Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm a pro-choice Catholic

To the question, “Are you pro-life or pro-choice?” I answer, “Both.” What has been missing in the pro-life stance is nuance and common sense. Well, also on the pro-choice side, but I suspect few of my readers sympathize with that side and already know that.
Charles Curran gets respect for his sound moral theology and for openly dissenting from official Catholic moral theology. I’ve admired him for years. Not surprisingly, the Vatican, led by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, has forced his removal from Catholic teaching posts for a number of years, but Curran is at it again and again drawing fire for it, this time from the U.S. Catholic bishops whose stance on abortion he challenges.
His challenges to the bishops iterate my concerns. Forty years ago I wrote a letter to liberal columnist Ellen Goodman, who strongly argued for abortion rights. I argued that, because we don’t know when human life begins, abortion is wrong.

Curran also points to our ignorance about the moment of ensoulment and cites Church documents admitting this. Because of our uncertainty, he states, we should not risk ending a human life in the womb. BUT, for the same reason, we can’t say abortion is murder or that abortion has more importance than other moral issues. According to Curran,
In my judgment, the U.S. bishops claim too great a certitude for their position on abortion law and fail to recognize that their own position logically entails prudential judgment so that they cannot logically distinguish it from most of the other issues such as the death penalty, health care, nuclear deterrence, housing, . . .
In the last six months I’ve gotten a more cogent reason to oppose the absolutist pro-life position that human life begins at conception—reincarnation theory.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Edgar Cayce induced in himself a sleep state during which he gave medical advice that proved accurate and beneficial to hundreds of persons requesting his help. An uneducated man, Cayce himself was surprised by what he learned his voice said during his altered states of consciousness.
Nothing surprised him more than his voice commenting on past lives and thus positing reincarnation. Apropos abortion, I quote from Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation:
It would seem from the Cayce data that the soul can enter the body shortly before birth, shortly after birth, or at the moment of birth. As much as twenty-four hours can elapse after an infant is born before the soul makes entry.
Curran also raised the question of what’s feasible and practical in abortion law. This approaches my reasons for strongly opposing the criminalization of abortion. To put it bluntly, whom would we prosecute? Do we really want our country to imprison women—perhaps single mothers—for choosing abortion in desperate circumstances. Do we want to imprison doctors for trying to relieve desperate mothers?

And then there’s the evidence that criminalizing abortion does not reduce their number. This is not the place to give details.
All I can do here is outline the reasons that the phrase “prochoice Catholic” is not an oxymoron. Curran gets the last word:
One who holds the Catholic moral teaching can come to different conclusions about what the law should be.

Abortion again (November 24)
I received this email:
Did you know that St. Thomas regarded ‘ensoulment’ to occur 90 days after conception? In a medieval text I studied, the time given was 40 days after conception. The Roman Catholic Church got into a mess when it talked of ‘the moment of conception’ in 1854. Biologists say there is no such ‘moment.’
Wilfred Theisen
He’s a monk and retired physics professor, and he added,
One of our quite conservative priests, an excellent theologian, has been saying for some time that the patriarchs have lost their moral authority in the church.
Religious persons like this and like the Presentation Sisters I met in Fargo this past weekend help me to cherish my religious tradition.

In spring I started cleaning up and shortening my blog index in hopes of making it more useful. If you’ve clicked on a topic and the page didn’t exist, it’s because my tech helpers hadn’t finished entering the changes I requested.

I couldn’t keep this blog without Peter and Tony Ohmann, who grew up in Albany, MN, until they attended St. John’s University to study Computer Science. Peter graduated with honors and distinction in December of 2009 and moved to Arkansas, but in January he will move to the University of Wisconsin in Madison to pursue a Masters degree and potentially a PhD. He and Tony started Obros Computers when he was a junior in high school. In Peter's words, “We’ve done repairs, PC builds, web development, and a bunch more miscellaneous things over the years--mostly for families or small businesses.”

This is my favorite computer geek story.

2 comments:

Florian said...

Did you not read previous comments of mine on the issue of abortion? I have already dismantled your liberal pro-choice arguments; so has the pro-life side for many years now. Why are you rehashing a debate that was settled a long time ago? Everybody knows that there is no argument for abortion, only excuses.

You already gave a great argument against abortion to Ellen Gooodman: “I argued that, because we don’t know when human life begins, abortion is wrong.”

That's it. End of argument. Why bring it up for debate again?

Nevertheless, let me take a look at your arguments and dismantle them:

“Curran also points to our ignorance about the moment of ensoulment.” You always seem to want to make a fuss about about the notion of life beginning at conception as being an absolutist position. However, that is quite irrelevant. No abortions take place right at the moment of conception anyway. Abortions that take place in the late term are clearly wrong. And if we are uncertain about the time in between, then, “Because of our uncertainty, [Curran] states, we should not risk ending a human life in the womb.” So we can logically conclude that ALL abortions are immoral. The pro-life stance is cut-and-dried. There is nothing to nuance.

“BUT, for the same reason, we can’t say abortion is murder or that abortion has more importance than other moral issues.” If something is not murder, does that mean it can't be outlawed? Of course, not. So, this is another irrelevant point. It is also irrelevant from the perspective of the church. For even if abortion is not murder, it is still immoral for the same reasons that contraception is immoral. You forget about that since you have long since disregarded contraception as an important moral issue.

“U.S. bishops claim too great a certitude...their own position logically entails prudential judgment... [such as death penalty, etc.]" No. We have already concluded that all abortions are immoral. Thus, there is not the wiggle room for prudential judgment, as in the case of the death penalty, which could be justified for violent criminals if there were no adequate prison facilities.

Jeanette said...

Regular readers of my blog are familiar with Florian's fulminations. This one ignores the main point made by Curran and me—we can believe abortion is wrong without endorsing its criminalization.