no religion; but that in "particular circumstances" one specific religious group is in fact so numerous or influential that it is given special constitutional recognition of some sort. In this article the Council prescinds entirely from what Catholic doctrine (divine law) has to say about the civic community's recognition of the true religion. But the omission at this point is remedied by the restatement of that doctrine in the preamble.

        If societies, acting as such through decisions of public authority, have the "moral duty" to recognize the truth of Catholicism, then obviously and a fortiori they have the competence to do so. In that sense the passages of Dignitatis Humanae which we have surveyed already constitute a sufficient reply to Murray's second controversial thesis, which he also attributes to the conciliar Declaration. Commenting on article 6, Murray tells us that "government is forbidden to assume ... the task of judging the truth or value of religious propaganda. Otherwise it would exceed its competence, which is confined to affairs of the temporal and terrestrial order."68

        Quite apart from the final insertions in article 1, which scarcely harmonize with this interpretation of the Declaration, it should be noted that in fact the Council deliberately decided not to teach what Murray says it does teach. The original draft of the schema on religious liberty (the declaratio prior of 1964) included the assertion that "the State, precisely because of the juridical quality of its authority, is not qualified (ineptam esse) to make judgments of truth in religious matters."69 Murray does not tell the readers of Abbott's edition that this statement was dropped from all subsequent drafts, after many conservative Fathers complained that this first schema seems to call in question the very possibility of a confessional Catholic state.70

        The next two drafts did nevertheless embody a statement equivalent to Murray's comment that the state's competence "is confined to affairs of the temporal and terrestrial order." The textus reemendatus presented to the Fathers at the beginning of the 1965 session said that civil authority should "restrict itself to the things of this world" (sese ad res huius saeculi restringendo), and should not "involve itself (sese immisceat) in those things which concern man's orientation to God."71 But this passage too was deleted in response to sharp criticism, as it seemed to imply the ideal of a religiously "neutral" or secular State. It was replaced by a much more traditional statement (cf. end of article 3 of Dignitatis Humanae which, instead of saying that the care of terrestrial concerns [or "the things of this world"] is the only purpose of civil authority, affirms that this is its "characteristic" [or "distinctive"] purpose [finis proprius]). This is in harmony with the traditional doctrine that, while temporal matters are of course the State's special area of competence, it should also have an eye to man's eternal salvation, recognize the Catholic Church's divine mandate and special competence in that area, and thus give it full cooperation. And instead of rejecting any and every kind of State "involvement" in religious matters, the final text rejects only heavy-handed interference. It begins by observing that religious acts "transcend by their very nature the terrestrial and temporal order," and continues:

Therefore the civil power, whose characteristic purpose is to care for the common temporal good, must recognize and favour the religious life of citizens; but it must be seen as exceeding its limits if it presumes either to take charge of or to hinder (dirigere vel impedire) religious activity.72

        It is fair to conclude that, notwithstanding the very substantial contribution of John Courtney Murray's thought to the Declaration on Religious Liberty, the document finally promulgated by the Council, understood correctly in the light of its textual history and the official explanations given to the Fathers by the relator, did not adopt Murray's novel opinion - an opinion contrary to all Catholic tradition and to weighty pronouncements of the Church's magisterium - that society's public authorities in principle need not, and indeed may not, recognize the unique truth of Catholicism, and express that recognition appropriately in their official acts. Unfortunately Murray and many other commentators in the twenty-five years since the Declaration was promulgated have presented Dignitatis Humanae to the world as though it had endorsed this unapproved opinion, even though in fact the document ended up by reaffirming (albeit in muted tones) the traditional contrary thesis.

        It might be objected that the post-conciliar revision of older Concordats between the Holy See and various traditionally 'Catholic' countries (Spain, Italy, Argentina, for example) supports Murray's interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae, since in such cases the status of Catholicism as the "religion of State" has been deliberately discarded. Unfortunately, there is no reason to doubt that this innovative, non-traditional understanding of Church and State has enjoyed widespread currency at very high levels in the Church: as we have seen, a large majority of the Council Fathers would have been quite happy to approve the schema on religious liberty even without the last-minute amendments which explicitly (though very briefly) reaffirmed the traditional doctrine.

