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Pope's man in Italy on abortion, homosexuality & Communion for the divorced & remarried.

The church should listen "without any taboo" to all arguments for married priests, for allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, and about homosexuality, according to Bishop Nunzio Galatino, the man Pope Francis hand-picked to serve as general secretary of the Italian bishops conference.

In an interview with the Florence newspaper La Nazione, Galatino said that “in the past we have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia." (Sound familiar?) "It mustn’t be this way because in the middle there’s real life which is constantly changing." He continued: “I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”

Needless to say, that didn't go over with members of the prolife movement. As the Tablet of London reported, John Smeaton--head of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn--responded sharply: “I do identify with the person outside the abortion clinic praying their rosary, whether or not the person is expressionless.... I really don't think you would be saying, if national laws had allowed the killing of Catholic priests or Jews over the past few decades: 'In the past we have concentrated too much on the killing of Catholic priests or Jews.'"

(H/T David Gibson)

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Does it appear to others as it does to me that Papa Francesco may finally be loosing control of the message of his papacy?  

Hierarchs are such pitiable pathetic dears - they just can't let go of their hegemonic political power to which they have been become so addicted.

Alas, to paraphrase Paul, human sexuality seems to be [a stumbling block to the hierarchs and a foolishness to reactionary Catholics].

Wow.That comment about abortion is really shocking;it's basically ridiculing people who pray,and who pray to end  the evil of abortion.Said by a Christian. I'm speechless.I do support Pope Francis's claim that global income inequality needs to be addressed as a moral issue by Christians and I have no problem with taking a second look at communion for divorced people,the taboo against married priests,etc.,but this bishop's statement is fodder for the pro abortion culture and steers Christians away from recognizing the evil of abortion that is in our midst! His is one man's opinion but being that he's a bishop it is very disturbing to me,to hear.  

 I find the people protesting outside abortion clinics disturbing too.  An interesting past movies about this issue - Lake of Fire -


I did it once. When the bishop came to my parish church and we formed a procession praying and went and prayed in front of 2 abortion clinics.I did not even know the clinics were in my neighborhood. They're not marked as such.Praying the rosary in front of the clinics was like bringing down the reality of God's presence.That's what it felt like to me; the sacred and the profane, God's love in the midst of evil too.One  clinic is still there,unmarked .My grand daughters' relative lives in the adjacent attached building and it is quite shocking that the banality of such evil is taking place, literally here, side by side with the wholesomeness  of  everyday life; the sadness of it.

Clinics where abortions are done have good reasons to be low profile - patients and employees are harrassed and some doctors have even been murdered.

I think John Smeaton's comment resonates. For people who in their hearts believe abortion is the taking of an innocent human life,  how can one talk about it "too much"?   Its not that we talk about abortion "too much"; its that we don't talk about a lot of other things enough.


Have found those who picket at clinics to be *marginal and disturbed* folks to begin with.  Most are operating out of their own hang-ups, fears, over-reactions, etc.  Why are they there?  To embarras women who are facing a terrible dilemma?  To feel that they are superior to those who may use the services of the clinic?  It passes judgment on every person who enters that clinic - whether they are having an abortion or not (most clinics offer multiple services).  And, what do the picketers offer these women?  Do they have viable alternatives?  Will they stand by these women if they change their minds and need support?

Given the amount of violence that has occured at clinics (btw - in the name of Pro-Life) have never advocated nor would I ever participate.  After more than 40 years of debate on this issue, picketing clinics is not the best or even most reasonable arena to have a civil and national discussion.

Clinics come in every shade - some are well known; some are not (for good reason).  So, you didn't know that a local clinic was there - so what?  Sounds like that is your issue?

Can think of all kinds of parallel examples that would heighten the ridiculousness of picketing - e.g. picket the local county hospital because it may give post-rape medication (while interfering with the ER operations); personal attacks on MDs (online threats; hard copy mailings that threaten; etc.).

Examples of picketers who haven't done their homework and are on a personal vendetta:

The study above has a number of conclusions which raises my concerns about this activity (yes, non-violent picketing is protected by the 1st Amendment and case law)

- picketing at clinics increases in response to the vulnerability of abortion providers. (not exactly a pro-life response or reason to picket)

- the evangelical churchs's impact via Terry & Operation Rescue (think he did more harm than good to the pro-life cause)

- Picketing at abortion clinics will be more frequent in states with higher levels of electoral competition.

