Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD
(I apologize if this is a repeat, I may have hit enter twice.)I'll ignore the straw man argument at the outset about politicians saying they are "deeply spiritual" but "not at all that religious"... any examples who ever said those quoted words?"Prominent among these demands is the removal of all religious discourse from the public square."Contrariwise, I'm always amazed at the amount of religious language we still tolerate in our secular society. We talk of God at every political rally, convention, political debate and on our money, yet we all have a different idea of what God is and what God dictates.Politicians are constantly invoking this supernatural figure and to someone who does not believe it is very surreal. What is this supernatural being saying and who is interpreting it? With what possible motive? How come different sects within our polyglot society all have different concepts of His Word?This seems like a scenario destined for trouble. The moment we all agree that supernatural beings are talking to us-- or our prophets-- the next moment we will disagree with what was said. Odd that such things are still taken seriously.I fully understand the problem Catholics have with abortion, but I'm at a loss at how they figure to reduce or eliminate abortion. Even your own church members get abortions, yet Catholic hierarchy feels that changing secular law should be pursued. Mexico, a predominantly Catholic country, has one of the highest abortions rates in the world. Italy's rate rivals those of secular non-Catholic Scandinavia. On a related note, I know of no Catholic couple in my age group who is not using birth control against the dictates of their church. If the Church cannot convince its own members, how can they expect to convince secularists or those of other religions?From a practical standpoint, if Roe v Wade were overturned tomorrow, only a couple states would likely restrict 1st trimester abortions, and women would easily travel to neighboring states or obtain abortifacient drugs, thus the abortion rate would be unchanged.The only way to legally outlaw abortion in the entire US is to change the legal definition of "person" to include all conceptuses, and the Constitutional amendment would likely meet daunting opposition even from religious people.Poverty and ignorance are the drivers of abortion. Access to birth control and education seem to be common denominators in societies with lower abortion rates. Laws have little effect, and social policy, while effective, can only reduce but not eliminate abortion.While I fully empathize with your sentiment about abortion (not necessarily homosexual rights, however), abortion is at least a suboptimal conclusion to an unwanted pregnancy, I cannot envision how the Church's dictates would be manifest in our nation or world.
Tony,Hardly a strawman. . .Pelosi, Obama, Kerry...all claim to be believers yet when pushed they dodge and weave using the "spiritual but not religious" distinction. . .private vs. public faith nonsense.You're missing the point of the Church's opposition to abortion. Our opposition is not a practical political calculation. Abortion is the direct killing of an innocent life. . .approx. 1.7 million innocent lives every year in the US...most of whom are racial minorities.The idea that a law against X will not prevent X from happening therefore X should be legal is dangerous indeed. Murder is illegal, yet murders continue to occur. Therefore, laws against murder are ineffective, so let's make murder legal. If we only made laws in order to completely eliminate undesirable behaviors then we would never make any laws. Laws cannot eliminate bad behavior.How would your education solution to abortion work if applied in the 1800's to the problem of black slavery in the US? Yes, yes. . .slavery is horrible; slavery is a tragedy, but passing a law against it won't stop it. We have educate the slave owners and try to bring them economic incentives...
No, the law changed so that blacks were considered "persons" under the law. That's the point. Only one politician that I know of-- Ron Paul-- has broached that issue. Not even Catholic lawmakers have talked about this very much if at all (Maybe you'll find one, fine.)Changing the Supreme Court will never work. I realize that I'm discussing tactics versus mission. If the universal mission is to reduce abortion, I just feel that the Catholic Church's strategy and tactics are would not have a material effect. Abortion rates have gone up under Republican pro-life policies.This is not like slavery on several levels, mostly that an embryonic life is not independent and more difficult to protect, therefore the woman will always have a choice. If abortion is murder the only way to ensure the safety of the embryo is to appeal to the judgment of the woman, or prevent the unwanted pregnancy in the first place. The Catholic Church has not even done very well among its own members, so maybe the RCC should ask why that is.
