Tuesday, December 08, 2009


NPR - Pope Benedict XVI is known for his conservative theology, but it's his predecessor's legacy that is playing out in U.S. politics today. A generation of U.S. Catholic bishops who were selected by John Paul II is conservative on social issues, and they are willing to mix it up in the public square to push their views.

Exhibit A: the health care overhaul. On Nov. 6, the night before the House of Representatives voted on heath care, Speaker Nancy Pelosi received some visitors. One was Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, an anti-abortion Democrat, who wanted to amend the House bill to permanently strip federal funding for abortion. Critics say that would make it harder for all women to pay for abortions. Stupak brought with him two representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said they would not support any bill without that amendment.

As Stupak later put it, "We want to send a message: If you start messing with abortion and health care, you've got a problem."

The meeting was a turning point. Pelosi allowed a vote on the amendment the next day. It passed.

Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, a pro-choice Catholic, says she was dismayed that the bishops seemed to be elevating abortion over every other issue, including the health care needs of the poor.

"In their quest to push on the issue of abortion," she says, "they failed in the church's mission. They really act like a bunch of lawyers who are instructing members how to vote on arcane House rules."

DeLauro says the bishops are rejecting the tradition established by John F. Kennedy that Catholic politicians vote according to their conscience, not the dictates of Rome.

"The activity that the Catholic bishops have engaged in implies that the church will determine and dictate public policy," DeLauro says. . .

And then there is the battle between Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., and his parishioner, Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy. Because of Kennedy's support of abortion rights, Tobin suggested to him, privately, that he refrain from taking Holy Communion. After Kennedy made the exchange public, the bishop took to the airwaves.

"The point is that for any Catholic in public office, his first commitment has to be to his faith," Tobin told MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "Not just for a Catholic, but for a member of any religious community. No commitment is more important than your commitment to your faith, because it involves your relationship with God."


This appeared in the Progressive Review during the Reagan Administration.

Sam Smith, Progressive Review - The ultimate irony of the conservatives is that they pretend to be a bastion of Christian politics when, in fact, they are comprised in no small part of despoilers, usurers, war-mongers, hypocrites, idolaters and groupies of false prophets - all of whom are frowned upon by the book they profess to follow. And their opponents, who are more faithful to the words that the conservatives only quote, are often such good Christians that they never say a mumblin' word about it all.


Conscience, 1996 - Most people believe that the Roman Catholic church's position on abortion has remained unchanged for two thousand years. Not true. Church teaching on abortion has varied continually over the course of its history. There has been no unanimous opinion on abortion at any time. While there has been constant general agreement that abortion is almost always evil and sinful, the church has had difficulty in defining the nature of that evil. Members of the Catholic hierarchy have opposed abortion consistently as evidence of sexual sin, but they have not always seen early abortion as homicide. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the "right-to-life" argument is a relatively recent development in church teaching. The debate continues today.

Also contrary to popular belief, no pope has proclaimed the prohibition of abortion an "infallible" teaching. This fact leaves much more room for discussion on abortion than is usually thought, with opinions among theologians and the laity differing widely. In any case, Catholic theology tells individuals to follow their personal conscience in moral matters, even when their conscience is in conflict with hierarchical views.


Freedom from Religion Foundation - The word "abortion" does not appear in any translation of the bible. Out of more than 600 laws of Moses, none comments on abortion. One Mosaic law about miscarriage specifically contradicts the claim that the bible is antiabortion, clearly stating that miscarriage does not involve the death of a human being. If a woman has a miscarriage as the result of a fight, the man who caused it should be fined. If the woman dies, however, the culprit must be killed:

"If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth . . ."--Ex. 21:22-25

According to the bible, life begins at birth--when a baby draws its first breath. The bible defines life as "breath" in several significant passages, including the story of Adam's creation in Genesis 2:7, when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Jewish law traditionally considers that personhood begins at birth. . .

An honest reader must admit that the bible contradicts itself. "Thou shalt not kill" did not apply to many living, breathing human beings, including children, who are routinely massacred in the bible. The Mosaic law orders "Thou shalt kill" people for committing such "crimes" as cursing one's father or mother (Ex. 21:17), for being a "stubborn son" (Deut. 21:18-21), for being a homosexual (Lev. 20:13), or even for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-35)! Far from protecting the sanctity of life, the bible promotes capital punishment for conduct which no civilized person or nation would regard as criminal.