-  (yep, and if Finn is against it; funny how protecting kids from abuse somehow is skipped over by Finn in his effort to stop abortion - yep, another consistent pro-life message)


I agree with Irene.  the problem is that the hierarchy talks about it to the exclusion of all else and it has led to alliances with lots of people for whom Catholic social teaching is unacceptable.  Barney Frank's line that for too many "life begins at conception and ends at birth" is not so far off for many of the Church's allies in the anti-abortion movement, and I would argue, for many anti-abortion Catholics now, as well.

What matters is not the justness of the cause but the marginal effectiveness of our actions. If talking about abortion does nothing to reduce abortions while other actions could do actual good, we are talking about abortion too much. Part of the reason that those who are not primarily focused on the pro-life movement can resent it is the way people use it to trump all other causes.

Agree with Irene that, "It's not that we talk about abortion 'too much', but that we don't talk about a lot of other things enough." Other things such as war, for instance.

However I can't agree with Bill DeHaas about people who picket at clinics being "marginal and disturbed".  I myself have never picketted /prayed in front of a clinic. However I know some who have, including some teenage girls from our local Catholic high school.  They made a 90 mile trip in January in sub-freezing weather to pray the rosary in front of one of our state's two "facilities".  These girls were typical high school students of today; between studying for the ACT, etc., and doing all the activities and maintaining the grade averages that we seem to expect of kids, I've no idea when they manage to sleep. But they cared enough to spend a Saturday morning praying for the desperate patients of this clinic, and their unborn babies.  I hear a lot about the entitled and unmotivated teens of today, but I don't know too many of them. And I am a little ashamed that I wasn't there with these girls.


My feelings about people who pray in front of abortion clinics are colored by a personal experience in the mid 1970's.   Our first child was eleven and our second child almost five, and I thought I might be pregnant again.    I had mixed feelings but would not have considered an abortion.  (I was not yet a Catholic then, either.)     My doctor said he didn't think I was pregnant but suggested I take a urine specimen to the women's health center if I wanted to find out for sure.   I had no idea that the day I went was the day they did abortions.   I suppose the laws about how close protesters can get to the clinic had not yet been passed, because I had to run a gauntlet of people getting right up into my face, their faces distorted by hatred, screaming at me, "Don't kill your baby!".  I felt that they would have happily killed me, if they could do it without killing the  supposed  baby.   When I came back out a minute later, perhaps they thought they had convinced me not to have an abortion.    I think abortion is wrong; I also think that picketing abortion clinics accomplishes nothing except making the protesters feel righteous.    I think Catholics should be careful about identifying too strongly with those who have great concern for the unborn but consider born children, if poor, as little moochers who don't deserve medical care or food stamps.

Thanks, Elaine and sorry you went through that experience.  Would have to think heavily before I would recommend or advise a bunch of high school students to travel miles and miles in freezing cold to picket - why do it?   What about more serious interventions e.g. volunteer at a clinic in a poor neighborhood or town and actually work with people who confront these issues?  Rather than focus on the negative - do volunteer work that adresses some of the context and reasons for why folks face abortion - poor education; poor jobs or no jobs, economically depressed; too many kids already, depression, lack of family support, etc.

Picketing at a clinic reminds me of folks who decide to deal with ideas/issues they disagree with by holding a book burning.  As if burning books will resolve the issue.

An example of what it can be like to escort patients through the protestors to the clinic ...

"[...]  Oh my goodness. I thought I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the experience but no words can fully capture the absolute cruelty and hate that was displayed that day. Back then, Hope Clinic averaged 50 – 60 protesters each Saturday morning, and most of them carried very graphic signs that they displayed toward the clinic and out to the road. They distributed leaflets to every car. They blocked the driveway so that cars could not enter the parking lot. They blocked car doors so that people could not leave their cars. They took pictures of patients and of their license plates and posted both on their website. Some unobtrusively sang songs and prayed, but they were a distinct minority to the others.

