Bishops v. Politicians: An abortion alternative

Fallout over controversial remarks on abortion by Joseph Biden and Nancy Pelosi are continuing. And not just in the political sphere. The U.S. Bishops announced yesterday that in light of the conflicts and debates they will address the topic at their meeting in November–but a week after Election Day.
Those who want the bishops (at least those who have spoken publicly) to continue their critiques, even to the point of denying pro-choice pols communion, will be disappointed. But by discussing the issue at their Nov. 10-13 meeting (the vote is Nov. 4) the bishops may be able to tackle the question in more serene circumstances, out of the heat of a presidential campaign.
Are they likely to reach a consensus by 2012? I’m doubtful. The issue seemed to be addressed adequately in 2004. But that clearly wasn’t the case.
In the meantime, in a Wall Street Journal column today, I try to make the case that the bishops–and everyone else–might do well (ironically) to focus on the politics of abortion rather than on theology or natural law, or their hopes for a high court bailout…

Obscured by the polemics and theologizing…is the hard reality that abortion rates in the U.S., and legalized abortion, will not soon yield to restatements of the catechism or the notion that abortion is a violation of “natural law.” Such arguments have not yet proved persuasive to the American public, and minds are not likely to be changed by judicial fiat, even from the Supreme Court.
That means that abortion today is primarily a political challenge, and in that context Democrats have been embracing a more effective strategy than the GOP.

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posted September 12, 2008 at 3:52 pm

American diversity and secularism means that Catholics will be more effective reducing abortions by addressing the political challenge. It does not mean we cede the moral argument, just that it alone will probably not reverse Roe anytime soon. Which probably should not be the only objective of our efforts, as a recent study(linked below) by Catholics in Alliance questions the belief that reversing Roe would be the best prevention for abortions. A broader agenda should emerge, and Gibson suggests that one is better articulated by the Dems for now.

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Charles Cosimano

posted September 12, 2008 at 4:00 pm

A very good article. All denying a Catholic communion for their political choice would accomplish is to make the non-Catholic majority of Americans really suspicious of Catholic politicians who would continue to take communion under those rules.
The suspicions about the Catholic Church run very deep if very quietly in American Protestant culture and there seem to be Bishops who have nothing better to do with their time than to feed those suspicions.

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posted September 12, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Mrs. Pelosi states that Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception. This is not just Catholic teaching, it is biological fact. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Acquinas were not fully informed of pre-natal development. We know it and can even see it. It comes down to when is it OK to terminate the life of a child. The answer, to the consternation of many pro-choice Catholic politicians, is never. It is NEVER OK to take the life of an innocent person. Sadly, this is a difficult concept for many of them to understand.

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posted September 13, 2008 at 1:46 am

David Gibson: The bishops are rebuking the pro-abortion Catholic politiicans because of their support of murder contradicts the politicans’ stated Catholic faith. His role is to teach on matter of faith and morals. It is not the job of a bishop to strategize on ending abortion or to solve any other political issue.

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Robert Bennett

posted September 13, 2008 at 3:58 am

Mr. Gibson’s argument, i.e. that abortion is a political problem instead of a social problem, is risible because politics reflects and responds to social attitudes. What’s more, politicians and government have shown very little capacity to modify social attitudes. It therefore follows that there is no such thing as “a national discussion” on abortion and that we cannot expect any politician to lead the entire nation to some consensus on the issue.
Moreover, every study that compares abortion rates between countries that I’ve reviewed posits that social attitudes regarding sexuality, family and the sanctitiy of human life comprise the primary determinative variables in abortion rates. Notably, these studies treat abortion as contraception, that is, they equate abortion with the pill. Of course, this equation assumes liberal social attitudes towards sexuality, family and the sanctitiy of human life while taking abstinence and other traditional Christian values off the table. It seems that Mr. Gibson’s arguments employ the same flawed assumption in defiance of Catholic teaching.
So, are American attitudes towards sexuality, family and the sanctitiy of human life so uniformly liberal that there is no place for abstinence and thus no place for traditional Christian values? No, as the leaders of the American Catholic Church recently demonstrated by rebuking the sophistry of Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Biden. And should the Catholic church punt the abortion issue to such politicians, expecting them to sort it out according to Catholic teaching? Absolutely not, for it is the duty of all Christian churches to work tirelessly to change American attitudes towards sexuality, family and the sanctitiy of human life. When these attitudes are changed, our politics will also change. But Mr. Gibson would prevent this change in attitudes by exploiting false assumptions and punting the abortion issue to politicians, thereby working against the Christian Church.
Be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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posted September 13, 2008 at 5:36 am

I applaud the bishops for waiting until after the election. One of the biggest criticism about this issue has been that it is a blatant attempt by the Vatican to manipulate the election to forward a Vatican goal of world domination.
Setting aside the question of the validity or invalidity of that statement, waiting until after the election will put that particular issue to rest.

