Saturday, February 28, 2009

Abortion rhetoric

Diane from Te Deum laudamus posted on this, as did Patrick Madrid. The National Catholic Reporter, which stretches wider the definition of "Catholic" every day, has an article with the following title: "I am a prochoice Catholic".

Before I get into the meat of her argument, I want to speak briefly about how the author (who "serves on the Women’s Ordination Conference board of directors and the Call to Action Next Generation Leadership Team") describes her realization:
And thus started my process of discernment around the right to abortion. It took several years. I asked friends on both sides of the issue thousands of questions. I read book after book. I prayed. I studied what the church hierarchy had to say about the issue. I studied what the Catholic church — the faithful — had to say about the issue.

In the end, after months of avoiding my conscience as to not stir up any controversy in my life, I finally discerned that I am a prochoice Catholic.
I don't care what issue you're looking at. To distance the "church hierarchy" from "the faithful", as if one is the Church (to her, it's the faithful) and the other is not, is poor ecclesiology, and it's the root of her problem. She assumes the sensus fidelium ("the sense of the faithful") is simply the sense of those who call themselves Catholic; she takes the "faith" out of the "faithful". The sensus fidelium cannot be divorced from the sensus fidei ("the sense of the faith"). The sense of the faithful cannot be opposed to what has been revealed as the faith to the Church! Thus, the "sense of the faithful" which teaches that abortion is acceptable (a position against the faith of the Church) is not the true sense of the faithful. In order for the sensus fidelium to exist, one must sentit cum ecclesia ("think with the Church").

On to how she supports her prochoice stance:
Where abortion is prohibited or stigmatized, women do not all of the sudden decide to carry pregnancies to term.
This argument does not work for, say, murder. Should we legalize murder, then? Or give people the "right to choose" whether they murder someone who is already born?
Where it is illegal, more often than not abortions are unsafe. According to the World Health Organization, 19 million unsafe abortions occur each year and some 70,000 women die as a result.
70,000 women die as a result of 19,000,000 "unsafe" abortions. That statistic is, indeed, sad. Women die in "safe" abortions, too. But the point she has missed is that 19,000,000 babies die as a result of 19,000,000 "unsafe" abortions... unless, of course, the abortion is "botched", in which case the baby probably dies from some complication or from simple negligence on the part of the attendants.
[B]eing prochoice does not end at supporting the right to safe and legal abortion; it extends to discovering the best methods to prevent unintended pregnancies. Contraception promotion, comprehensive sexuality education, and access to affordable child care and healthcare are just some of the methods that are paramount to reducing the need for abortion.
Why should we be concerned with "reducing the need for abortion" if women should have "the right to safe and legal abortion"? Is it because abortions are more expensive than preventative measures? Then let's make abortions cheap! Or is it because abortions are a "necessary evil" (although they wouldn't use that e-word).

Supporting contraception is also against the teaching of the Church. (And, lest one get all "Spirit of Vatican II"-y on me, Vatican II decried abortion and infanticide as "nefanda ... crimina" (abominable crimes) in Gaudium et Spes 51.) There's nothing wrong with proper sex education (which should teach abstinence until marriage!), affordable child care and health care.
Finally, I am a prochoice Catholic because my Catholic faith tells me I can be. The Catechism reads, “[Conscience] is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
Ah, here's the problem. SQC, "Selective Quoting of the Catechism". If she were to read all of CCC 1776-1802 (it's not a lot, really!), she would notice that the Catechism teaches the following about conscience:
"Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings." (CCC 1783)

"In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church." (CCC 1785)

"A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed." (CCC 1790)

"Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct." (CCC 1792)
Why does she accept the one little snippet from the Catechism, but ignore what the Catechism has to say about abortion?

Since the Church, by her God-given authority, teaches against abortion (CCC 2322, cf. 2270-2274) and contraception (CCC 2399, cf. 2370), a conscience that is "formed" against these teaches is malformed. If the author has actually read what the Church teaches, then she cannot claim ignorance in this matter. In fact, she does not:
After years of research, discernment and prayer, my conscience has been well informed. Being a prochoice Catholic does not contradict my faith; rather, in following my well-informed conscience, I am adhering to the central tenet of Catholic teaching — the primacy of conscience.
It does not contradict her faith, but it does contradict the faith of the Church.
My hope is that together the hierarchy of the Catholic church, the antiabortion movement and the prochoice movement will help people of all faiths and no faith to develop well-informed consciences.
She does not use the term "well-formed", but "well-informed". Whether on purpose or by accident, there is a difference. "Well-formed" speaks to the quality of the formation; "well-informed" speaks ambiguously to the quality or amount of information. The Catechism says the conscience "must be informed" and "well-formed", but not "well-informed". You can have a well-informed conscience and yet that conscience might not be well-formed!

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