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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



The Teaching

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

not change.

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-