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posted September 13, 2008 at 8:04 am

Elmo, you have missed a couple of important points
the bishops are only rebuking FEMALE politicians
the bishops are ignoring the male politicians
— biden was ignored until he was nominated
— dozens of other men in state and senate who vote and have
— voted pro-abortion are ignored
— the supreme court justices are ignored
it is ONLY the women who are targeted
why is that?
It is pretty obvious: the catholic leadership is acting out its hatred for women. It is one more example of how the catholic leadership is NOT living in harmony with the holy spirit. One more bad example that they are setting.

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posted September 13, 2008 at 10:57 am

I wish people who line up on the “Pro Life” side of this argument would stop imposing the label of “Pro Abortion” on those who are “Pro Choice”. if one is truly for choice, one of those choices is carrying the baby to term and raising the child. The Chinese government imposes abortions on those parents who have met their “quota”. They are pro-abortion. I have never heard anyone who supports freedom of choice in this matter demand that a pregnant woman have an abortion.

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David M. O'Rourke

posted September 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

I do believe that it is legitimate for the bishops to withold Communion from Catholic politicians who take stands in favour of abortion while parding as Roman Catholics. Nancy Pelosi seems particularly bad at that. The bishops cannot tell politicians how to vote but they can tell them to s..t or get off the bucket. Had a previous generation of American bishops been clearer and stronger more American Catholics might themselves be more pro-life. The battle is not for control of the Supreme Court. It is for the hearts and minds of the faithful.
Good article!

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posted September 14, 2008 at 5:44 am

David, why is it so hard for those in your position to recognize that it is not the withholding that is the issue, it is the way it is applied …. only to women, only when it will get the bishops headlines
it was a non issue with biden until he was nominated
sebelius and pelosi are being persecuted because they are female
dozens of males in various political postions have voted the same
as these two, and nothing is done to them
Why is it so hard to see that this is nothing but an unconscious expression of the bishopric hatred for women. I say unconscious, because I do not believe any of them would do this deliberately, but as we know from psychology, a person’s belief system will manifest in their unconscious actions, and what is manifesting is hatred for women, letting me get by.
Something to ponder: if it had been nuns abusing our children instead of priests, do you think the bishops would have been so generous in their coverup? I believe the answer is a very emphatic NO!!!

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posted September 14, 2008 at 6:00 am

Sorry, didnt mean to confuse, the previous post was for:
Posted by: David M. O’Rourke | September 13, 2008 6:04 PM

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posted September 14, 2008 at 6:02 am

Not one of my better typing days …
the line should have been:
and what is manifesting is hatred for women, while letting men get by.

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posted September 14, 2008 at 11:03 am

I believe people should retain the right to do what they see fit with their bodies especialy those hwo arent of biblical faith even as i consider myself a born again christian i also defend the right of those hwo refuse to believe the truth,GOD gives free will to everyone even the ignorant not to say those hwo choose to terminate a pregnancy to be ignorant but they hwo are unaware of wright/wrong are free to make a choice with the information theyve been given in short let us all exercise our wrights given to us by GOD.

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posted September 14, 2008 at 5:36 pm

‘it was a non issue with biden until he (Sen Biden) was nominated (for VP)’
I’m sorry, but he’d been nominated for weeks before he went on ‘Meet the Press’ with Tom Brokaw. The response time for various Bishops was the same as it was for Speaker Nanci Pelosi (roughly 1 1/2 to 4 days).
The following politicians (who happen to be male) have all been reproved at one time or another by Catholic hierarchy for misrepresenting or not acting in accordance with Catholic teaching:
– Gov. Arnold Schwartznegger (California) for his support of embryonic stem cell research
– Sen. John Kerry (in his bid for President in ’04) for consistently voting pro-choice
– Ex NY Governor Marrio Cuomo (when he coined the mantra ‘won’t impose my personal beliefs on anyone’)
– Ex NY Mayor Rudolph Gulliani (when he followed Cuomo’s lead several years later in his bid for the Republican Presidential Nomination in ’08)
– Senator Ted Kennedy (Mass) …’Nough said
In addition, Speaker Pelosi, the ‘devout’ Catholic that she is, after expounding on her less than impressive understanding of Catholic theologian Augustine’s theory of ‘ensoulment'(or fetal animation, confusing it with when life begins), proposes for her Republican colleagues to join her in supporting artificial contraception (clearly against Catholic teaching) to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies (even though statistically there’s a slight increase in abortions and unwed pregnancies corresponding do distribution of contraceptives in various states and countries where these policies are implemented!)
Sen. Biden, after his brilliant expounding of not imposing his personal religious beliefs on anyone (even though he believes life begins at conception, therefore taking a valiant moral stand to allow millions of innocents to be slaughtered so as not to ‘impose’ those beliefs on the public at large) proposes that the Republicans support embryonic stem sell research (also clearly against Catholic teaching). After all, even though many more millions of innocents would be harvested and destroyed for their curative biological components (bear in mind he still believes life begins at conception in his own words), not only should he not impose his personal religious beliefs, but he should actively support and endorse legislation to the contrary!!! Just thinking about it gives me a warm and fuzzy all over again :) :) :)
You see, GDF, in between the Catholic Male Hierarchy’s adimate degredation and systematic ‘enslavement’ of women, they also, as shepards of the flock, like to correct misrepresentations of the faith and safeguard against potential avenues of scandal, whether they be perpetrated by males, females, caucasians, hispanics, Asians, Africans, Arabians, etc. (I shed many tears as well in regards to the pedophile debaucle that stained Mother Church ingregiously)
In the meantime, however, I will try and pray for the grace to continue to forgive my fellow ‘Catholic’ brethren and sisteren, and emulate Jesus to the best of my ability, assuming that they ‘know not what they do’. Lord knows it isn’t easy, and I shutter to think of the possibility of them knowing and willfully chosing evil. I myself, have an awful lot that needs to be forgiven!!
Peace and Love!!!