What I found most shocking was what the protesters said. They shouted absolutely vicious statements to people they had never met before—making assumptions about faith and parenthood and economic stability and sexual orientation and many other things too—and they excused their behavior because it was “God’s will.”  Many of the protesters embrace a Machiavellian “the ends justify the means” approach. In conversations I’ve had with them, they recognize their immediate behavior as harsh but defend it by saying they are doing the greater good. If they are meaner then more women stay away and more abortions are prevented. The protesters were (and still are) absolutely cutting with their words ..."

More obiter dicta, more soundbites, more confusion -- the Vatican should produce sober and weighty utterances on such grave subjects, not toss half-thought-out opinions into the already confusing welter of views. Better be silent until such measured utterance is possible. The Synod should try to take things in hand, but they'll be sent home after a few weeks.

Is it inevitable that journalism, politics, and the church's teaching role must now be conducted in tweets?

rose-ellen caminer:

God bless you for your comment.  You are likely to face an uphill battle on this blog, but keep at it: You just may change some minds.

Joseph S. O Leary @ 11:12pm

the already confusing welter of views

What already confusing welter of views? The Church's teachings on these "grave subjects" are already quite clear, are they not?

What confuses me are those people who say they are confused by, well, this, that or the other. And my view on their confusion is that they are not really confused but are just being intentionally obtuse (and/or stupid), because they just don't like what they are hearing. 


As an aside, the phrase, "Pope's man/friend/pal/right-hand/theologian/vice-pope/what have you" has gotten old already, and I for one wouldn't be sad to see it being retired for good.

From the movie Juno. A good film, and written by a former stripper and peep show worker. Also journalist and feminist. Unlike the bishop, she treats the issue more sensitively and ironically has a better grasp of sexuality.

I recall, many years ago, a brief article in COMMONWEAL mag about abortion wherein the writer argued it was frankly desirable in some cases.  Unfortunately I didn't keep it.  Does anyone remember it?

More obiter dicta, more soundbites, more confusion -- the Vatican should produce sober and weighty utterances on such grave subjects, not toss half-thought-out opinions into the already confusing welter of views.

I agree.  Pope Francis may have an instinctive genius for saying and doing the right thing with a few words or a simple gesture, but most of us don't.



People who pray in front of clinics come across as sanctimonious, holier-than-thou and self-absorbed. They don't help the cause.

Since I seem to be the only one around here with extensive experience with what Bishop Galatino is talking about, I am tempted to say something. At the same time, I have to note that the situation at our local abortatorium is probably different from many. The building is surrounded by a wall and foliage, Access is through an alley some of the rent-a-cops consider private, even though it leads to four other businesses as well. It is the access used by ambulances, so we don't get a look at what goes on when they are called for a safe procedure unless someone just happens to be in the drive-through lane in the Wendy's across the alley,

Egress from the clinic, by car, is through a driveway that leads to a public sidewalk and street. One or two counselors use the sidewalk and try to gain the attention of clients as they walk from their cars to the clinic door maybe 25 feet away from the counselors. The counselors (full disclosure: one is my wife) can't currently use a bullhorn because this is a quiet zone, although the drive-through transactions at Wendy's and a Pollo Tropical on the opposite side of the property are clearly audible where they stand. And they can be heard across the street where a line of people will be standing saying the rosary.

Some of the rosary sayers are expressionless. Most are not. Two or three, indeed, are quite tightly wound and might be a problem if they could get near the clients. But, as you can see from my description, they can't. Sometimes the bishop joins them. He has a soft voice. Sometimes I join them. I am not big on male participation in any part of this operation for this reason: The clients are in their condition because of a man and, in most cases, they are at the clinic because of something a man did or didn't do. So it seems to me to be a long shot, and a bit insulting, for another man to be seen as offering them advice.

The motives of the rosary-sayers seem to be quite varied. Some may just be happy to tell women they are going to Hell, but others volunteer at the alternative places the sidewalk counselors' flyers recommend. I have run into others at anti-war rallies, fund raisers for seminarians and at our community organization's actions for justice. (One of the "greeters" at the clinic also has shown up at our actions.)

Occasionally, not often, someone will leave the clinic and come to a counselor for literature, saying she has changed her mind. The counselors talk about a "saved baby." I have met a couple of those babies, so I can attest that they exist. Is all the effort worth it for the rare "saved baby"? The babies and their families might say so. It's better than getting one's holy cards blessed for passing anti-abortion laws in the state legislature for the courts to strike down.


