Like many other Americans of good will, I've been offering prayers of thanksgiving for the historic Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned the Court's terrible 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade. At the same time, I've been offering prayers of petition for the continued growth and spread of a culture of respect for life throughout our land.
The Dobbs decision is a credit to the fine legal minds and devout Catholicism of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Writing for the majority, Alito is absolutely correct that the reasoning underpinning Roe was egregiously flawed, and that there is no "right to abortion" in the U.S. Constitution. These five justices performed their sworn duty before God to the American people by strictly interpreting the Constitution according to its original text, meaning, and intent with regard to abortion law. That is exactly what all Supreme Court justices are supposed to do in every legal case, regardless of the issue. They are not supposed to "legislate from the bench," twisting the Constitution's original meaning to impose a contemporary ideological viewpoint on the entire nation, as they did in Roe and have unfortunately done many times since then on other important issues.
So what does Catholicism have to do with the majority's ruling in Dobbs? Two things. First, the Catholic Church teaches that there is no conflict between faith and reason, properly understood and applied, because both come from God and are sources of objective truth. When taken seriously in its totality, when believed and practiced as intended, Catholicism not only encourages faith in God (religion) and love of God and neighbor (morality), but also good critical thinking, coherent logical reasoning, and sound judgment. This is why the Catholic Church founded the modern university system in Europe in the High Middle Ages, and it is a major reason why these five justices earned great legal reputations and were appointed to the highest court in the United States.
Secondly, as Catholic League president Bill Donohue pointed out in his excellent book Why Catholicism Matters (2012), the foundation of inalienable human rights originating from the Creator on which our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were built was given to the world by the Catholic Church. While some of her members have notoriously violated her teachings in these areas, the Church has steadfastly maintained the sacredness of human life and the immorality of abortion since ancient times and has developed her doctrine on ordered liberty in the course of centuries. Our nation's Founders inherited the timeless natural law principle of inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness primarily from Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Robert Bellarmine, and they explicitly constructed a new nation on this principle written by the Creator into the fabric of human nature.
The idea of objective and universal moral truths of divine origin existing outside of ourselves and to which we must humbly submit is anathema to the morally relativistic and radically secularist thinking that has poisoned our society with a hedonistic "culture of death" in recent years. As a result of Roe vs. Wade, during the past fifty years, more than sixty million innocent unborn children (potential citizens) of the United States have been brutally denied the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that were theoretically guaranteed to them by the Constitution for the sake of convenience. Simultaneously, the number of violent crimes against born human beings in this country has increased dramatically, and several states have legalized euthanasia. This should come as no surprise. Saint Teresa of Calcutta declared truthfully that abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace because if a woman can kill her unborn child, there is nothing to stop anyone else from killing whomever they wish to kill.
But the reality of inalienable human rights exists in all times and places, whether it is fully acknowledged and respected or not. The grave evil of African-American slavery was both legal and common throughout much of the United States for more than eighty years, and the alleged "right" to own slaves was even upheld for a time by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott vs. Sanford. Someday, the citizens of this country will rightly look back with utter horror at the Roe vs. Wade regime, viewing abortion the same way we view slavery today: How could this civilized nation founded on the principle of "liberty and justice for all" have tolerated such a grave injustice against so many millions of her own people for so many years?
I was disappointed but not surprised that Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the pro-Roe minority in the Dobbs case. Appointed to the High Court by President George W. Bush in 2005, Roberts was a faithful Catholic with apparently stellar conservative credentials. Just seven years later in 2012, however, Roberts was the deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act in United States vs. ObamaCare. He is an example of the unfortunate trend among many justices and judges in the United States in recent decades pointed out by Robert Bork in Slouching Towards Gomorrah (1996): when conservative lawyers are placed in U.S. courts, they often become less conservative.
The Supreme Court was right to return the issue of abortion to us, the people and our elected representatives. Unfortunately, while many states will now vote to restrict abortion or to outlaw it altogether, some will keep it legal with few if any restrictions. The monumental challenge now facing the pro-life movement in the United States is to sufficiently educate and mobilize the public and elected representatives to eradicate the evil of legalized abortion from all fifty states, either state by state or through Congressional legislation. President Ronald Reagan foresaw the latter method in his famous "Evil Empire" speech of 1983, declaring, "Human life legislation ending this tragedy [abortion on demand] will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must not rest until it does."
If the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution mean anything, the inalienable right to life of American unborn children cannot be protected in some states and left unprotected in others per the differing whims of majority vote, court ruling, state law, or executive order. As a matter of basic justice, it must be legally guaranteed throughout the nation. Given the controversial nature of the issue, this won't happen without a fight. As we fought a Civil War for the just cause of eliminating legalized slavery, we may well have to fight another for the just cause of eliminating legalized abortion. Our national transformation from a culture of death to a culture of life will not happen overnight, and prayer and fasting will play a critical role in its success. The closing lyrics of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key come to mind:
O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand / Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n-rescued land / Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, / And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave / O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Copyright © 2022 Justin D. Soutar.