First, we have to distinguish btw what the Church teaches and what Catholic politicians believe and do. Too many Catholic politicians fail miserably in their baptismal vows. The Church's goal is not to reduce the number of abortions. The goal is to protect the dignity of the human person...every human person. Reducing the number of abortion is certainly a good thing, but stopping there begs the question: what's so bad about abortions that their numbers must be reduced?The Catholic teaching on abortion is neither a Democrat or Republican position. That numbers go up under GOP rule is irrelevant to the Church's teaching. The GOP pays lip service to pro-life rhetoric but not much more. Democrats have made support for abortion a sacrament.The failure of individual Catholics or even a majority of Catholics to follow the Church's teachings on abortion is no indication that the teaching is wrong. Education is certainly a necessary element of combating abortion, but education alone sends the wrong message: it is still your legal choice to kill your child, though your really shouldn't. Why not? If it's my choice, and the law doesn't even attempt to declare all human life sacred, then what's all the education about?
If Catholic politicians strictly followed the Church's teachings on abortion and homosexual rights, you would never have to worry about how they'd govern because they would never get elected. I can understand your angst with Pelosi and Kerry as part of the RCC hierarchy, and obviously they have prioritized their faith differently than you would like (b/c they had not turned off their brains after their "baptismal vows")... but that is the only way they would be electable and thus bring any semblance of RCC values to office. John F. Kennedy had to pointedly distance himself from the Pontiff. You say, "The Church's goal is not to reduce the number of abortions." That's an odd statement coming from someone who regards abortion as "murder." If it's murder, shouldn't we try to avoid each and every one? And you ask, "what's so bad about abortions that their numbers must be reduced?" Wha! From a medical standpoint, abortion puts a woman at risk of bleeding, infection and uterine damage which could lead to infertility. From an economic standpoint, abortion uses more resources than the prevention of pregnancy. There are emotional factors as well than would stimulate a woman to avoid abortion.Later you say, "education alone sends the wrong message..." So how would you outlaw abortion from a practical standpoint? Amendment, SCOTUS? How? The strong arm of the law, but how? What would you have Kerry and Pelosi do?I have to say, Father, that your stance without practical solutions highlights to me why the RCC dogma is becoming marginalized in secular societies (and even nominal "Catholic" society).
Tony, I notice that you left out my assertion that reducing abortions is a good. It is. It's just not the goal of the Church to reduce them but eliminate them.You are still assuming that the only purpose of the law is to prevent unwanted behaviors. Laws do more than that. . .they embody a nation's moral sense (not moralistic sense), it's sense of justice and dignity. We have all sorts of laws that do little to prevent unwanted behaviors, but they do express our basic social values.Your desire to co-opt the Church into some sort of practical compromise on abortion is quaint but it has been tried and it has failed. The Church has no interest in "going mainstream" and is perfectly happy being marginalized when she speaks the truth. It's been that way for 2,000 years. "You cannot serve both God and Mammon." The moment Catholics began to compromise with the zeitgeist, we fell into disarray and evil (e.g., the child/teen sex abuse scandals). The bishops trusted lawyers and therapists to handle these cases rather than the more difficult choice of standing up for the faith.The Church offers an ironclad, time honored practical solution to the problem of abortion: sex only within a sacramental marriage (or its secular equivalent)for the purpose of unitative love and procreation. In the end, the Church will be judged by how faithful she has been to the gospel...not how willing she has been to compromise for short-term political gain and popularity. Largely, this is the very reason that leftist elite hate the Church so much...we actually believe in something other than our immediate wants and imagined needs.
Let me ask you: what would you have the Church do? How could the Church address abortion w/o making herself into a liar with regard to her moral teaching?
What would I do as a Catholic? I cannot answer that since I am not a Catholic (not practicing although baptized.)The more informative question is what would you do? I noticed that you did not answer. If you were John Kerry or Nancy Pelosi what would be the proper tactic? Should they present the 1974 Constitutional Amendment at every session of Congress to see if it might pass? I fully understand the RCC's position, I just don't know how it's implemented, or are we to essentially do nothing practical and 'wait' for everyone else to come around to the RCC thinking?This is a serious question. I suppose my actions are more practical, and I would argue more effective for me and for society to reduce abortions. For example, should doctors sterilize couples who are done child-bearing, or just counsel them not to have sex and then deal with the unwanted pregnancy later (knowing that a certain percentage will abort)?