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By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
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11th September 2001


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Evangelium Vitae 73



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Articles on Evangelium Vitae 73

I. Evangelium Vitae 73 & the Supreme Principle of Morals

Do the Pope's words in this provision permit the construction that one may licitly vote in favour of pro-abortion legislation, even when one intends something good, or seeks to diminish harm? Or are we to take the Pope at his word when he says It is never licit to vote for it ? What the Pope has said is clear, once we look at the whole document. more

II. Msgr Luño's View Of Evangelium Vitae § 73

In September 2002, in L'Osservatore Romano, Professor Angel Luno of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross published an interpretation of the Pope John Paul's words in Evangelium Vitae §73. His interpretation would allow that one may do evil that good may come of it. The Catholic Church has never taught this. Nor did the Pope. more

III. Dubia

There are three views on the correct interpretation of the Pope's words in the third paragraph of EV 73. The first would allow voting for evil legislation in certain circumstances; the second would preclude any such conduct, but allow intervention so as to limit the harm of the evil legislation; the third would decline any involvement if the legislation that resulted after intervention permitted any evil. The Catholic world needs a definitive determination as to what the words mean. The questions set forth here are designed to elicit that determination with rulings from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. more

IV. Debate

A prominent Church theologian criticised the views of the author expressed in the article 'Monsignor Luno's views of Evangelium Vitae § 73'. Here are slightly edited versions of that criticism and of the author's response. more

V. Colin Harte's Changing Unjust Laws Justly

We have referred readers to Colin Harte’s new book, Changing Unjust Laws Justly (Catholic University of America Press, 2005)[1] and commented that while his view does not precisely coincide with the views aired on this website (see Evangelium Vitae 73 & the Supreme Principle of Morals ) they do represent a return to sanity from the views espoused by some within the Catholic Church that it is licit in some circumstances to permit abortion.

The difficulty for those who accept Colin Harte’s view is this—if the pro life legislator has no scope to change a law which permits or tolerates abortion, he is hamstrung.  He may seek to abrogate it, but he may never try to amend it.  Law is the primary means by which society is ordered.  If we accept the Harte view, we are placed in a position of helplessness in which the law is surrendered to the pro abortionists.  With the greatest respect, that is an irrational position.

It makes nonsense, moreover, of the clear words of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae n.73—

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorised abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on.  Such cases are not infrequent… In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.  This does not in fact represent an illicit co-operation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

None of the proposals accepted by Colin Harte as justifiable—what he refers to as secondary legislation—can reasonably be placed within this teaching.  They would not amount to a more restrictive law; they would not be aimed at limiting the number of authorised abortions, or limiting the harm done by a pro abortion law; they would not amount to proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences.  Moreover, the Pope’s pre-requisite for such action—that a legislator’s absolute personal opposition to procured abortion be well known—makes no sense if, as Harte maintains, all that the legislator can do is vote, for example, in favour of a bill to give doctors the right not to participate in abortion procedures; or, a bill to reduce public funding for abortion.  The public promotion of bills such as these would not scandalise, which is the Pope’s fear, they would edify!

There is a view other than the foolish view of those who allow the doing of some evil that good may come of it, and the view of those like Colin Harte, who say that all that is permitted to pro life legislators in the late Pope’s teaching is secondary legislation.  This third view is the one we advocate.  It does not involve the doing of evil or cooperating in it.  It does not avoid the problem posed by the late Pope.  It accepts the dilemma and offers a rational solution.

Michael Baker                                                     Bern Sadler
3rd December 2005—St Francis Xavier, Patron of Australia