Abortion-Again-As Litmus Test
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 02:35:59 PM EST
The Catholic Right, Forty-nine in a Series
In my last post on the Catholic Right I explored the Vatican's obsession with using abortion as a political litmus test. Just recently at a Jesuit college in New Jersey, the absurdity of this position played itself out once again.
On January 14, 2008,, LifeNews.com reported the following:

A Catholic College in New Jersey is coming under fire from a pro-life group for allowing pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to hold a rally there last week. On Wednesday, St. Peter's College, a Jesuit Catholic institution, allowed Obama to address a large crowd there.

Media estimates indicated Obama greeted more than 4,500 people at the rally, but Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said the college was irresponsible for giving a pro-abortion politician a forum there.

"It's irresponsible for a Catholic college and its leadership to host a political rally for an aggressively pro-abortion candidate," he told LifeNews.com in a statement Monday.

"Such events curry public attention at the expense of public morality. In so doing, they demonstrate reckless disregard for the most vulnerable human lives and contribute to the general decline of Catholic higher education," Reilly explained.

Nonsense.

Again, there is an easily detectable fear of debate found within Patrick Reilly's reaction. If anything, St. Peter's College deserves high praise for allowing those who disagree with the Church biological issues, but appears closely allied with them on economic issues speak on their grounds.

As I observed in Part Fort-eight of this series:

And so out of a combination of fear, reaction and yes, isolation, the faction that now controls the Vatican gives aid and comfort to those who share their dislike of modernity; neoconservatives and others who look disapprovingly upon the Enlightenment and its progeny. They do so at the expense of the natural born mostly for the protection of the fetus and embryo. The Vatican and their allied neo-orthodox Americans such as Richard John Neuhaus have made abortion such a litmus test issue to the points where one's position on "life" is too narrowly defined as "abortion or not." Other "life" issue, such as healthcare insurance for children and curing disease are unjustifiably given the short shrift. That the hierarchy might now be pulling back slightly from that position does not excuse the radically poor judgment and abandonment of all else.

Obviously, the Newman's Society's Patrick Reilly wants no such pull back (the Cardinal Newman Society's advisors reads like a Who's Who of the Catholic Right, Including Richard John Neuhaus). He, like many other more reactionary Catholics, seeks to stifle any discussion of what it means to be "pro-life" beyond the context of abortion and at times, stem cell research.

But over the last few years, the need to stifle has increased; so much so that dissenting Catholics are now being threatened with denial of the sacraments as well as excommunication; two heavy-handed moves lauded by the most militant of the Catholic Right.

This is myopic approach is turning away mainstream Catholics from the Church. Worse -- abortion and all things biological slowly became an obsession, especially with those in the Church who never approved of the positive changes of Vatican II.  This obsession eventually became an opportunity for Catholic economic conservatives to erode the Church's profoundly held values of distributive justice.   Crackpots like Michael Novak replaced the caring voices of   Bishop Mugavero or a Cardinal Suenens. Now we have Fr. Richard John Neuhaus help elect anti-choice Republicans by working with Pope Benedict in attempts to muzzle pro-choice Catholic candidates for office.

But if Senator Obama can be prevented from speaking at a Catholic college or university, so to can Senator Clinton, former Senator Edwards and even former Mayor Giuliani -- who are all pro-choice.  But it is the grouping of Clinton, Obama and Edwards who present a special problem for the Catholic Right. All three have presented the electorate with similar economic and healthcare plans intended to help middle-class, working-class and poorer families on scale far greater than anything offered by the anti-abortion GOP presidential contenders.

The greatest irony of all may be that the number of abortions would more likely to go down during the presidency of any of the main Democratic contender than the leading GOP candidates -- who are all antiabortion.  One study has demonstrated that the number of abortions performed has a direct correlation to economic well being. Where abortion has been made illegal and contraception discouraged, poorer women still seek the procedure. It concluded:

In fact, the abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level ($9,570 for a single woman with no children) is more than four times that of women above 300% of the poverty level (44 vs. 10 abortions per 1,000 women). And when asked to give reasons for abortion, three-quarters of women say that cannot afford a child. At the same time, black women are almost four times as likely as white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are two and a half life times as likely. Almost half of women terminating their pregnancies have had previous abortions, and 60 percent of abortions are concentrated among women who already have children.

As well as this:

The data for the abortion ratio are even more stark: here, the decline under [the] Clinton [administration] is double that of the overall Republican average. So, there we have a seeming paradox: the largest decline in abortion took place under the sole Democratic presidential regime over this period [1980-2007]. And yet the pro-life movement is strangely silent, and still hitches its wagon to the fortunes of the Republican party.