Mass killings were routinely ordered, committed or approved by the God of the bible. One typical example is Numbers 25:4-9, when the Lord casually orders Moses to massacre 24,000 Israelites: "Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun." Clearly, the bible is not pro-life.

Most scholars and translators agree that the injunction against killing forbade only the murder of (already born) Hebrews. It was open season on everyone else, including children, pregnant women and newborn babies.

"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."--Psalm 137:9

The bible is not pro-child. Why did God set a bear upon 42 children just for teasing a prophet (2 Kings 2:23-24)? Far from demonstrating a "pro-life" attitude, the bible decimates innocent babies and pregnant women in passage after gory passage, starting with the flood and the wanton destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, progressing to the murder of the firstborn child of every household in Egypt (Ex. 12:29), and the New Testament threats of annihilation. .
Then there are the dire warnings of Jesus in the New Testament:

"For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the womb that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck."--Luke 23:29

The teachings and contradictions of the bible show that antiabortionists do not have a "scriptural base" for their claim that their deity is "pro-life." Spontaneous abortions occur far more often than medical abortions. Gynecology textbooks conservatively cite a 15% miscarriage rate. . .

The bible is neither antiabortion nor pro-life, but does provide a biblical basis for the real motivation behind the antiabortion religious crusade: hatred of women. The bible is anti-woman, blaming women for sin, demanding subservience, mandating a slave/master relationship to men, and demonstrating contempt and lack of compassion:

"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."--Genesis 3:16

What self-respecting woman today would submit willingly to such tyranny?

The antiabortion position does not demonstrate love for humanity, or compassion for real human beings. Worldwatch Institute statistics show that 50% of abortions worldwide are illegal, and that at least 200,000 women die every year--and thousands more are hurt and maimed--from illegal or self-induced abortions. Unwanted pregnancies and complications from multiple pregnancies are a leading killer of women. . . ?

Numerous Christian denominations and religious groups agree that the bible does not condemn abortion and that abortion should continue to be legal. These include:

- American Baptist Churches-USA - American Ethical Union - American Friends (Quaker) Service Committee - American Jewish Congress - Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) - Episcopal Church - Lutheran Women's Caucus - Moravian Church in America-Northern Province - Presbyterian Church (USA) - Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - Union of American Hebrew Congregations - Unitarian Universalist Association - United Church of Christ - United Methodist Church - United Synagogue of America - Women's Caucus Church of the Brethren - YWCA - Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice - Catholics for Free Choice - Evangelicals for Choice

12/04/2009 | Comments []


Compiled from Conscience journal and Religious Tolerance. Note that all these decisions were made by men.

100 AD: One of the earliest church documents, the Didache, condemns abortion but asks two critical questions: 1) Is abortion being used to conceal the sins of fornication and adultery? and 2) Does the fetus have a rational soul from the moment of conception, or does it become an "ensouled human" at a later point? The matter of "hominization" - the point at which a developing embryo or fetus becomes a human being - would become one of the cornerstones of debate about abortion, and it remains a subject of debate even today.

Prior to 380 CE: Many Christian leaders issued unqualified condemnations of abortion. So did two church synods in the early 4th century.

Circa 380 CE: The Apostolic Constitutions allowed abortion if it was done early enough in pregnancy. But it condemned abortion if the fetus was of human shape and contained a soul.

St. Augustine (354-430) condemned abortion because it breaks the connection between sex and procreation. However, in the Enchiridion, he says, "But who is not rather disposed to think that unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified" - clearly seeing hominization as beginning or occurring at some point after the fetus has begun to grow. He held that abortion was not an act of homicide. Most theologians of his era agreed with him. In a disciplinary sense, the general agreement at this time was that abortion was a sin requiring penance if it was intended to conceal fornication and adultery.

Circa 675: The Irish Canons place the penance for "destruction of the embryo of a child in the mother's womb [at] three and one half years," while the "penance of one who has intercourse with a woman, seven years on bread and water."

