In my patient’s opinion, she was well past child-rearing years. Yet she found herself pregnant. Previous talks about her consternation left me worried that she would seek to end her pregnancy. Now she had a question: “If I get an abortion, will you still be my doctor?”

I felt disappointed and stumped. If I said “yes,” would I be encouraging her? If she understood this as my “permission,” did that mean I was cooperating in the murder of her child?

This is serious business. Involvement with abortion at just about any level is not only a mortal sin — it is also automatic excommunication. If you’re excommunicated, you cannot participate in the life of the Church — including no sacraments, and not even a Church burial. Were I guilty of this kind of cooperation, I couldn’t just go to my parish priest in confession — I would need to go to the bishop or his designate, and get a special penance and absolution for the excommunication to be lifted.

I really wanted to say “no,” but would that have been failing in charity? At length I reiterated my stand against abortion, but said I would continue to care for her, regardless. She must have sensed my hesitation, because she ever came back.

It’s not always simple

When you cooperate with evil, you help make it happen. If it’s grave matter and you knowingly cooperate closely, you may have committed a mortal sin. Many people try to make participation in abortion seem inconsequential. It isn’t. Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being and the Church emphasizes the gravity of the sin with excommunication.

It can be hard for us to determine cooperation with evil. I deprive my patients of care if I resign from the staff of a remote hospital where they are going to do sterilizations. What to do? The one airline going where I need to get contributes to Planned Parenthood. Am I stuck? The only immunizations for some illnesses including rubella were originally sourced from aborted fetal tissue. Must I refuse protection for my child? Things are not always black or white and many situations may require pastoral advice.

So typically people aver they cooperated with abortion because of a complex situation. Yet, our bishops have given plenty of clear and simple guidance — there is little to validly mitigate cooperation. This particular excommunication is immediate and automatic — called latae sententiae, the old formula once used officially is worth reading. It is terrifying, yet leaves a hint of hope:

“We declare him excommunicate and anathema; we judge him damned, with the Devil and his angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire until he shall recover himself from the toils of the devil and return to amendment and to penitence.”

Looming persecution

Catholics have been persecuted throughout our history. But in the United States, it’s always been at the hands of non-Catholic individuals or groups. We are now entering a different kind of persecution, coming from those who may be excommunicated Catholics working closely with an anti-Catholic government. They are now emboldened by large numbers of cooperating Catholics.

Expect these government people to continue their confusing pretense as believing Catholics, as they did prior to this Election Day. They may fool some, but God is not stupid. You shouldn’t be either.

Committed Catholics need to understand that taking human fertility out of God’s hands is the basis of the culture of death. Abortion, in-vitro fertilization, many divorces, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and even homosexual attempts at marriage are rooted in a mentality that accepts contraception and sterilization. A robust faith does not deny God access into any aspect of life. Benedicamus Domino.

Dr. Jim Asher is a graduate of Marquette University and Des Moines University. He earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Midwestern University. He and his wife of 49 years, Rose Neidhoefer of Milwaukee, have seven children and 13 grandchildren. He is a retired family physician. He is a parishioner at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, an officer in the Catholic Physician’s Guild, and a member of the Knights of Columbus. Opinions expressed are the writers' and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

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