The one experience I had was of us there praying the rosary.It was not rambuctuous or contemptuous. We did not  see many  people there going in or coming out. It was quiet except for the reciting of the rosary.The sign said "medical sevices".The reason I mentioned that I  did not know it was an abortion clinic  was to empahsize what to me is a profound evil;that side by side with the apartment building where life is going on ,is a building where suffering and death is occuring and it is normal.The normalization of evil.I thought I made that point clearly.                                                     Picketing is pro life;as it is solidarity with the victims;the innocent humans made to suffer and die ,as well as the pregnant women who drank; the- sky- is- falling-,my- life- is- ruined -cause- i'm pregnant, hysteria.                                                                                                                                                      The abortion providers, are also victims of a survival of the fittest, might makes right ethos.The most vulnerable are those humans being killed and the women who perceive killing,even their own,  as a legitimate way to solve a temporary "problem".                                                                                   The vulnerability of providers?Meaning what?That some clinics have barriers ,some don't?People have a right to picket and to picket where they are seen by those against whom they're picketing; here clinics where  the unborn are being killed.                                                                                     Whether those picketing are mental cases or whatever, is really not relevant to the issue at hand;the right to picket, even by people with mental problems is a  right.                                                         Picketing  is a form of having  that abortion discussion.                                                                 Breaking the law;threatening,harrassing ,violence against providers is not the same as picketing.                                                                                                                                                              The shame is the normalization of the  killing of  the unborn and picketing is a counter cultural expression saying   that though normal ,abortion is evil.                                                             If pro lifers only care about this , and fail to recognize other normailized evils[economic inequity, massive poverty,pre-emptive  war, etc,] that says something about them.To these many accepted  evils Pope Francis and many bishops are trying to enlighten the pro life "fanatics" and all of our conscience about.If there are some who can only see the evil of abortion ,then so what? God knows their hearts and their capacities. Their protests,their prayers  in front  of abortion clinics is still a legitimate  response to a real evil happening in[ their] time and place. 

Tom, bless your wife for her witness.  And you.


Closing every abortion clinic in the world will not stop abortion.  It will just make it harder for some and more inconvenient for others.

But women who, for whatever their reasons are, believe they need to abort, will.  And men who support them will support and assist them.

Until and unless people are convinced that abortion is wrong, outlawing it will just hurt the poor women.

“Have found those who picket at clinics to be *marginal and disturbed* folks to begin with.”

Really? Everyone who pickets?

While I don’t condone screaming and yelling—they would seem to be counterproductive by definition—peaceful dissent and attempts at persuasion are time-honored traditions. Peacefully reciting the Rosary falls within that wide umbrella of acceptable conduct in my opinion. There are a number of stories about women prepared to have an abortion who have been swayed by respectful interchanges with peaceful protesters. Even some abortion clinic workers have reconsidered their positions as the result of respectful dialogue. There’s hope for everyone on the issue of abortion—Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, later became a Catholic and a pro-life activist.

There could also be an interesting U.S. Supreme Court decision (McCullen v. Coakley) issued in the next six weeks or so. Massachusetts enacted a law requiring a 35-foot buffer zone between protesters and the front of abortion clinics. Reading the tea leaves of Supreme Court oral argument is at best an inexact science, but even some of the liberal justices (e.g., Justice Kagan) seemed to have problems with some aspects of the law.

(Thanks to Rose-Ellen and Irene for your thoughtful comments.)       

The reason picketers at abortion clinics often seem angry at the clients is that the clients are about to commit a horribly evil act that the protestors are powerless to stop. It would be better if they didn't act like that, but their anger is understandable.

As for the charge that they're smug, sanctimonious and holier-than-thou- well, no doubt many of them are. But they're in the right. . Are we only going to allow perfectly sinless people to fight for important causes? I don't think we'll make much progress that way.

