Should pro-abortion Judges be excommunicated?

If a judge upholds a law (whether statute law - an act passed by congress, or case law - a legal convention established by previous cases) which permits or promotes abortion, have they sinned?

I understand and accept that a politician, a lawmaker, who has the freedom to vote one way or another on pro-abortion laws, and who chooses to vote to promote abortion, is committing a grave sin, and the Church teaches that they incur excommunication for it.

Is the situation different for judges, even Supreme Court judges, who also have a professional responsibility to uphold a code of laws in accordance with the conventions of the legal system?

Surely there is a difference here between the legislature and judiciary. The Supreme Court isn’t just a mini-senate of 9 members who vote how they choose. Are they culpable in the same way as politicians?

I personally think that judges should only vote for things in which they BELIEVE in… So I think that a lot of people vote certain ways to please people, and inable them to have more followers. Many people believe an abortion is a womans right. Therefore, allowing the woman to have the choice isnt something they should be punished for (what some judges and officials believe). I believe however, that by allowing woman to have the right on whether or not to have an abortion is sinful in itself, by that is just my opinion. God wants all children to be born-- if there is a miscarriage or something it is his doing. Going and killing a baby inside of you is not something God would want you to do, or even to vote on allowing to happen.
I really enjoy this bible verse when I get on the topic of abortions Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.”

Judges should recognize that despite certain laws all human beings have a right to life, and they shouldn’t be afraid to rule that way. In my opinion, it would be immoral to rule in favor of abortion.

If a Judge were ruling in a clear case what the law clearly intends something immoral, should they be condemned for doing their secular job? Good question.

This is perhaps an area where politics and religion do not mix very well.

Let’s say that the constitution was written (differently) as to be very clear about abortion…let’s say that an amendment was added that allowed it (God forbid this should every happen…).

OK, so you’ve got a judge who’s job it is to interpret the constitution as defined by law. Should they even accept a judgship if it would mean ruling towards abortion when their own conscience is against the law of the land?

Excellent question by the OP.

Jenny Granholm used this question to sidestep her “Catholicity”, when asked about abortion. Granted, she isn’t a judge, but she clearly stated that while she was “personally against abortion”, she would defend a woman’s right to have one in Michigan, since that was the law and she was bound to uphold the law.

To me, that’s whoring out one’s self to their occupation, legislative or otherwise; in effect selling their soul to have or retain the power and prestige of a good job or high office.

I guess for me, the same principle would apply for a judge; the law of God should supercede the law of the land. However, in a societal sense, this could backfire. Suppose you had a judge who believed in a God who sanctioned abortions? Their conscience would tell them the exact opposite of a Catholic conscience.

Again, good question to ponder.

In my opinion, the Church should not excommunicate a Judge simply because they rule that under the law as it is, abortion is legal. Judges lower than the Supreme Court are required to rule that abortion, at least under the parameters defined by the Supreme Court, is legal. A Supreme Court Justice should, in my opinion, rule how they believe the law treats abortion. If a given Justice (say, Scalia) believes that the constitution gives legal protection to abortions, then they should rule that the law says abortion is allowed. If, however, they believe that the law constitution does not require protection for abortion, they should rule that way.

To excommunicate a Judge/Justice simply because they are ruling on what the law says (and they should not be ruling on what they want the law to say) would be tantamount to doing something like excommunicating a Marine or a Soldier because the US sends them into combat in an unjust war.

That’s a very good point (highlighted).
Only the soldier can refuse to engage in direct battle as a consciensious (sp?) objector, no? Or can they still do that?

Well, someone who was already in the military would (from what I understand with regards to the US) have to show that a new religious or moral belief has formed, since they joined the military, against all war.

So long as people are willing to go against their beliefs in morals simply because it’s their job, this world will never change. We need people that will actually make a stand.

anytime anyone deliberately assists in the abortion of an unborn child they are already excommunicated. There has just not been the earthly paperwork and stuff. But, I am pretty sure it has already happened in heaven. It is a mortal sin.

This made me think of a related scenario. Let’s say that some pro-lifers are protesting in front of an abortion clinic and have blocked the entrance. Let’s also say a Catholic cop is one of the police officers called to the scene. Should he do his job and stop the protesters from blocking the entrance knowing that this will result in abortions being performed or should he refuse to move the protesters and loose his job?

Remember this man took an oath to server and protect, to uphold the law. Should he break his oath?

Let’s say that he is the father of five and the only income in the house. In this current economy should he risk his job, and his family’s security. Does that change things?

Just something to ponder.

