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Abortion and the Catholic Factor

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Apr 14, 2004

The Kerry Communion Capitulation has renewed discussion about the respective role of bishops, politicians, and lay voters in implementing Catholic teaching on abortion. It is all-too-commonly believed that the Supreme Court's Roe-v-Wade decision of January 1973 caught the Church by surprise, and the (primarily Democratic) Catholic politicians never fully recovered from their pre-Roe unpreparedness. Historically, nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is that, long before Roe v. Wade, Catholic politicians were being carefully coached by theologians, mainly Jesuits, in a disingenuous vocabulary of pluralism that would not only permit them to tolerate liberalized abortion laws but would make them the prime movers in legislating abortion-on-demand.

Following is an excerpt from "Theological Ethics, Moral Philosophy, and Public Moral Discourse," by former Jesuit Albert Jonsen, published in the Kennedy Istitute of Ethics Journal, Vol 4, #1, 1994:

In July 1964, Fr. Joseph Fuchs, S.J., a renowned Catholic moral theologian and a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, was among the guest faculty of an ethics course I was teaching at the Summer School of the University of San Francisco. Walking across campus one morning, Father Fuchs hailed me and told me that he had, on the previous day, received a phone call inviting him to join several other leading theologians in a meeting with Senator Ted Kennedy and Robert Kennedy at Hyannisport. Robert Kennedy was running for the New York Senate seat, and the Kennedy family and their political advisors wished to discuss the position that a Catholic politican should take on abortion.

Father Fuchs then astonished me by saying that since he knew nothing of American politics, he wanted me to accompany him. If I would agree, he would accept the invitation on the condition that I come as his companion. I agreed and they agreed. Two days later, the distinguished German theologian and the American novice travelled to Cape Cod to join Catholic theologians Robert Drinan, then Dean of Boston College Law School; Richard McCormick; Charles Curran; and a bishop whose name I do not recall; as well as Andre Hellegers, an obstetrician and a fetal physiologist who was to be the technical advisor. ...

Our colloquium at Hyannisport, as I recall it, was influenced by [Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J.'s] position and reached the conclusion that Catholic politicians in a democratic polity might advocate legal restriction on abortion, but in so doing might tolerate legislation that would permit abortion under certain circumstances, if political efforts to repress this moral error led to greater perils to social peace and order. This position, which, of course, is much more nuanced than I have stated, seems to have informed the politics of the Kennedys.

Curran is not a Jesuit, but Fuchs, Drinan, and McCormick (now deceased) are, and between them they worked in the political and academic arenas simultaneously to undercut Catholic doctrine on sexual morality in general and on abortion in particular. A second glimpse can be had from the following, excerpted from a talk by another ex-Jesuit, Giles Milhaven, included in the press packet distributed at a breakfast briefing for Catholics for a Free Choice, on September 14, 1984:

Having been asked to make a presentation this morning on Catholic options in public policy on abortion, I cannot but recall the last time I was invited to do so. It was fifteen years ago. I remember vividly. Other theologians and I were driving down Route 3 to Cape Cod, with Bob Drinan at the wheel. We were to meet with the Senators Kennedy and the Shrivers at their request. I remember it vividly because the traffic lanes were jammed and halted, presumably because of an accident ahead, and Bob Drinan drove 60 miles an hour down the breakdown lane. Despite my misgivings each time we swept around a curve, we theologians arrived safely at the Kennedy compound.

The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening, we answered questions from the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they concurred on certain basics. These include statements which I will make shortly. What was striking then and remains striking today is the difference between what Catholic theologians say about abortion and what the Catholic hierarchy say on the same subject.

According to Milhaven, one of the "basics" on which all these theologians concurred is that, "in flat contradiction to the Pope and the bishops … in certain situations abortion is morally licit and may even be obligatory."

There we have it, from the mouths of men who crafted the policy: abortion was not thrust on unsuspecting Catholic leaders from outside, it was these very leaders who were maneuvering in the background to effect the change a decade before the Supreme Court did most of the dirty work for them. With Fr. Drinan in Congress from 1970 to 1980, voting the extreme pro-abortion position and enjoying the fervid support of prestigious Jesuits in so doing, the fractured Catholic opposition was effectively neutralized and -- in terms of elected officials -- it never regained force. Although many Catholic pols justified their pro-abortion stance by claiming that it was their democratic duty to represent their constituents' views instead of their own, in fact it was the overwhelmingly anti-abortion convictions of voters (early in the game) that prevented the pols' showing their true pro-abortion colors until public sentiment had turned in their favor.

Drinan, Kennedy, Dodd, Leahy, Mikulski, Murray, Kerry, Biden -- these aren't thoughtful pluralists reluctantly obliged to compromise with radical colleagues, they are red-in-tooth-and-claw full-throttle NARAL-celebrating ideologues. Far from comprising a threat to abortion rights, communicant Catholics were a necessary condition of their triumph. Long planned, hard won, fiercely defended, abortion-on-demand is the Catholic gift to American public life, perhaps our Church's only enduring political legacy. Small wonder the bishops are terrified of communion-rail catechesis.

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