I have been familiar with numerous institutions throughout my lifetime, ranging from schools to sports teams to places of employment. One institution I have been a part of for a long time is the Catholic Church.
From the time of my Baptism until present day, I have grown up with, learned, and continue to discover the values and beliefs of my faith. From its beginnings and in modern times especially, the Catholic Church has faced adversity regarding the issues of an ever-changing culture. Pope Francis XVI is the first of his kind, addressing certain issues head on and with honesty.
The Catholic Church’s stance on abortion is fully against the practice. As written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, life begins at conception. This places equal value on all human life, regardless of age or stage of life. The Church believes the unborn have an equal right to life as much as a grown adult. Ending this life with abortion is taking away life, and is the equivalent of killing someone in the eyes of the Church.
John Stuart Mill’s theories on harm can be applied to the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and values of human life. He says that an individual may do anything as long as it does not harm others. Abortion most definitely harms the unborn, taking away the right to life of those without a voice.
Though Mill is discussing harm in the context of government, it can be applied to the issue of morality in this case. The state is good for some things, and bad for others, according to Mill. The Catholic Church supports a variety of government actions, such as the freedom of religion, the right to vote, and laws against euthanasia. However, it recognizes that legalizing abortion is a bad action, harmful to thousands of unborn children whose lives are terminated prematurely.
Mill also describes that the failure to do a “distinct and assignable duty” to others merits punishment. The members of the Catholic Church would view abortion as a failure that falls under that category. We have duty to respect each person’s human dignity God gave to them, and abortion is a lack of duty to unborn children. There are certain decisions people can make that only affect themselves negatively, like failing to fulfill responsibilities because they are addicted to exercise, but in this case abortion is an example of harm.
Mill says it is not the action itself that is harmful, but the consequences on others. I would argue that the consequence of killing an unborn child is death, so the action itself would also be harmful. Every institution has its own values and goals, and those of the Catholic Church align with Mill’s perspective on harm.