Abortion is really an economic rather than a pro life problem. The second thing is that it is hugely political. Even tho the Repbublican party has been associated with anti-abortion, Republicans do not care about the women.Rather it is the poltical gain. While George W was trumpeting anti-abortion (while starting wars) his wife Laura said that she would favor her daughter having an abortion if she deemed it necessary. Third, while we must work to make abortion unnecessary there is absolute no proof from science or theology that the embryo is a human person who will be subject to eternal life. No question the dna is human. But to conclude that this is a person is beyond the pale. And the absolute proof that clerics who wail about prolife don't care if the fetus is thrown into the garbage. If that is a killing then there shuld be decent burial. So far zero burials for fetuses. Such hypocrisy.  The fourth thing is while there are many good people involved in pro-life, there are plenty of the nastiest people involved in the movement.   Fifth, despite their attempt to overcome this abyss the pro-life movement is virtually silent on war, syria, the 200+ Nigerian girls that are missing etc

Now that Francis is exalting the sights of the bishops they are not as vocal on this issue as the pope is pointing out to them that their opulent lives are a disgrace while so many families are struggling to feed and clothe their children. 

This is an economic problem.

Bill C, -

We must never forget Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL  He was eventually persuaded that abortion was the killing of a person, admitted his mistakes publicly and turned pro-life.  What courage!

Here in Italy abortions can only be performed in public hospitals ( and they are  free of charge). Usually in the hospital there is also a Catholic chapel, so in  a floor abortions are performed, in the other a Mass is celebrated. Priests don’t have problems  with this situation.

In regards to your first point-that abortion is an economic matter- this assumes that all abortions are done by poor women for reasons having to do with money. This is simply not the case. It also seems to assume that poverty is a solvable problem-that al it takes is for all of us to come together in goodwill and work for a solution. I don't think this is the case.  A solution for poverty is not readily available and I am not willing to allow abortion to continue while we wait around for one to materialize. Yes, welfare programs and other measures to relieve poverty and promote equality are laudable, but they are not a panacea.

In regards to your second point- that Republicans use the abortion issue for political gains- well, that's all the more reason to fight for a change on this issue within the Democratic party. If the Dems took the correct position on this issue the Republicans wouldn't have that advantage. I can't see how this works as a reason not to oppose abortion.

On your third point I have three things. First, there are strong philosophical arguments for viewing the fetus as a human being. Second, shouldn't the onus of proof be on those who want to slaughter fetuses to prove that doing so is justified, not the other way around. Third, you say that there is no theological proof that the fetus is a human being. I assume you mean that theology cannot offer any sort of scientific proof. That may be true, but the doctrine is very clear. The church cannot offer scientific proof of the existence of heaven or the resurrection. But it would not make sense to live as if these things were false and still call yourself a faithful Catholic.

As for your claim that pro-life bishops don't actually care, I don't even know what to say. Ridiculous. I supppose its comforting for pro-choicers to belive that pro-lifers are all acting out of some sinister alterior motive (whatever that may be).

Fourth, I don't see the relevance of this. I imagine your seeing them as nasty comes from a tendency among those of us who grew up in a liberal, progressive culture to see conservatives and religous fundamentalists as the Other. If you try viewing them with a little more goodwill I think you will find that many of your stereotypes are unfair. Or maybe not. I can only speak from my own experience here. But in any case, the fact that disagreeable people support a cause does not discredit that cause.

Fifth, how do you know what pro-lifers feel about these issues? The pro-life movement is an anti-abortion movement. It would make no sense to take on issues that fall outside the issue of abortion. I don't really know what you want here. There seems to be a belief that "pro-life" ought to be some generic "pro-good-things" movement that takes on a variety of issues and doesn't treat any as more imprtant than any other. I don't even see how this could be concievably possible. Pro-lifers have a variety of political views, they are brought together by the one they share. There is no governing body that can say "From now on we only want people who also believe that we need a universal healthcare system." You might as well say that feminism is silent on the issue of soil degradation, or that the gay marriage movement is silent on the issue of unexploded ordnance in Laos and Cambodia.

And frankly, even if pro-lifers all supported slavery that would do nothing to change the fact that abortion is wrong.

Also you seem to be guilty of an inconsistency yourself, since you attack pro-lifers for supporting war and then attack them for NOT supporting military action in Nigeria and Syria.

The above comment was meant as a rely to Bill Mazzella. Sorry if that isn't clear.

True, Ann. By his own reckoning he participated in about 75,000 abortions, including the abortion of the fetus that resulted from his impregnation of a woman he was dating. In his book, "The Hand of God," he describes his clinical detachment during that procedure in such stark, confessional terms that it is worth the price of the book itself.      

