Catholics who Approve of Abortion in Cases of Rape

Sinful secular society often begins their push for “abortion rights” by citing cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother. But once they have a foothold in law and culture, having convinced people that abortion is the solution to these problems, they perpetually extend the cases where abortion is said to be moral, until law and culture have accepted unrestricted abortion-on-demand, as if it were a basic human right.

As Catholics, we know that every direct abortion is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Human life is sacred, and begins at conception — not at implantation, not a certain number of weeks into pregnancy, and not at birth. Pope Saint John Paul II, in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), infallibly condemned murder, euthanasia, and direct abortion.

Pope Saint John Paul II: ‘Pius XI in particular, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, rejected the specious justifications of abortion. Pius XII excluded all direct abortion, i.e., every act tending directly to destroy human life in the womb “whether such destruction is intended as an end or only as a means to an end”. John XXIII reaffirmed that human life is sacred because “from its very beginning it directly involves God’s creative activity”. The Second Vatican Council, as mentioned earlier, sternly condemned abortion: “From the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes”.’

‘Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops — who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine — I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

‘No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.’ [Evangelium Vitae 62]

Abortion is an “unspeakable crime”; it is a type of murder. The Magisterium has always rejected all types of “specious justifications of abortion”. No circumstance, however dire, can justify abortion. No purpose, however good, can justify abortion. Even a dire circumstance, as when the life of the mother is at grave risk, cannot justify direct abortion. Saving innocent life is one of the highest medical purposes, yet it does not justify direct abortion. And certainly every lesser medical purpose, whether relief of pain or treatment of some disorder, does not justify abortion.

It does not matter if the abortion is “willed as an end or as a means”. An abortion knowingly chosen by human free will is always gravely immoral. The intentional (knowing, deliberate, voluntary) choice of any act “tending directly” (inherently ordered) “to destroy human life in the womb” is direct abortion and is always gravely immoral. The acts of created persons have an inherent moral meaning (moral nature) determined by the end toward which the knowingly chosen act itself is ordered, regardless of the purpose or reason or intended end which motivates that choice.

Many Catholic teachers, authors, bloggers, and commentators speak out strongly against abortion. They proclaim themselves to be pro-life. They speak passionately about the defense of human life, from conception to natural death. They reject every kind of justification for abortion — until the subject of abortifacient contraception is raised. Then suddenly they are no longer pro-life. They are no longer saying that life begins at conception, no longer interested in any magisterial teaching that condemns abortion. They find clever ways to approve of abortifacient contraception, and they spread this poisonous doctrine far and wide. They suddenly switch from being apostles of the Gospel of life, to apostles of abortifacient contraception.

Yet the Church teaches that abortifacient contraception is not merely contraception, but also type of abortion:

Pope Saint John Paul II: “But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully. Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.

“The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.” [Evangelium Vitae 13

Whosoever approves of abortifacient contraception, approves of abortion. Whosoever justifies abortifacient contraception, justifies abortion. The very same teachings of the Church, which apply to surgical abortion also apply to abortifacient contraception. No intention, however good, and no circumstance, however dire, can justify abortion or abortifacient contraception. No purpose, not even the medical purpose of saving the life of the mother, can justify abortion or abortifacient contraception.

And yet the internet is filled with claims to the contrary by Catholics who are supposedly pro-life. They condemn direct abortions unequivocally. Then they turn around and offer all kinds of excuses for abortifacient contraception. They justify abortifacient contraception on the basis of intention or circumstances, despite magisterial teaching to the contrary. They claim that a legitimate intention on the part of the spouses can make abortifacient contraception no longer intrinsically evil and no longer really a type of contraception. These ignorant and arrogant Catholics are causing grave harm to souls by their false teachings. And they are influencing Catholic married couples, convincing them to remain sexually active while using abortifacient contraception for a medical purpose, thereby formally cooperating with the sin of abortion.


Recently, a certain ethical scenario has been much discussed on the internet. It is the claim that some nuns in the Congo, during the early 1960’s, were given permission to use abortifacient contraception because of the danger of rape. The details of the historical situation are disputed. In any case, at the time, no one realized that the oral contraceptives in question were abortifacients. So anyone, whether a theologian or Church official, who spoke in favor of the idea, did not have sufficient accurate information to make a correct moral judgment.

As faithful Catholics, we cannot justify the use of abortion or abortifacient contraception in cases of rape. Abortion is the killing of an innocent human person. Abortion is not a type of self-defense against rape. Mere contraception can be used in cases of rape (for reasons I’ve explained in other posts). But abortion is not justified, not even the convenient hidden type of abortion called abortifacient contraception.

I’m appalled that so many Catholic teachers and leaders, who openly oppose surgical abortions, have recently been speaking as if abortifacient contraception is easily justified by intention nor circumstances. Often, they do not even acknowledge that this type of contraception is an abortifacient. They argue that contraception is justified in cases of rape. Yes, I agree that it is justified. Then they conclude that abortifacient contraception is also justified in cases of rape. No, it is not. The Church has always rejected the use of abortion in cases of rape. The difference is that abortifacient contraception directly kills the innocent prenatal. Mere contraception in cases of rape is morally an interruption of the rape (because sexual acts are ordered toward conception). Abortion is not an interruption of the rape; it is not a type of self-defense against rape.