Circa 8th Century: In the Penitential Ascribed by Albers to Bede, the idea of delayed hominization is again supported, and women's circumstances acknowledged: "A mother who kills her child before the fortieth day shall do penance for one year. If it is after the child has become alive, [she shall do penance] as a murderess. But it makes a great difference whether a poor woman does it on account of the difficulty of supporting [the child] or a harlot for the sake of concealing her wickedness."

In 1140, Gratian compiled the first collection of canon law that was accepted as authoritative within the church. Gratian's code included the canon Aliquando, which concluded that "abortion was homicide only when the fetus was formed." If the fetus was not yet a formed human being, abortion was not homicide.

Pope Innocent III (1161-1216):He determined that a monk who had arranged for his lover to have an abortion was not guilty of murder if the fetus was not "animated" at the time.

Early in the 13th century,he stated that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of "quickening" - when the woman first feels movement of the fetus. Before that time, abortion was a less serious sin, because it terminated only potential human person, not an actual human person.

1312: The Council of Vienne, still very influential in Catholic hierarchical teaching, confirmed the conception of man put forth by St. Thomas Aquinas. While Aquinas had opposed abortion - as a form of contraception and a sin against marriage - he had maintained that the sin in abortion was not homicide unless the fetus was ensouled, and thus, a human being. Aquinas had said the fetus is first endowed with a vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and then - when its body is developed - a rational soul. This theory of "delayed hominization" is the most consistent thread throughout church history on abortion.

1588: Concerned about prostitution in Rome, Pope Sixtus V issued the bull Effraenatam (Without Restraint) and applied to both contraception and abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, the penalty designated for homicide: excommunication. There was no exception for therapeutic abortion.6

1591: Only three years after Pope Sixtus V issued Effraenatam, he died. His successor, Gregory XIV, felt Sixtus's stand was too harsh and was in conflict with penitential practices and theological views on ensoulment. He issued Sedes Apostolica, which advised church officials, "where no homicide or no animated fetus is involved, not to punish more strictly than the sacred canons or civil legislation does." This papal pronouncement lasted until 1869. . . Pope Gregory XIV (1591) reinstated the "quickening" test, which he determined happened 116 days into pregnancy.

1679: Consistently, abortion had been considered wrong if used to conceal sexual sins. Taking this idea to its extreme, Pope Innocent XI declared abortion impermissible even when a girl's parents were likely to murder her for having become pregnant. The church was still teaching delayed hominization, sure only that hominization occurred some time before birth.

Pope Pius IX (1869) dropped the distinction between the "fetus animatus" and "fetus inanimatus." The soul was believed to have entered the pre-embryo at conception . . . Completely ignoring the question of hominization, Pope Pius IX wrote in Apostolicae Sedis in 1869 that excommunication is the required penalty for abortion at any stage of pregnancy. He said all abortion was homicide. His statement was an implicit endorsement -- the church's first -- of immediate hominization.

Leo XIII (1878-1903):He Issued a decree in 1884 that prohibited craniotomies. This is an unusual form of abortion used under crisis situations late in pregnancy. It is occasionally needed to save the life of the pregnant woman.

He issued a second decree in 1886 that prohitied all procedures that directly killed the fetus, even if done to save the woman's life.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law, the first new edition since Gratian's code in 1140, required excommunication both for a woman who aborts and for any others, such as doctors and nurses, who take part in an abortion.

1930: In his encyclical Casti Connubii (Of Chaste Spouses), Pope Pius XI condemned abortion in general, and specifically in three instances: in the case of therapeutic abortion, which he called the killing of an innocent; in marriage to prevent offspring; and on social and eugenic grounds, as practiced by some governments.

1965: The Second Vatican Council, in Gaudium et Spes (section 51), declared: "Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes." Here, abortion is now condemned on the basis of protecting life, not as a concealment of sexual sin.

In 1974, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued the "Declaration on Procured Abortion," which opposes abortion on the grounds that "one can never claim freedom of opinion as a pretext for attacking the rights of others, most especially the right to life." The key to this position is that the fetus is human life from the moment of conception, if not necessarily a full human being. With this position, the church has fully changed the terms of its argument.

Canon law was revised in 1983 to refer simply to "the fetus." The church penalty for abortions at any stage of pregnancy was, and remains, excommunication.

Today: The Catholic church hierarchy today does not permit abortion in any instance, not even in case of rape or as a direct way of saving the life of a pregnant woman

12/04/2009 | Comments []

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