Warren Patton - bravo.


Over 80% of of women getting abortions are single and young and about 3/4 of them say they can't afford to have a child. About a thind of those getting an abortion are Catholic. 

To say that getting an abortion is evil is to state an opinion, one that most people in the US don't share.  Why?  It probably depends, but I would guess thaat many, as Bill wrote, don't think embryos and early fetuses are "persons" ... almost 90% of abortions are done before the 12th week.

@Crystal Watson:

many, as Bill wrote, don't think embryos and early fetuses are "persons"

Whenever I hear this assertion, I always wonder whether these people would tell women who are mourning a miscarriage or early pregnancy loss, "meh, what's the big deal? It's not like that was a real person; it's just a fetus."


I can imagine that when someone is pregnant and looking forward to having a baby that a relationship grows in anticpation.  But probably most people who want an abortion  don't have that experience. 

It's one thing to think you are right on this issue, but you can't force others to believe what you do or to feel the way that you do simply because you think they should.  It seems to me that trying to understand where they are coming from would be the first step in trying to change things. 

Following Crystal with more numbers: 42% of women who get abortions earn less than 100% of the federal poverty level, ($10,830 for a single woman without children,) and another 27% for 100-199% of the federal poverty level.

If you ask the economic question another way, you see that the average cost of living in, e.g., St. Louis MO, is $32-40 k for a single parent with one or two children, way above 199% of the poverty level. (61% of women who get abortions have one or more children already.) This is a general trend: "For the nation overall, the average family budget for a two-parent family with two children is $48,778, far above the official poverty threshold of $21,027." 

Economics is hugely important in abortion decisions, as are responsibilities to other people, including other children.



But to turn away from abortion for a moment...does anyone really think that a synod on the family, even if there is discussion of the various non-abortion issues mentioned, will likely bring any change since Paul VI, the author of Humanae Vitae, will be canonized immediately thereafter? I can't imagine they won't double down on the current teaching in honor of the new St. Paul. I suppose they could re-vision Communion for the divorced and remarried, but the teachings on contraception and homosexuality are unlikely to undergo any real change, istm...sadly.

""Also you seem to be guilty of an inconsistency yourself, since you attack pro-lifers for supporting war and then attack them for NOT supporting military action in Nigeria and Syria."


Where did I write that I supported military action in those areas?

Maybe you related to this since some fanatical prolifers have murdered doctors. 

Can people who believe in and practice birth control be Catholic? I know at one time you could not consider yourself Catholic if you thought the earth moved.

I have many conservative friends and grew up quite orthodox. 



Would just like to underline some phrases and terms used above - would suggest that without more nuancing, we get lost.

Medical science has demonstrated phases of development:

- for some who are pro-life but realize that birth control is a moral decision in some cases

- they might also understand from science that there is no human being before implantation.

- for these folks, the phrase *from the moment of conception* needs to be it implantation or before that moment?

- the process of implantation naturally results in an estimated 2/3rds of all *conceptions* end with no implantation (this is just naturally; no outside means involved)

- for many, the actual question and issue is after implantation - you have the beginning of a fetus

- for some, they make further distinctions - what is viability?  Do you measure by heart beat? Most women don't even know they are pregnant until weeks after implantation;  which raises other questions.

- this is just on the level of reproductive biology...would suggest that a simplistic *from conception* statement does not resonate with folks because it is not supported by what we know medically and scientifically.  (which has created historical problems on other issues for the church)

Finally, even if this whole group is merged togather - then we have added questions and issues in terms of public policy and what is feasible?  Are you going to jail all women who have abortions; how about the men who impregnated them?  how about the MDs?

I don't think the synod will change much of anything, except perhaps to allow pastors to decide if they want to let divorced/remarried take communion - but I think the actua teaching on divorce will remain the same and the change will be seen as "mercy" for people who have failed.  Considering how overwhelming the results of the Vatican survey were around the world for contraception, co-habiting, divorce, acceptance of gays, etc., this lack of change will really show the church is beyond fixing, I think.  Depressing.

@BIll Mazzella

Apologies, I wasn't saying you aren't a faithful Catholic. I was just sort of trying to figure out what you meant by "proof" in theology. I think that Catholic theology is pretty clear on this issue and that this should be hard for a practicing Catholic to dismiss. But perhaps my phrasing was a little strong.

