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The Tally Ho

Monday, June 28, 2004

A Few Morning Reads

A few op-eds that I think are good reads: First, Gary Willis' piece in Sunday's New York Times titled The Bishops vs. The Bible. One highlight is:
Modern "right to life" issues — abortion and contraception — are nowhere mentioned in either Jewish or Christian Scripture. Pope Pius XI said they were, in his encyclical Casti Connubii (1930), where Onan's "spilling his seed on the ground" (and the reason for his punishment by God) was interpreted as preventing conception and birth. Yet no scholar of Scripture accepts that reading of Genesis 38:9 anymore; it is read as referring to levirate marriage duties. The Vatican now agrees with this interpretation. Even in his own sphere, the revealed word of God, the pope could be wrong...

So "right to life" as a slogan is a question-begging term. The command not to kill is directed at the killing of persons, and the issue in abortion is this: When does the fetus become a person? The answer to that is not given by church teaching. Even St. Thomas Aquinas, who thought that a soul was infused into the body, could only guess when that infusion took place (and he did not guess "at fertilization"). St. Augustine confessed an agnosticism about the human status of the fetus.

The whole piece is interesting. This made me think of an op-ed in the Washington Post last month titled The Alter is Not a Battlefield by Victoria Reggie Kennedy. In this piece she writes:
The flaw -- and apparent political ideology -- that underlies the threatened denial of Communion to pro-choice politicians becomes even more apparent when it is contrasted with the treatment of those who support the death penalty. Politicians who support the death penalty specifically authorize the government to take the life of a human being, even though the circumstances under which church law permits capital punishment "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." Indeed, canon law makes clear that, in almost every conceivable circumstance, there are adequate, nonlethal methods to deter crime without having to deprive someone "definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself."...

The church also teaches that it is wrong to have "excessive economic and social differences" between the rich and the poor, and has even stated that a portion of the responsibility for abortion rests "on those who should have ensured -- but did not -- effective family and social policies in support of families." Yet there is no threatened penalty for those who do not vote for governmental policies that help the poor. It is patently wrong to single out an elected official who allows a woman -- and not the government -- to make a private decision, while remaining silent about those who authorize and encourage the government to follow economic and punitive policies that are so contrary to the teachings of the church.

So those are two pretty good reads for a Monday morning.


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