        Nevertheless, a majority opinion among Bishops does not constitute an official position of the Church as such. Moreover, the 'secularization' of these concordats by no means presupposes official Vatican acceptance of Murray's thesis that political authority as such is incompetent to recognize the truth of Catholicism; and as far as this writer knows, no official document of the Holy See has ever stated or implied that thesis. The concordat revisions are perfectly explicable simply in terms of a change in policy, not necessarily a change in doctrine. That is, in countries where secularization is now far advanced, and where considerable hostility exists de facto towards the enjoyment of any special recognition or privileges for the Church in civil society, the Church herself has decided not to insist on anything more than the freedom which other religious bodies enjoy. That in no way implies a renunciation of further rights which she possesses in abstracto, only a renunciation of their exercise in this situation.

        In fact, we can go further than this. If the Church had in fact renounced the traditional doctrine regarding the political community's competence to recognize the true religion, she would in consistency have had to insist on the substantial revision of all existing concordats which expressed such recognition. But this has not happened.

        It is true that the expressions "Catholic State" or "religion of the State" are no longer found in concordats approved by the Holy See; but this merely reflects the fact that in today's generally accepted democratic understanding of government, the "State," in the sense of the public authority within a nation, is not supposed to be the sovereign authority. It is juridically the instrument or servant of a sovereign citizen body, not the "master" of a mass of passive "subjects." The essence of the traditional doctrine is that the civic or political community as such - the civitas, to use the favoured word of Leo XIII - is in principle obliged to recognize the true religion, and to express this recognition in acts of the public power. Whether or not that public power is seen as deciding for the community (the older, paternalistic model) or merely reflecting a decision already made by the community (the contemporary democratic model) is not doctrinally relevant, since it does not pertain to divine law. The Church has always seen as legitimate alternatives the various forms of government - monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy - which have been recognized at least since the time of Aristotle.

        It follows that under contemporary conditions the divine law is expressed more clearly by speaking of an obligation on the part of nations to recognize the true religion, rather than an obligation on the part of states, since the modern "state," insofar as it means "government,"73 is not the ultimate decision-making authority. And this contemporary expression of the traditional doctrine is in fact found in several modern concordats between the Holy See and countries less secularized than those of the affluent West. Article 1 of the 1975 concordat with Colombia, for instance, affirms:

The State, out of regard for the traditional Catholic sentiment of the Colombian nation, considers the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion as a fundamental element of the common good, and of the integral development of the national community.74

        The current concordat between the Holy See and the Dominican Republic is more emphatic. It dates from a decade before the Council, but because it was already in harmony with the subsequent teaching of Dignitatis Humanae regarding the religious liberty of non-Catholics as well as Catholics, it has continued in force till the present day. The document begins "In the name of the Most Holy Trinity,"75 thereby making the kind of "judgment of theological truth" which John Courtney Murray says political authority is incompetent to make. This judgment is repeated in the first article of the concordat:

The Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion continues to be the religion of the Dominican Nation and will enjoy the rights and prerogatives which pertain to it in conformity with Divine Law and Canon Law.76

        This clearly goes much further than the kind of mere sociological "statement of fact" which is the most Murray will allow in the constitutional documents of a Catholic people.77  And in the case of both Colombia and the Dominican Republic this national recognition of Catholicism further contravenes the norms advocated by Murray, in that it certainly has "juridical consequences": Catholicism is to enjoy a favoured legal status in regard to marriage legislation, public education, the designation of public holidays, the civil status of clergy, and other areas of the national life.78 Perhaps more importantly, this recognition is a strong constitutional barrier against the legalization of neo-pagan barbarities which outrage natural law: abortion, homosexual "marriages," euthanasia, etc. An officially Catholic nation, one supposes, will accept the Catholic Church's role as authentic interpreter of the natural moral law, rather than entrust its interpretation to the fickle whims of majority opinion.

        That concordats such as these continue in force a quarter-century after the promulgation of Dignitatis Humanae is perhaps the best evidence that, according to the authoritative interpretation of the See of Peter, the Declaration's disapproval of "discrimination amongst citizens" on religious grounds (article 6) does not mean that there can be no legal "discrimination" between religious bodies as such. In other words, such concordats are a practical testimony to the essential continuity between the 19th-century doctrine on Church and State and that of Vatican II. Murray in effect not only held, but also attributed to the Second Vatican Council, the view that the State, in principle, not only may, but must, do the very thing which according to Pius IX and Leo XIII (in the following quotes), the State has in principle no right to do: that is, it must "hold in equal favour different kinds of religion" and thus, govern society "without making any distinction between the true religion and false religions."79  Those Pontiffs understood and promulgated their teaching on this point as a matter of definitive and unchangeable Catholic doctrine; and, in upholding that doctrine, Vatican II continues to uphold the honour of Christ the King, and His rights over human society.


