New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has received a lot of push back, even including demands for his excommunication from the Church, because of signing the Reproductive Health Act. First, let’s recap briefly what he actually signed into law. The Reproductive Health Act allows those who are not doctors to perform abortions. It also allows abortions to be performed all the way up until the child’s due date if the mother’s health is in danger or if there is not a viable fetus. A non-viable fetus can still have a heartbeat. It’s only deemed non-viable when a doctor says there is no chance of the fetus surviving after birth. (Setting aside the fact it won’t survive an abortion either) This replaces the previous law that only allowed abortions after 24 weeks and that was provided the woman’s life was in danger.
Cuomo is catching the backlash because just weeks earlier, during his State of the State address, he promoted his Catholic faith and said we should “stand with Pope Francis”. However, supporting and allowing abortion for any reason is certainly not “standing with Pope Francis” since the pope has called abortion “genocide”. Pope Francis has also said performing an abortion was like “hiring a hit man to resolve a problem.” Supporting abortion is not “standing with Pope Francis.”
Cuomo is not the only politician recently who has been attacked for touting their Catholic faith while going directly against the Church’s teachings publicly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has even caught fire for her advocacy and support of abortion to the degree that caused Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke to issue a statement saying she should be refused the Eucharist until she changes her advocacy and views on abortion.
Burke cites Canon Law 915 as his reason for such a response. Canon 915 says Catholics who “manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Burke points out that supporting abortion is a grave sin in the Catholic Church and, thus, should be treated like other grave sins where only through Reconciliation shall that person receive Holy Communion again.
But, excommunication? Not necessarily. Canon Law 1398 says “a person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” The only specification in canon law about abortion requires an abortionist to be excommunicated if that person persist in aiding or causing an abortion.”
One could argue the Church’s teachings on abortion are out dated or perhaps radical or restrictive. When the pages of the Bible are opened to the Old Testament we see that is simply not the case, unless you are prepared to argue the Bible is outdated and irrelevant.
In Exodus 21:22-23 we see the Word of God tells us “when men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers gives birth prematurely (The Hebrew translation reads “so that her child comes out), but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. But, if injury ensues, you shall give life for life.” The Law of Moses turns the focus to the unborn child. If the child is born prematurely but lives then there is a fine for the man who caused it. If the child dies there are greater consequences.
The Bible is clear there is punishment for those who cause the death of an unborn child. The end of verse 23 we see it tell us “life for life.” It was essentially a death sentence for those who caused the death of an unborn child. Why? A person had been killed. If you back up to Exodus 21:12 you see the beginning of the context of these verses and the previous verses leading up to verse 23 shows the punishments and stipulations regarding different murder situations. It’s all addressing murder. The Bible places the death of an unborn child outside natural circumstances as murder.
What should happen to Cuomo, Pelosi, and many other Catholics who support abortion? I would agree with Cardinal Burke that they are in a condition of grave sin and therefore shall be refused the Eucharist. As for excommunication, well I would say that’s up to the pope and cardinals. One thing is for certain: we all have a part to play. We all should be praying for them to see the beauty God plants in each life and to confess that each life is a reflection of the image of God (Genesis 1:26). James 2:26 (NAB) shows us, it is the spirit – the soul of a person that gives life and not a body. Therefore life is held within the spirit of a person and not a body. We have a spiritual nature long before we have a physical nature, as the Bible shows us in Psalm 51:7 (NAB) “True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.”