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posted September 14, 2008 at 7:30 pm

DGF: I think you are the one with gender issues. Pelosi wasn’t “targeted” until she went on Meet The Press and aired her version of the magisterium. It was so over the top that the bishops had to speak out. Biden did the same thing on MTP and also was rebuked by the bishops.
I am a woman, by the way.

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posted September 14, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I find it deplorable that a priest would withhold the holy
eucharist from someone who never even had an abortion!
Or performed an abortion! Those who receive the eucharist,
in their hearts, receive Christ. I still go to Masst but
am definitely not without my own cynicism, for how do I know
what is held in the heart of the mere man who is performing the Mass?

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posted September 15, 2008 at 2:44 am


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posted September 15, 2008 at 8:05 am

As a possible abortionist and a mother of children given for adoption, I can rap my soul around this subject.
Adoption is an option. Abortion was a selfish way out of the self centered situation I supposed myself in.
I make no manbdates for others. I support the unborn children who need a Mother to finish the gift of life started by other than the child.
Praise Life. Say yes to these children.

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posted September 15, 2008 at 10:41 am

Looks like my side is winning maybe the council of bishops actually realizes 2 things:
1) That they have to be real careful or they will loose 501c status.
2) They have to figure out how to spin it so that they don’t look like they are hypocrits.
I’d rather they quit wasting time on abortion and move on to false witness which is a bigger problem.

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posted September 15, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Oh, they’ll address the topic in November! Of course before the elections, because we need to heed the advise of pedophiles. The Catholic church is a haven for degenerates that have bankrupted its coffers. Which properties are they now selling in order to pay for this ‘campaign’ against abortion? They divested themselves of quite a few in order to pay for all the law suits originated by those who were molested by priests. So their concern over the ‘unborn’ rings hypocritical…but what am I saying Hypocrisy is their very name!

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posted September 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm

…and just how many pregnant mothers is the catholic church supporting right now? How many mothers with young children are they helping along? How many babies are they adopting? Actually they better pay attention to their own shenanigans before they go out making utter fools of themselves by impossing on others their false morality.

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R. L. Hails Sr. P. E.

posted September 17, 2008 at 10:53 pm

People should read, and study before their make a hash of this subject. There are many Constitutional scholars who consider Roe v. Wade a deeply flawed decision. Politically, it has divided our comity more than any other ruling. It’s basic legal flaw is the over reach by the Supreme Court. Their job is to apply the US Constitution to legal conflicts. The Constitution prescribes certain authorities to the Federal government, and holds all other authorities to the states and people. There is nothing in the Constitution that addresses abortion, hence the matter should have been left to the individual states to resolve through their legislatures. Professor Kmiec is simply wrong in calling this settled Constitutional law. Wrong decisions will eventually be overturned. Otherwise the US would still have slavery.
From a moral, not legal, viewpoint, abortion is the killing of an innocent life. It is a grave sin, according to the Catholic church, for a political leader to uphold abortion as anything else. Pelosi and Biden did a hash of a job, attempting to religiously square the circle, within Catholic morality. The church teaches that is it gravely wrong to vote for a pro abortion candidate because of this sole reason, but that a voter should, and must weigh all issues among the candidates, this being an important one. This is not new, and will not be new on the day after the election.
Intellectually, abortion and slavery have a common characteristic, the right over another’s body as a disposable property. It is an epic step back in the march toward human rights, the most basic being the right to live. It is evil to kill a baby. This will never change.
That said, there is no evil beyond God’s power of redemption. This too is a bedrock teaching of the Catholic church. All the other issues: sinful priests, bishops, or popes do not change the truth, but do painfully lessen the moral standing of the preachers. Some of them should stay away from communion until they get straight with God.

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