A rift between conservative American bishops and the Vatican was laid bare on 16 June when the US Conference of Catholic Bishops met amid talk of a growing divide in the church over Pope Francis’ leadership. Catholics for Choice sent out a press release condemning their decision to stop pro-choice politicians in the USA, including President Joe Biden, from taking communion “in a country and church already riven with tension and division”.
SOURCES: Catholics for Choice press release, by Jamie L Manson, 18 June 2021 ; The Conversation, by Stephen P Millies, 15 June 2021 + PHOTO BY: L’Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP
The US Catholic Bishops, the Pope, President Biden – and abortion
Guest Essay by Garry Wills
New York Times, 27 June 2021 (Excerpts)
What is the worst crime a society can commit? Some people… would say the Holocaust, the cold methodical murder of six million people….
But some Catholics and evangelicals say they know of an even greater crime – the deliberate killing of untold millions of unborn babies by abortion. They have determined that a fetus is a person and abortion is therefore murder. This is a crime of such magnitude that some Catholic bishops are trying to deny the reception of Holy Communion by the President of the United States for not working to prevent it.
No one told Dante that this was the worst crime, or he would have put abortionists, not Judas, in the deepest frozen depths of his Inferno. But in fact he does not put abortionists anywhere in the eight fiery tiers above the deepest one of his Hell.
This is not a singular omission. No one told “Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John” or Paul, or any other New Testament author that he should condemn this sin of all sins. Nor did any author of the Old Testament raise this alarm, with the result that we do not have Moses or Jesus on record as opposing abortion. Nor did any of the major definitive creeds.
Even major figures of religious history do not tell us that the fetus is a person. St. Augustine says he searched Scripture trying but failing to find out when in the procreative process personal life begins. But St. Thomas Aquinas knew. Aristotle told him – that it came at or near childbirth, after an earlier stage of having a nutritive soul (like plant life), which developed into an animal soul, at last receiving a rational soul. Thomas kept Aristotle’s biology, just adding that God himself infuses the soul into the body at some unspecified time during the last stage of this process. In other words, the fetus in its long pre-rational life is not a human being….
The religious opponents of abortion think that the human person actually antedates the Aristotelian scheme, dating it from “conception” (when the semen fertilizes the ovum). But the Catholic theologian Bernard Häring points out that at least half of the fertilized eggs fail to achieve “nidation” — adherence to the uterus — making nature and nature’s God guilty of a greater “holocaust” of unborn babies than abortion accounts for, if the fertilized ovum is a “baby”.
…. The cult of the fetus… which began as far back as the 1950s, led to debate over whether, in a pregnancy crisis, the life of the fetus should be preferred to that of the mother….
I found, in later questions, that the church did not prescribe or recommend baptizing a miscarriage as if it were a full human being, nor giving it last rites, nor burying it in consecrated ground. My Catholic grandmother, Rose Collins, had three or four miscarriages, but told me she did not worry about how the discharges were disposed of – she had four living children to care for…. (continues)