As for Nigeria and Syria you said this: "...the pro-life movement is virtually silent on war, syria, the 200+ Nigerian girls that are missing etc." Which I took to be attacking pro-lifers for not demanding that the American military be deployed in these places. I suppose that there are ways to respond to these crises that don't involve military action, so maybe that isn't what you meant. But most of those in the States who are demanding action are hawks (like John McCain).

I have no idea what Syria and Nigeria have to do with murdering doctors, but for the record I did not support the Iraq War nor do I support intervening in Nigeria and Syria. I also oppose intervening in the Ukraine and think the Libya intervention was a huge mistake. And obviously I oppose murdering doctors.

As for the stuff I said about growing up liberal- yes, it seems I was projecting my own experience. I initially identified as pro-life, even though I was uncomfortable with it, simply because I found pro-lifers distasteful. I've since come around on this. It was wrong to support abortion simply because I disliked the people who opposed it. And I think my liberal friends share a lot of ugly stereotypes about conservatives and the religous that I disagree with. But obviously none of this reflects your own experience. My main point, though- that disliking the people who support a cause is not a good reason to oppose that cause- still stands.

I’m all for creating the social/economic safety nets that would hopefully dissuade some women from having abortions. Every embryo/fetus not aborted is a victory, even if that means taking a large chunk of money from some other appropriation (the defense budget, for example) to craft and maintain such safety nets.

As for “person,” it’s a legal term that like all legal terms (“proximate cause,” “preponderance of the evidence,” etc.) is inexact and subject to varying interpretations.  Except for one point on the human life continuum, any other designation of “person” along that continuum is arbitrary. What is not arbitrary and inexact is that a distinct human “other” comes into existence at the moment of conception. This other is not his/her mother and not his/her father, but a genetically unique member of our species that IMO is entitled to both moral and legal recognition. It’s one of the failures of the pro-life movement, regrettably, that it has yet to convince a majority of people about the intrinsic value of nascent human life.     

@ Warren Patton:

disliking the people who support a cause is not a good reason to oppose that cause


Thank you again for this reminder. This is a very good point that I seem to often forget (maybe intentionally). 

The Church and many others who oppose abortion might find a somewhat more receptive audience if they did not also condemn most forms of contraception as gravely evil, leaving abstinence as the only real alternative to giving birth. Unfortunately, even a woman who freely chooses abstinence may find it necessary to poleax a male partner, which is arguably also evil, although, males being what we are, there is room for disagreement about the gravity.

Without disparaging the efficacy of the rosary, I think other possible reasons for gradually declining abortion rates

may be more reliable contraception methods and better sex education, both of which are often grimly opposed by pro-life people as steps to promiscuity.

And then there is this question:  For reducing abortion rates, is it more effective to harangue and shame a woman contemplating an abortion and to call her a slut and a murderer, or would it be better to ward off desperation by offering her loving support, public and private, through the months of the pregnancy and the early years of her baby? Sadly, that is not just a rhetorical question.

If this was only science fiction instead of the real world, I'd have everyone temporarily sterilzed at puberty and people would have to make a conscious decision to reverse that to have a child.  The abortion rate would plummet.  But probably conservatives would find that idea horrific.

disliking the people who support a cause is not a good reason to oppose that cause

Good reason or not, it's how people tend to think. That rancher chap in Nevada had a lot more support for his anti-government stance before he told the world "one more thing I know about the Negro." Maybe it's a lazy shortcut and unfit for philosophers, but most of us do judge causes and ideas in part by what we know or think we know, good or bad, about the people espousing them. Celebrity endorsements. Political advocacy. Sayings of the wise and holy. Saves time and effort at the cost of some accuracy.


Chastity belts for all! With modern synthetic materials they shouldn't chafe as much as they used to.

But who will keep the keys?

I get so tired of abortion discussions.  As soon as somebody brings up the question of whether or not the fetus is a person with a right to live same as other persons, immediately pro-choice people start give all sorts of good (heart-rending and serious) reasons for having abortions.  But rarely are they willing to address the question:  do abortions, especitally after the first few months kill real for true babies (very young persons)?  What most pro-choicers seem to want to avoid is saying, "Yes, I hate to say it, but I think it's OK to kill some babies".

