Are You Christian or Pro-Abortion? Because You Can’t Be Both

A Second Look at Sunday’s Second Reading

Roses are placed outside the U.S. Supreme Court as officers of the U.S. Supreme Court Police look on during the 48th annual March for Life on Jan. 29, 2021, in Washington, DC, more than a year before Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Roses are placed outside the U.S. Supreme Court as officers of the U.S. Supreme Court Police look on during the 48th annual March for Life on Jan. 29, 2021, in Washington, DC, more than a year before Roe v. Wade was overturned. (photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Last Sunday’s Second Reading probably got homiletic short shrift, but it is very appropriate to this week. The March for Life takes place Friday, marking what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. With the Iowa caucuses Monday, we’ve also begun a decisive election year.

The reading talks about whose body is it?

That question is likely to be bandied about this week. There’s usually a small counter-demonstration against the March for Life just outside the Supreme Court, chanting “My Body, My Choice!” Expect that line to be the leitmotif of the Women’s March, planned for the day after the March for Life. (That’s all the more reason to make sure our numbers Friday are huge.)

To the proponents of “My body, my choice!” St. Paul has an answer: “You are not your own.”

Christ, having died to redeem everyman, has a claim on everyman (and every woman).

Nor is that claim merely a debt, a debt at least of gratitude. No, you do not just remain “your own” but with some debt vis-à-vis God. No, you have been made into a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” which means that violating the body is not just denying a debt, it is profaning what is holy. Violating your body is to sin against yourself, even if that is what you want to do. 

How can I sin against myself and not be able to “dispense” myself?

It comes back to St. Paul’s very traditional, Judaeo-Christian understanding of morality as something that is objective, that exists outside of the subject. Good and evil are objective. A person has freedom to choose one or the other. But that does not mean his freedom is properly used if he chooses evil over good. Freedom is not moral neutrality between good and evil.

That perspective clashes with modern mindsets. Come to think of it, it clashed with ancient ones, too. One problem with Sunday readings is that they are excerpts from larger contexts, so sometimes we don’t hear the broader picture within which the reading is set.

Last Sunday’s Second Reading is from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6. Chapters 5 and 6 are held together by a common theme: morality and freedom. 

When St. Paul spoke about “freedom” versus “the Law,” he was emphasizing that the Christian had a new foundation and motive to live morally: Christ. His relationship with Christ through grace surpassed the mere command of the Law to “do this” and “avoid that.” That is very obvious in Galatians.

Paul was a Jew trained in the Pharisaical tradition, which attached great importance to the Law. He wanted to make clear that it was the relationship to God in Christ that grounded morality, not mere command. That said, the personal relationship to God does not negate the Law. Even Jesus made clear he came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it: see Matthew 5:17, the Gospel written by another Jew sensitive to the demands of Torah.

But the Corinthians were not Jews. They included pagans, living in a relatively new city (therefore, a city without traditions). It was a port city, and port cities are generally not known for rigorous moral codes. So, when Paul spoke of “freedom from the Law,” the Corinthians heard “party time!” That’s when Paul returned and, as we see at the beginning of Chapter 5, excoriated the Corinthians for tolerating a man living in an incestuous relationship with his mother. This is what stands behind Paul’s comments in this text about “immorality.”

This has a direct relevance to the right-to-life struggle. For pro-abortionists, it is infallible teaching that no abortion can ever be questioned. No abortion ever needs any other reason than it is a woman’s “choice.” Every abortion is self-justifying.

The vast majority of abortions — more than 96% of them — have nothing to do with any threat to a woman’s life, rape or incest. They are chosen for socio-economic reasons: this woman is pregnant right now and she does not want to be. Period. Full stop. She should, therefore, be able to become un-pregnant, i.e., have an abortion, for any reason, at any time she is pregnant, i.e., up through birth.

Most Americans, who are ambivalent about abortion, would not sign on to this abortion-on-demand license. So, while that’s the bottom-line orthodoxy of the abortion crowd, they fudge their public argument.

Expect this year to hear a constant drumbeat about how pro-life laws enacted post-Dobbs “endanger” women’s lives. How they risk women’s “healthcare.” How they chill doctors from using their “best” professional judgment to care for their patients.

Texas is the current whipping boy for pro-life legislation, but we’ve been through these arguments before. We were told about the massive maternal mortality of back-alley abortions that necessitated Roe. Funny, the statistics didn’t bear those claims out. Bernard Nathanson, one of the biggest trumpets of those claims back in the 1960s (before he became pro-life) admitted they were made up out of whole cloth. 

No problem: never let a good crisis or storyline go to waste.

So, despite the obfuscation about abortion being “health care,” the fact is most abortions occur because a child is “unwanted” or “inconvenient.” Is that a moral justification to take a life?

I am not suggesting pro-lifers march under the banner of 1 Corinthians — this is a theological text that presupposes certain faith commitments. The science of human life should suffice for us.

But that said, there’s no doubt that there are Christians, even Catholics, who succumb to the siren song of “my body” rhetoric, whether it means going in whole hog defending abortion or hiding behind “personally opposed” slogans that never reach to the ecosystem and legal infrastructure that allow the killing. Those Christians need to consider that the “my body” rhetoric is incompatible with the Christian perspective on the body and that they need to choose: Am I a Christian or an abortionist? Because I can’t be both.