The principals in an earlier pro-life debate

One of the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching is respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. This principle comes into play in all sorts of “life issues” from abortion to euthanasia. In this article from The Catholic Thing, Randall Smith reminds us that a century and a half ago, some people contended that the morality of slavery was a matter on which good people could disagree, and on which politicians should compromise — much as some argue about abortion today.

It would be a mistake to treat all issues as though they were of the overriding importance of slavery, but it would be equally a mistake not to realize that there are historical moments when injustices so fundamental arise that they simply outstrip all else, although the seriousness may not be clear to everyone at the time.

Abortion, he argues, is no more a matter of private “choice” or moral ambiguity than slavery was. Smith cautions Catholic voters:

The Church cannot compel, as governments often do; she can only appeal to the consciences of men and women of good will. Would this sort of clarity help? A Catholic with a properly formed conscience cannot vote for a candidate who favors allowing abortion over who one favors restricting it any more than a Catholic with a properly formed conscience could have voted for a pro-slavery or pro-Nazi candidate. Would anyone today argue that a Catholic would have been somehow justified voting for Douglas over Lincoln, or a Nazi over a Jew?

Don’t fool yourself. Those with ears, let them hear.