54. Abbott, Documents, op. cit., p. 693.

55. Cf. Accord between the Holy See and Spain, July 28, 1976, in which "est principium fundamentale" is translated "è principio basilare" in Italian and "es principio fundamental" in Spanish. AAS 68 (1976), p. 509.

56. Cf. Psalm 11:3, "Foundations once destroyed, what can the just man do?"

57. Abbott, Documents, op. cit., p. 693, n. 53 (original text p. 730).

58. Dignitatis Humanae, no. 13 (present writer's translation). Murray's translation (Abbott, p. 693) weakens the sense by omitting any translation of the word quavis ("all/any ... whatever").

59. Murray, however (loc. cit.), translates auctoritas spiritualis as "a spiritual authority."

60. Acta Synodalia (Rome, 1978), vol. IV, part V, p. 78.

61. Ibid.

62. Acta Synodalia, vol. IV, part VI, p. 719.

63. Cf. Ralph M. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber (British ed.: Augustine Publishing Co., Devon, 1978), p. 251.

64. Acta Synodalia, loc. cit. (cf. note 62 above).

65. Cf. Abbott, Documents, op. cit., pp. 675-678.

66. The official explanation given for the addition of ac societatum in no. 1 was "for greater clarity" ("quia clarius"). Acta Synodalia, vol. IV, part VI, p. 731, MM 28-29 and response.

67. Murray (Abbott, p. 685) translates peculiaribus as "peculiar," which in English has a pejorative connotation ("strange" or "odd"). Peculiaris in Latin has no such connotation.

68. Abbott, Documents, op. cit., p. 684, n. 14.

69. Acta Synodalia, vol. III, part VIII, p. 442.

70. Cf. García, op. cit., (cf. note 13 in previous issue), p. 144.

71. Acta Synodalia, vol. IV, part V, p. 81.

72. Dignitatis Humanae, no. 3. The specifications of no. 7 are taken for granted at this point in the text; that is, government can indeed "hinder ... religious activity" in the case of certain abuses.

73. In fact, it does not always mean "government," and this has added another element of confusion to the discussion. "State" sometimes means an entire nation, not just its government ("the State of Israel"); or it may mean a semi-autonomous region within a nation ("the State of Ohio").

74. AAS 67 (1975), p. 422 (present writer's translation, emphasis added).

75. AAS 46 (1954), p. 433.

76. Ibid., p. 434 (present writer's translation, emphasis added).

77. Murray, The Problem of Religious Freedom, p. 96. An example of a constitutional document which Murray presumably would consider appropriate is that of the Republic of Ireland, which simply mentions Catholicism as the religion of the majority of its citizens.

78. Cf. AAS 67 (1975), pp. 423-434; AAS 46 (1954), pp. 435-457.

79. Immortale Dei, no. 35, and Quanta Cura, no. 3.

This article is an expanded version of a paper presented at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, U.S.A., on November 9, 1990, as part of a conference marking the 30th anniversary of the publication of Murray's book, We Hold These Truths.

Part I of this article was published in
Living Tradition No. 33.


by Edward P. Atzert

        Since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Roe vs. Wade in 1973 permitting abortion, there has been a flood of propaganda against the Catholic Church's opposition to the slaughter of infants in the womb. This has been intensified by the news media in recent weeks, since the nomination of Judge Souter to the Supreme Court. Typical of the media bias was the report on October 22 of a rebuttal by the N.J. Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights to the statement the New Jersey Catholic Bishops made in January on the seventeenth anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. My purpose is to refute the main points the report makes against the pro-life side of the question.

        First we would like to answer the charge that "The Bible does not contain a teaching on abortion." If by that they mean that the Bible does not mention abortion, we answer simply that neither does it mention racism, anti-Semitism, wife-beating, drug-addiction, cruelty to animals, water-pollution, and other evils that plague modern civilization. No one dares maintain that these evils are thereby permitted by the Bible. On the other hand, there is much in the Bible that indicates the presence of life in the womb before birth, and the termination of this life is called abortion.

        For the evidence in the Bible of life in the womb before birth, we go to the New Testament and to that event most familiar to us Catholics, because it is celebrated in the Church as an annual Feast Day called the Visitation, commemorating the visit of the Blessed Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after she conceived Christ in her womb. "And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb ... and she cried out with a loud voice, and said ... behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy." That infant, six months in the womb, was John the Baptist. Admittedly, the communication between the two fetuses was miraculous, for it was not natural that such a communication take place, but it had its source in a fact attested many times in the Old Testament; that is, a life, distinct from the mother's, existing in her womb.