If an anti-abortion Republican is elected, he might get to appoint an antiabortion justice to the Supreme Court who would grant the Catholic Right and their allies their wish: to overturn Roe v. Wade. But this will not end abortion. Instead, it will be outlawed in most states and driven underground. And nefarious forces such as organized crime will be waiting with open arms.

The Catholic Right: A Series, by Frank L. Cocozzelli :

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six   Intermezzo   Part Eight   Part Nine  Part Ten   Part Eleven   Part Twelve   Part Thirteen   Part Fourteen   Second Intermezzo   Part Sixteen   Part Seventeen   Part Eighteen   Part Eighteen   Part Nineteen   Part Twenty   Part Twenty-one   Part Twenty-two   Part Twenty-three   Part Twenty-four   Part Twenty-five   Part Twenty-six   Part Twenty-seven   Part Twenty-eight   Part Twenty-nine   Part Thirty   Part Thirty-one   Part Thirty-two   Part Thirty-three   Part Thirty-four   Part Thirty-five   Part Thirty-six   Part Thirty-seven   Part Thirty-eight   Part Thirty-nine   Part Forty   Part Forty-one   Part Forty-two   Part Forty-three   Part Forty-four   Part Forty-five   Part Forty-six   Part Forty-seven   Part Forty-eight




Display:
As many of you are aware, I support Hillary, but this attack on Senator Obama as well as on the college where held his rally was was held is just plain wrong. It needed to be addressed.

And as the Vatican learned this week censure encourages others to censor those who first resort to censor.

As the New York Times recently reported, "Pope Benedict XVI, in a rare papal acquiescence to protest, has canceled a speech at the prestigious Sapienza University here amid opposition by professors and students who say he is hostile to science."

The students and faculty cited the pope's prior defense of the Church's stifling of Galileo for his assertion that the Earth revolved around the sun; a premise contrary to Aristotle's incorrect natural law conclusion that the reverse was true:

The pope's speech at the university, which was founded by Pope Boniface VIII in 1303 and is now public, was to mark the start of the academic year. But professors and students objected, citing specifically a speech that Benedict gave in 1990, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on Galileo, condemned by the Inquisition in the early 1600s for arguing that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

In that speech, Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005, quoted the Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend as saying: "The church at the time was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just."



by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 02:42:31 PM EST
This sort of thing gives Catholicism a bad name. I remember that the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend refused to allow Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius (a South Bend native and a Catholic) to speak at a South Bend Catholic high school because she wasn't sufficiently anti-abortion enough for local bishop John D'Arcy. There is a large helping of misogyny involved in the conservative wing of the church, although they would deny it.

by khughes1963 on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 08:04:55 PM EST
Parent
The Church seems more interested in making abirtion illegal than reducing the actual circumstances that often lead to abortion.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 02:55:22 PM EST
Parent



that the Church in other Western industriaized countries does not share this obsession with abortion. For example, the last time I was lucky enough to see the cathedral at Chartres, besides the architectural glories I noticed an unobtrusive sort of bulletin board listing the top ten concerns of the Roman Catholic Church, no doubt as seen by the deanery of that cathedral. I was very interested to note that abortion did not make the list.
   Thank you for another great post, Frank.

by nogodsnomasters on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 05:07:17 PM EST
The Europeans don't share our political obsessions, but the Christian Right in this country has successfully coopted the vote over the volatile topics of "God, guns and gays," and the Republicans have been pandering to the social conservatives in obsessing over abortion. They probably (in my view correctly) think we are nuts over these being viable political issues in this country. Certainly social conservative hot-button issues serve as useful distractions from very real economic problems.

Evangelical author Randall Balmer notes correctly that abortion was primarily a concern for conservative Catholics and for the Catholic hierarchy in the 1970s. It was Catholics who initially took the lead in opposition to abortion and led the movements in opposition to it. Balmer notes that it was the threat of losing tax exempt status for segregated white Christian academies in the South which galvanized Jerry Falwell and his political allies into the political game. Finally, Balmer notes it was Paul Weyrich (a Catholic and member of the right) who persuaded the evangelical Christian Right to take up abortion as a political crusade.

by khughes1963 on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 06:28:30 PM EST
Parent

I also believe that the anti-abortion campaigning is a bit more intense because here in America there are more Protestants than Catholics. For many neo-orthodox Catholics they seem to be using the issue as a vehicle for evangelizing other conservative Christians. At least that's what I'm getting out reading Neuhaus.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jan 21, 2008 at 09:45:52 AM EST
Parent
It appears from the framing Patrick Reilley puts on the "pro-abortion" vs "pro-life" issue, that in his view (to say nothing of the views of the Catholic hierarchy and Richard Neuhaus) that if you aren't 100% with them, you are against them.

by khughes1963 on Mon Jan 21, 2008 at 10:01:11 AM EST
Parent





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