Complicity in the Sin of Genocide

(A previous version of this article appeared in Crisis magazine.)

Abortion is an intrinsic moral evil. It involves carrying out or arranging to carry out the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. An intrinsic evil is an action that is always gravely sinful regardless of the circumstances. There are no exceptions, no grey areas.

The U.S. federal government is guilty of and complicit in intrinsic evil because it permits abortion. With some 62 million people killed by abortion since it was legalized, not only is the government complicit in an intrinsic evil, it is complicit in genocide – which the American Heritage dictionary defines as “the systematic killing of substantial numbers of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political opinion, social status, or other particularity.” In this case the particularity is the preborn.

To be sure, that does not mean federal employees and U.S. taxpayers are complicit, unless they support it and enable it.

Then who is complicit? They include the original seven Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize abortion in 1973. Presidents who appointed Supreme Court justices they knew to be in favor of keeping abortion legal were complicit in intrinsic evil, as were those newly appointed justices. Senators who voted to approve them also were complicit.

Members of the populace who vote for pro-abortion politicians are complicit in the intrinsic evil of legalized abortion, and therefore commit sin. This is particularly the case when they vote for politicians who want to enshrine abortion into federal law through an act of Congress, as well as enact taxpayer-funding of abortion. Direct funding of abortion would make the U.S. government not just the enabler of genocide as it is now, but also a principal executioner. It essentially would subcontract out the killing.

For Catholics, voting for a pro-abortion candidate could rise to the level of mortal sin, provided the three conditions of mortal sin are met: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. To be mortal, the Catholic voter has to be aware that abortion is a mortal sin, that his or her vote is helping to enable its continued legalization, and perhaps that he or she is not being misled by “seamless garment”-type ideas (see below). While voting for abortion is not on the same level of procuring an abortion, it is including oneself in a large group of voters who enable this national sin. Responsibility for the ongoing genocide ultimately rests with those U.S. voters who put the pro-aborts in power.

One may object that, though a vote for a pro-abort is a vote for the intrinsic evil of abortion, it is not sinful because it is a vote against other types of intrinsic evils.

What would constitute those other intrinsic evils? The death penalty? Allowance of the death penalty does not involve the deliberate killing of innocent human beings. The government assumes that the person being put to death is guilty of a heinous crime. He is a threat to society because of the possibility he could escape from prison or be released from prison by an unscrupulous judge. The death penalty also is a deterrent to would-be criminals. It is plausible that very occasionally, someone thought to be guilty but who is actually innocent mistakenly could be put to death. But this is not an intrinsic evil because unlike abortion, the executioners are not intending to kill an innocent person. Moreover, abortion involves the killing of some 850,000 innocent children per year. Under the death penalty, only about a two-dozen people are executed per year in the U.S.

What about when the U.S. wages war? This does not fall into the category of abortion because innocents are not deliberately targeted. Though many innocent people died as a result of U.S. actions during its many wars, the vast majority of them were not deliberately targeted – with the exception of the bombing of German and Japanese cities during World War II. The policymakers who approved the wars considered themselves to be engaging in self-defense – or the defense of other populations – against an aggressor. They may have sinned, for example through failure to think through certain consequences of their actions, but they did not sin on the scale of legalized abortion, which entails the deliberate killing of innocents.

If a presidential candidate vowed to wage an unjust war for the purposes of raw power, territorial expansion and genocide, as the National Socialists and Communists did, then it could be justifiable to vote for an opposing pro-abortion candidate. But this is not nor has it ever been the situation in the United States. (Moreover it would be the National Socialists or Communists who would champion abortion.)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” states, “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” This should close the door on the option of voting for a pro-abort. At no time in contemporary U.S. history has there been a public policy concern that even comes close to being as morally grave as the genocide of babies.

To be sure, the U.S. government enables other actions that the Catholic Church considers to be intrinsic evils: euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex unions. They are all championed by the pro-abortion party.

Many subscribe to the “seamless garment” theory, promoted by certain bishops, which considers abortion to be just one of a number of issues such as poverty, unemployment, substandard health care, immigration problems, environmental degradation, and climate change. But none of these separate issues are intrinsic moral evils – they do not involve the deliberate killing of innocent human beings. Most if not all politicians and other policymakers are well-intentioned in wanting to address those issues. They may have vastly different policy prescriptions, but they do not intend to kill anyone. Voting for or against politicians based on one or more of those separate issues likely is not sinful either way. It is only sinful to vote for a politician who champions perpetuating a government-sponsored intrinsic evil such as abortion.

Voting for a pro-abortion candidate is not only sinful, but mortally sinful assuming the above-mentioned conditions are met. It is sinning against God, and against millions of babies who are denied a life.

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