The church has promulgated the doctrine that life begins at the moment of conception. As a Catholic, I accept that doctrine. But many people in our diverse nation are not members of our religious community and do not adhere to its doctrines.

I am troubled that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that all states must enact “appropriate penal sanctions” to en-force Catholic doctrine that life begins at conception. As a retired federal judge, I am gravely concerned that this not only crosses the First Amendment wall between church and state but also raises the issue of whether Catholic lawmakers and jurists are placed in conflict between their duty to state and their duty to church mandates. Were a case involving abortion assigned to my court when I was on the bench, I would have recused myself.

The church should eliminate its doctrine that the state enforce its abortion prohibition through penal sanctions, withdraw its Communion denials to Catholic lawmakers, and instead lobby for universal medical coverage for all pregnant women in a positive effort to enable and provide for the child in the womb.

Thomas Coffin