Chapter 29. Fifth Commandment: Promote the Culture of Life • 391
Self-defense against an unjust aggressor is morally permitted. There
is also a moral duty for the defense of others by those who are respon-
sible for their lives. Self-defense or the defense of others has the goal of
protecting the person or persons threatened. Once the threat is elimi-
nated, no further action is required. In such situations, the deliberate
killing of the aggressor can be permitted only when no other solution is
possible (cf. CCC, no. 2265). Any response to aggression must be pro-
portionate to the nature of the threat or the act of aggression.
Legalized abortion is having a destructive effect on our society; few
other actions legalized by our public policy as profoundly undermine
our values as a people or upset the moral compass by which we live. The
Church has always condemned abortion. In the
of the Apostles
), 2, 2, written toward the end of the first century and
revered as an honored guide for Christian life, we read, “You shall not
kill the embryo by abortion.”This teaching has never changed and it will
From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abor-
tion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “crim-
inal” practice (GS, no. 27 §3), gravely contrary to the moral law.
The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication
for this crime against human life. Because it should be treated
as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in
its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being.
(CCC, nos. 2322-2323)
Modern technology has enabled us to appreciate how quickly the
growing child in the womb takes on human features. This has made
many more people aware of the fact that human life begins at concep-
tion, the moment that the egg is fertilized. Many common forms of arti-
ficial birth control cause abortions by not allowing the newly conceived
human child to implant in the mother’s womb.
The pro-life commitment of the Church is reflected in her compas-
sion for those who so often regret having had an abortion, her under-