Another argument used to justify abortifacient contraception in cases of rape begins along similar lines. The use of abortifacient contraception is treated as if it were mere contraception. Then they point out that rape is not a marital act. Yes, of course rape is not a marital act. But why is that relevant? The implicit claim is that the Magisterium has supposedly only condemned contraception within marriage. So in addition to saying, correctly, that mere contraception can be used in cases of rape, they suggest that, outside of marriage, contraception is not immoral at all.(See my post: Is Contraception immoral outside of Marriage?) Then they justify abortifacient contraception in cases of rape, by speaking if it were mere contraception and by justifying all contraception outside of marriage.

Now I don’t believe the claim that Pope Paul VI gave official permission to nuns to use abortifacient contraception. See my post: Did Pope Paul VI approve of contraception for nuns in the Congo? No! But even if he did give approval, no one realized at the time that oral contraceptives are abortifacients, and everyone agrees that mere contraception can be used in cases of rape. Since we now know that chemical contraceptives are abortifacients, we cannot justify their use in cases of rape, regardless of the historical situation in the “nuns in the Congo” case.

Certain foolish Catholic teachers and authors justify the use of abortifacient contraception in cases of rape, and thereby give their public formal approval to that type of abortion. In this way, they commit the sin of formal cooperation with abortion. They are morally responsible for the deaths of innocent prenatals resulting from the influence of their rash and harmful words. And they are morally responsible for the harm they do to the souls of the faithful by promoting a false doctrine on the grave moral matter of abortion.

Medical Purpose

The Magisterium has infallibly condemned the intrinsically evil acts of murder, euthanasia, and direct abortion.

Euthanasia is murder with the intention of relieving all suffering. Notice that euthanasia, by definition, has a good intention, which we might also term a medical purpose: relief of suffering. In addition, the circumstances of euthanasia are often dire: a terminally ill person is suffering greatly near the end of their life. Yet the Magisterium has condemned euthanasia as always gravely immoral. Neither a medical purpose, nor a dire circumstance can justify the type of murder called euthanasia.

The moral analysis is the same for direct abortion. The very weighty medical purpose of saving the life of the mother does not justify direct abortion. It is not true that all “life of the mother” abortions are necessarily always indirect and moral. Even in dire circumstances, direct abortion is not justifiable. No intention or purpose, no circumstance or desired good consequence, can justify the deliberate knowing choice of any act ordered toward the killing of an innocent prenatal.

So what should we say about abortifacient contraception? The moral analysis is the same as for abortion. No medical purpose, however grave, and no intention, however noble, can justify abortifacient contraception. Nor does any intention or circumstance change the moral object of any intrinsically evil act from evil into good.

And yet, most pro-life Catholics have rejected the Church’s condemnation of abortifacient contraception. They embrace and defend abortifacient contraception as passionately as pro-choice activists embrace and defend surgical abortions. Why is this happening?

[Matthew 18]
{18:1} In that hour, the disciples drew near to Jesus, saying, “Whom do you consider to be greater in the kingdom of heaven?”
{18:2} And Jesus, calling to himself a little child, placed him in their midst.
{18:3} And he said: “Amen I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
{18:4} Therefore, whoever will have humbled himself like this little child, such a one is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
{18:5} And whoever shall accept one such little child in my name, accepts me.
{18:6} But whoever will have led astray one of these little ones, who trust in me, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be submerged in the depths of the sea.
{18:7} Woe to a world that leads people astray! Although it is necessary for temptations to arise, nevertheless: Woe to that man through whom temptation arises!

We must accept the teachings of the Magisterium condemning every grave sin, like little children being taught by their parents. We must not think up clever excuses for grave sin, like Satan tempting Eve in the Garden. But if any teacher of Catholicism approves of abortion or abortifacient contraception, for any purpose or intention whatsoever, he or she leads astray the little children of God. I would rather attempt a swim in the deep ocean, with a great millstone around my neck, than teach anyone that abortion or abortifacient contraception is justified, for any reason or in any circumstance whatsoever.

[James 3]
{3:1} My brothers, not many of you should choose to become teachers, knowing that you shall receive a stricter judgment.

{3:5} So also the tongue certainly is a small part, but it moves great things. Consider that a small fire can set ablaze a great forest.
{3:6} And so the tongue is like a fire, comprising all iniquity. The tongue, stationed in the midst of our body, can defile the entire body and inflame the wheel of our nativity, setting a fire from Hell.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to Catholics who Approve of Abortion in Cases of Rape

  1. Vyto says:

    I wish to relate a true story. In the former Soviet Union a communist official raped a woman who conceived due to the rape. She pressed charges against the official, but she was jailed and gave birth to a child while in prison. Shortly afterwards she died in prison. The child was adopted, by a devout Catholic couple. Today that child is a much loved Catholic priest with a PhD in theology. His doctoral thesis was about moral relativism. The priest himself told us, his parishioners, this story. Even a child conceived due to rape is a gift from God.

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