        King David traces his sinfulness back to the moment of his conception: "For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me." R.C. Sproul sums it up neatly: "It is not merely David's biological substance that dates back to conception, but his moral disposition as well." It is quite evident from this that the person of David existed at the moment of his conception.

        In the Book of Isaiah (49:1), we read, "The Lord hath called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother he hath been mindful of my name." And in verse 5: "The Lord ... formed me in the womb to be his servant." Thus, it is by God's action that man is conceived and given from that moment the office of prophet. We note the same in the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet, v. 5: "Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee; and before thou camest out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations." Moreover, God's action in creating soul and body is clearly indicated in Psalm 139, v. 13: "For You created me in my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb."

        Blissfully ignorant of the above passages from the Bible or, aware of it and maliciously bypassing it, the writers of the RCAR document state: "From the Biblical point of view, a fetus is never more than a potential person." Needless to say, the Scripture texts cited above point to a real rather than a potential person. As R.C. Sproul points out in reference to Luke 1:44: "The passage does clearly indicate, however, that John had human powers of cognition and emotion (signs of personality) prior to birth." The joyful reaction of Elizabeth's son, six months in her womb, was a highly personal response to the presence of a Child lately conceived in Mary's womb, highly personal because God had singled him, John the Baptist, to be the privileged forerunner of His Divine Son in the work of universal salvation.

        Let us, for the sake of argument, put aside the Scriptural testimony that there is real, not potential, life in the womb, and let us put aside, too, the evidence of medical science, which has asserted for the past 100 years that real life begins at conception. Should we be less concerned that it is only potential life that is terminated by abortion? Only last month we were informed on a newscast that attempts were being made in the Northeast to organize people against certain activities that might impede the return of salmon to their spawning areas. Think of it! On a level of potency much lower than a child in the womb, people are willing to spend time, energy, and money to thwart any effort to prevent the proliferation of salmon!

        Do the pro-abortionists think that the former Supreme Court's designation of life in the womb as only potential life until the point of viability will stand up to the reconsideration of the matter by a saner Court? Let us read what Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has written about potential life as a factor in the judgment of the court:

Potential life is no less potential in the first weeks of pregnancy than it is at viability or afterwards ... The choice of viability as the point at which the state interest in potential life becomes compelling is no less arbitrary than choosing any point before viability or any point afterward. Accordingly, I believe that the state's interest in protecting potential human life exists throughout the pregnancy.

        Since Roe vs. Wade, medical science has moved the point of viability up two weeks, and it will move it up still further as the survival rate of prematurely born infants increases.

        It would be a mistake to regard this article as an attack on Protestants or a condemnation of those who oppose us in this vital matter. Rather, it is an attempt to defend and uphold the truth as God has revealed it, while, at the same time, loving our neighbor, even our enemies, as He commanded us. In fact, it would be a grave error to regard the pro-life stance as exclusively Catholic and the pro-abortion side as Protestant. As I write this, a group of non-Catholics is forming to join the Catholic side in their opposition to abortion and to contradict the propaganda of the media that Protestantism is identified with the pro-abortion position. A group of pastors have formed the New Jersey Coalition for Right to Life. Composing it are 15 ministers from the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Christian Mission Alliance churches. We pray earnestly and ask the prayers of our readers that a signal success will crown their efforts in behalf of the unborn.

        From the above it is evidently false for those seeking an abortion to refer to the child conceived in the womb as an unwanted pregnancy, an unwanted life-potential, a dispensable blob of flesh or protoplasm. In reality, it is the child that is unwanted, judged to be an inconvenience, at least and at most, a challenge to one's chosen life-style and a responsibility to be avoided at all costs, even the cost of the child's life. On the other hand, their unwanted child is very much wanted by waiting thousands, most of whom can never have one of their own, some of whom would add to the family they have, a chance to share their bounty with another guest at their table.

        As another Christmas approaches, we are reminded of another Baby for whom "there was no room in the inn." In fact, there was no room for Him in His country; as the despotic Herod ruled, it marked Him for destruction. But let us remember He was very much wanted by His Mother Mary and His foster-father Joseph and by many thousands who awaited His coming, promised by God and foretold by the prophets. What a pity that, in our own day, there is no room for Him in the U.N., in the halls of our government or in our public schools.

        Let us, as His 1990th birthday comes, assure Him that we very much want Him. In answer to His plea as a Divine intercessor, "Let the little children come unto Me," let us pledge all in our power to save these, even the least of His brethren, in the hope that He will say to us at the end, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, for what you have done for these, the least of My brethren, you have done to Me."

(Reprinted from the Newsletter of the Trenton, N.J., Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith)

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