I guess it comes down to this. Did the person really have a choice? Were they actually supporting abortion, or simply doing their job? Should there be a conscious call against pro-lifers going into a profession where these things might happen. But, then if pro-lifers do not go into these professions don’t we also loose any voice in those arenas?

It is a very difficult question and not one I think should be answer flippantly. (Not to insinuate that anyone is being flippant about it.)

The answer to your question is found in ‘The Imitation of Mary’

Basically She says that to neglect ones mundane duties in order to achieve holiness is not pleasing to god. The Police Officer could as well be off duty and attending the same peaceful protest.(I am assuming it is a peaceful protest…:p) But, when he is on duty and in uniform. He is a Police Officer; a Catholic police officer, but one who, as you said, is sworn to uphold the law. Render to Ceaser and render to God…etc.

As a matter of fact I do not see that the Police officer is contributing to the abortion of innocent children in anyway. He may, in fact, be helping to keep the zealots from sinning by preventing their vandalism or even lynching of a “sinner”. There is a big diference between holding a rosary pray-in and starting a riot.

Several of the answers to this thread are confirming my suspicion that although “conservatives” (I hate that word) complain until they are blue in the face about activist judges, they don’t really want to see judges that are not activist, they really just want to see activist judges that agree with them.

There is nothing in the previous posts to indicate that the individuals making them are conservative. The conservative position would in fact be that the judge has the obligation to rule on what the law does say and not on his personal opinion of what it ought to say. I think if you better understood the word perhaps you would have a higher opinion of it.

I understand and share the revulsion of abortion expressed by others but we cannot overturn Roe by overturning the basis on which all laws stand: that they mean what they say and must be interpreted on that basis alone. If a law is foolish or harmful a judge has the right and obligation to say so but he cannot rule that it therefore says something else.


If he doesn’t do it, some other police officer will. Methinks doing his job and being a “good Catholic” might involve convincing the blockaders that they can peacefully demonstrate (or whatever is legal in their neck of the woods) and do more to help stop an abortion from the sidewalk than they can from a jail cell i.e. that if they persist they’ll be arrested for trespassing.

In my view, excommunicating or threatening to excommunicate a judge would be counter-productive. A judge is strictly bound generally to follow precedent in case law. It is well established, at least in Anglo-American legal systems, that the way to change law is through the legislature, not the judiciary. While overturning a precedent may be required in some situations, trying to pressure a Catholic judge to decide cases not on established law but on their own subjective whim or even worse, subjective religious beliefs as the main reason, would seriously compromise the judge’s fitness for their office. As has been pointed out by jurists who wrote on this issue, this sort of measure would be a hinderance to properly qualified and skilled Catholics who may otherwise be excellent candidates for the bench, as their Catholicism could then be used as a means to question their ability to decide cases strictly impartially. This would be a shame as the Catholic community and Catholic schools and universities have a very good reputation for producing some of the best judges, lawyers and jurists in many countries.

The way to change law is through the elected legislature; if Catholics are not happy with abortion laws, they should try to change the law through the democratic process (i.e. by voting for pro-life politicans or political parties or through lobbying and public airing of their views).

The key words are “must be interpreted”.
For example, in the case of conflicting laws, i.e. legislation which conflicts with the constitution, for instance, it is subject to the judges conclusion. The judge winds up using the dangerous application of personal discretion, or ruling from the bench as it were.
Judges on many occasions have personally interpreted a less than common understanding of what a particular law says, even with the so-called legalistic jargon used in the body of written law.

Very true, and this behavior should be universally condemned whenever it occurs and not accepted - much less demanded - even in those situations where such misbehavior is in our favor.


Yes indeed. It is at the very heart of honor and integrity, seems that doesn’t matter much to some.

I understand the term “conservative” quite well. Well enough to know that it can mean an entirely different thing to each person who uses it. Both “conservative” and “liberal” have been corrupted in the U.S. until they have no meaning at all. To many people, “conservative” is nothing more than a synonym for “Republican” and, to an even greater number I would guess, “liberal” is nothing more than a synonym for idiot.

But to get back on topic, I agree with your understanding of the role of a judge. Maybe in my original post I should have complained of Catholics who promote activist judges rather than conservatives. Most Catholics that I know (who know/care enough about it to have an opinion) blame Roe on activist judges re-writing the Constitution, but then I look at this thread and see Catholics pushing for judicial activism when it suits their purpose.

This thread contains a misnomer: Things like capital punishment, war and gluttony are evils but any judge would uphold them as legal. Folks should understand that a judge is not a legislator.

So, excommunicating a judge for a ruling is quite out of place.

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