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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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Apr. 16, 2004 7:06 PM ET USA

    Minidoc says it all so well.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 14, 2004 6:17 PM ET USA

    Just as Caiaphas and his rabble were guilty of the greater sin in clamoring for the crucifixion of Christ, so are Fr. Drinan et al. more guilty than politicians who, like Pilate, can be expected to do whatever they see to be in their supposed self interest. Of course "self interest" rarely includes the "eternal calculus." I would be very worried if I died and woke up so see Fr. Drinan and Ted Kennedy reaching out to welcome me with open arms. The bishops will oppose them now or join them later

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Apr. 14, 2004 1:00 PM ET USA

    A great analysis, I would add that sometimes the conspiracy kooks get things right. "Could Catholic priests be secretly pulling political and cultural strings to promote abortion?" We'll only know in 20 or 30 years what is happening now regarding the sexual scandal. The first shock was the Church maintaining its teaching (in HV) that artificial birth control was morally illicit, which followed years of claims from these moral monsters that it was licit and even laudatory.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 14, 2004 12:16 PM ET USA

    I highly recommend a Passover meal every Holy Thursday to commemorate the Israeli captivity in Exodus. We're in it now. Pharoah release our people.

  • Posted by: Gertrude - Apr. 14, 2004 11:39 AM ET USA

    Those same bishops must realize, or be MADE to realize, that if they do not stand up for authentic Catholic teaching, in the political arena, or ANY other purview, there will be no Catholic Church. Why would anyone want to be a Catholic if we are just the same as any other church, but with lots more rules to follow? That means those self same bishops would be out of jobs. Thank you Diogenes for disseminating that vital informaiton, for we cannot fight what we do not understand.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 14, 2004 10:54 AM ET USA

    And foisted the pro-choice Democratic Party position upon a Church sleepy, satisfied and smug with its own success at fence-sitting and lip-servicing. A Church that, until the "scandal" rocked it, tolerated its conservatives as one does curmudgeonly uncles at the annual family dinner. Now, however, the proverbial shoe is moving to the other foot. Many of the bishops find themselves out in the cold--abandoned for their timid complicity. And who pays attention to the morals of Democrats?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 14, 2004 10:45 AM ET USA

    Open wide and say Awe, Senator Kerry.