What does the Church say in her social doctrine about civil disobedience for the cause of life as practiced by the Franciscan Friars of Renewal and Priests for Life in the nationally coordinated Red Rose Rescues?
“Red Rose Rescues” are recent actions sponsored by some pro-life organizations wherein individuals who desire to save unborn lives enter abortion facilities to be in the waiting areas with pregnant mothers to give them a red rose that has a card attached with words of hope and information about alternatives to abortion and of local pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. In the submitted question, there are really two questions: the legitimacy of “civil disobedience” in general and whether or not what are known as the Red Rose Rescues are such acts. Paragraph 2242 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the following on civil disobedience:
“The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ ‘We must obey God rather than men’:
When citizens are under the oppression of public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.”
Paragraph 2243 continues the explanation, stating that “armed resistance” is not acceptable, except when five preliminary and definite conditions are all met:
1 – the injustice against fundamental rights is “certain, grave, and prolonged;”
2 – all other means have been tried and exhausted;
3 – such will not provoke worse disorders;
4 – there is “well-founded hope for success;”
5 – there is no possibility of a better solution foreseen.
All of these details being as they are, it is necessary to note that the Church always lauds the true form of martyrdom as a manner of death that is embraced in consequence for living in the truth. That the term “martyrdom” is sometimes used by those who, out of misguided zeal, provoke a situation for any cause (not necessarily one that is true) within which they are killed is not the same as freely and humbly accepting death at the hands of an aggressor in witnessing to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom of “truth, justice, and love.”
As to the Red Rose Rescue question: I openly state that in my research online I did not find enough evidence to confidently say whether or not these acts are
justifiable according to what is offered in the Catechism. However, if such acts are carried with the type of disposition toward any aggressors that Jesus Himself showed during and after He was arrested and taken to the Sanhedrin, such acts may be justifiable – I simply do not know enough to say. However, if these acts require the resisting of arrest, the provoking potential violence, or include other acts or dispositions of non-cooperation with authorities, such acts are not acceptable.