Children and the right to life in the canon law and the magisterium of the catholic church: 1878 to the present


This article considers the various emergence of an explicitly recognized right to life in papal teaching and the canon law of the last century and a quarter. The Church's opposition to abortion is deeply embedded within the tradition and law of the Church. It was, however, only in recent times, since the middle twentieth century, really, that the Church began to speak explicitly of a right to life. This paper explores the consequences for papal thought of this explicit recognition of rights. By speaking of a right to life, the Church has moved beyond the abortion debate to embrace a variety of other concerns. This is not to say that abortion does not remain important. Direct participation in abortion is a crime at canon law that results in automatic excommunication. But the language of rights has allowed the Church to address such matters as the protection of refugees; the moral requirement of adequate health care; the odious use of child-soldiers; and the use of economic embargoes that have the effect of destroying the civilian infrastructure (and public health systems) of entire societies.



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