Believing abortion is not immoral-- automatic excommunication?


Just read this article that states that mere belief that abortion is sometimes acceptable is so sinful that the person is automatically excommunicated (not formally, of course)…

Do you believe this author? I think I do…


[quote="lovemyboys, post:1, topic:223988"]
Just read this article that states that mere belief that abortion is sometimes acceptable is so sinful that the person is automatically excommunicated (not formally, of course)...

Do you believe this author? I think I do...


Let me just say.....that site and it's creator are not 100% in line with Rome and the Magesterium. PLEASE be very cautious about what you read there. I think Catholic Answers has removed links to this "catholic planaet" site numerous times in the past because of its schismatic views on certain things.


No, I do not trust that author. His writings are such a mixture of truth and error that it’s almost impossible to tell what is trustworthy and what is not. The safest course is to ignore it altogether and rely on people whose work is approved by the Church, which Catholic Planet is not.


[quote="lovemyboys, post:1, topic:223988"]
Just read this article that states that mere belief that abortion is sometimes acceptable is so sinful that the person is automatically excommunicated (not formally, of course)...

Do you believe this author? I think I do...


Dear Lovemyboys:

I have looked at this article, and I believe its author has made a few rather critical errors in logic. It is true that anyone who "procures" an abortion automatically receives "excommunication"; the relevant passage in Canon Law (1398) reads as follows:

"A person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication. This means that at the very moment that the abortion is successfully accomplished, the woman and all formal conspirators are excommunicated". (this is from the EWTN website, by the way, here:

Now the author of your piece goes further, and argues mere belief in the morality of abortion is also an excommunicable offense. This comes from a rather tortured re-interpretation of Canon 751 and 1364. Basically the argument goes: if you obstinately deny a Church belief, that is heresy; if you're a heretic, that's an excommunicable offense. Seeing as opposition to abortion is a Catholic belief, to support it is heresy, so you are automatically excommunicated.

It sounds right, but it's not. To believe something exists is one thing; to believe in its morality is another; to speak it or communicate it is yet another; to actually do the thing is yet something else. Now I speak as a member of a permanently infertile couple, so obviously I consider human life very precious indeed, as I cannot co-create it with my spouse and God. I would love to create the life that the abortionist casually discards in the trash; indeed, I would give almost anything for it. But I cannot (and for other reasons, adoption is not possible for us). So I am firmly pro-life, and believe abortion is a great evil. Anyway, back to the question.

Obviously abortion exists; to deny that is silly (trivial). Can I believe it is moral in the privacy of my own thoughts? Well, yes, you have the ability to do so, but you won't be in agreement with Church doctrine, but mere disbelief is not always sinful, depending on what the thought is. There are some "thought sins", such as lust, which is a mortal sin (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa II, Q 153, Art. 3) But as even lust is not an excommunicable sin, I'd argue merely believing abortion is acceptable, while incorrect, does not mean you are excommunicated. I believe this matter falls into the sphere of "incredulity" as defined by the Church: the "neglect of revealed truth or willful refusal to assent to this". See:

Okay then, what if I talk about it? Well, I suppose that could enlist the additional sin of scandal or offense. Scandal is a communication or action that leads to another's spiritual ruin, according to the Angelic Doctor. Here, a vocal agreement for abortion, say, could lead another into a grave sin (actually committing the sin). This would be passive scandal, I think. It could become active scandal if I encouraged someone to do the thing, rather than just generally saying I supported it. But even this sin is not excommunicable, it is a mortal sin instead. Plus my status matters as well....if it's just my saying it, who really cares? I have little influence. If the local Bishop said it, that's another thing entirely!

So I think the CatholicPlanet author is mistaken (Ronald L. Conte). There's a brief piece on Mr. Conte here:

In it, we find Mr. Conte predicted that when Pope John Paul II died, the next Pope would be black (ah, not quite LOL!); he also predicted Hillary Clinton would win the United States' election (umm...maybe he mixed up the Pope and the President). So his track record isn't particularly good. False prophet, maybe?

If I understand Catholic teaching correctly, to be excommunicated, you would have to (a) be the woman who committed the abortion, or (b) be a formal conspirator in the process (like the doctors or nurses or a husband who, say, pays for the abortion, that sort of thing). You would have to very carefully examine the spiritual circumstances of these "conspirators" as well; their state of mind, their motives, intent, all of that. I could imagine a nurse who was forced to work at a hospital where these procedures are done; is that "formal conspiracy"? Probably not.

I hope this helps.



The case could be made that a person who supports abortion in defiance of the Church's doctrine that abortion is a sin against the Fifth Commandment is guilty of heresy, and therefore falls under the canonical penalty below:

Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication;

But, canon law on this subject is very nuanced and complex. Here's a good article:

And, as others have stated, it's a good idea to stay away from that website you posted in your original post.


Thanks for the warnings-- the article seemed a bit extreme.


Jacques, thanks for taking the time to write such an in-depth explanation.


No Lovemyboys:

Thank you instead! In writing that response, I was given the chance to look up a lot of things I haven’t thought about in a long while…and thus I “relearned” a lot of things I at best only distantly remembered from ages past. It’s always a good idea to try to keep the mind supple, I think, as we age…otherwise, our thinking and reasoning falls into familiar ruts, things we are more comfortable with. I hadn’t really thought about abortion in years, as it is so completely removed from my life experience. But it is an important issue, and worth taking some time on, so thanks.

It’s also caused me to think quite a bit about “sins of thought”, as part of your question was whether what we thought could ever, in and of itself, be sinful. I immediately thought of Aquinas on lust, pride, envy, wrath, and other such sins, but thinking it through again, I realize why I am so uneasy with the concept of “sins of mind”, or, if you will, “thoughtcrimes” (George Orwell). Unlike other sins, there is no objective way to measure them…if you stole a car, say, there is a real and measurable outcome. This is why we see in the OCD/Scrupulousity threads thousands of anguished Catholics who worry they have sinned by various “thoughts”…because there’s no way to objectively measure what you are thinking or feeling in your mind. So we end up uncertain on whether what we think is sinful or not. It is interesting that a 2009 Jesuit study reveals that the most common mortal sin confessed by men is lust; for women, it is pride. The Thomists did a lot of serious spadework on all of these sins, but the fact that even today they are so poorly understood suggests (to me) that there’s a lot of practical difficulty in diagnosing them.

I personally suspect that if you aren’t even permitted to conceive of an idea (is abortion moral?), you will never be able to understand it; so I’d tend to err on the side of caution regarding such issues anyway. The “not proven beyond a reasonable doubt” style of natural justice. Aquinas and the other Scholastics thought there were pretty good ways to define these things, but even they had to appeal to events “outside the mind”; so a purely interior thought/belief, divorced from any outside manifestation, would, in my mind, have to be pretty darned serious to qualify as sinful.



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit