Going Deeper into "Evangelium Vitae's" Stance on Unjust Abortion Laws

Theologian Calls on Colleagues to Help Explain It Better

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 8, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Theologians need to help people correctly understand the Pope's view on why lawmakers can sometimes support imperfect legislation on abortion, a scholar contends.



Angel Rodriguez Luno, professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, spelled out his proposal in a lengthy article in Friday's edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper.

He focused on section No. 73 of John Paul II's 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," a passage that says public officials under certain conditions can support legislation that limits -- but doesn't ban -- abortion.

Some pro-lifers are uneasy with that passage, saying it smacks of an unjustifiable compromise on an issue involving the deaths of millions of unborn children.

No. 73 of "Evangelium Vitae" reads, in part: "When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects."

Rodriguez deals with the principle that justifies voting for an imperfect law.

Two parts must undergird the principle. First, the parliamentarian voting for an imperfect law must have as the object of his will the elimination of as much evil as he is capable of eliminating. Second, nobody is obliged to choose impossible things or to impede things that are impossible to impede.

According to the newspaper's Web site: "The profound intention of this solution is sufficiently clear if seen in its context. It is up to moral theology to further study its foundation, either so that the teaching of this passage of the encyclical can be understood without equivocations, or to facilitate its correct application to other similar moral problems."