It goes on and on.  Same ole, same ole. 

 "I'm speechless."



Most people who think abortion is acceptable, have limits on the acceptability ... mosre people are for early abortions, when the fetus seems less like a baby, and that is when most abortions occur.  Most people who have late abortions do so for the health of the mother and aren't doing it because they are ok with killing babies.  So it's not really fair to say that pro-choice people are for killing babies.  Would it be fait to say pro-life people are ok with killing women? 

"As for “person,” it’s a legal term that like all legal terms (“proximate cause,” “preponderance of the evidence,” etc.) is inexact and subject to varying interpretations.  Except for one point on the human life continuum, any other designation of “person” along that continuum is arbitrary. What is not arbitrary and inexact is that a distinct human “other” comes into existence at the moment of conception. This other is not his/her mother and not his/her father, but a genetically unique member of our species that IMO is entitled to both moral and legal recognition. It’s one of the failures of the pro-life movement, regrettably, that it has yet to convince a majority of people about the intrinsic value of nascent human life."

John C. --

No, there are some quite servicable definitions of "person" that would preserve the legal rights of the rest of us persons.  Ethicians usually, I would say, view a "person" as the sort of animal that is capable of highter level thinking.  Some philosophers would also add "having the capacityt to choose at least some actions".  Defining person as his/her unique set of genes just makes the problem worse -- if having a certain "unique" set of genes is what makes an organism a person, then every cell in the body is a person -- and the set of genes is NOT unique.   

There's a wikipedia rticle on "Beginning of Human Personhood"

Ugh, I wouldn't even want to look at a wikipedia article on that subject. I'm sure it's a complete mess

Actually it references Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustin, and Peter Kreeft, among others.

Yeah it's actually pretty useful. Just my knee-jerk distrust for Wikipedia.

When I was young and poor, someone gave me a puppy.  I have nothing against dogs, but I didn't really want it.  I considered giving to a shelter, but it was kind of a hassle.  So I put it in a sack that was weighed down with rocks, and tossed it into Lake Michigan.  What the heck  - it wasn't a person.

As I stood there on the pier, dangling the sack over the water, with the puppy wimpering inside, a couple of passersby, realizing what was happening, begged me not to do it.  The nerve of some people who can't mind their own business.



Yes, a puppy is too a person ... holy mackerel  :(  My own definition of a "person" is a living creature that feels pain, love, fear, hsppiness, that can enter into relationships, that is self-aware.  So if I was in a burning building and could only save one thing, a puppy or a frozen embryo, you can guess which I'd save.

Crystal --

I know the statistics.  I know there are in rare cases serious enough reasons to take the life of the child rather than let both mother and child die.  What aggravates me is the pro-choices who are too squeamish to admit that what they're approving is the killing of a baby.  Just look at their language -- fetuses are aborted, babies are born.

I think that the Dr. Gosnell case at least started some people seeing the gravity of approving easy-to-get abortions.  That he is going to jail for killing a surviving aborted child when he was legally safe for aborting it in the first place makes absolutely no sense whatsoever morally -- if the mother really couldn't take care of the child or it would have gravely inconvenienced her or she would have died, then, if it was right to kill it in her womb, why wouldn't it be right if she killed it *after* it was born?  Why is it wrong to kill a child in the open air but not in the womb?   

At lest Peter Singer is consistent on the subject.


Hi Walter. Using language like "slaughter" of fetuses makes women and doctors seem like monsters. If said women considered embryos and fetuses to be human life, that might be justifiable -- but they don't. 


What is your definition of a human baby or even a human life? Is it defined by DNA, cells, tissues, organs? A beating heart? Moving limbs?


Animals have all these things. What is the universally accepted definition of human death? It's the death of the human brain. What is the difference between a human brain and an animal brain that makes a human a human? It's the frontal cortex, where human consciousness resides. Without a frontal cortex, there is no human thought; not is there perception of pain. 


If death of the brain is the definition of death, then the birth of the human frontal cortex is the true inception of the human being in question. The frontal cortex doesn't begin to form until well beyond 20 weeks. 


Now, Catholics and evangelical Protestants believe that a human being is a human being from the moment of egg fertilization.  But this is a purely religious definition, and it's a religion not universally shared. 


The pro-life movement should be more aptly named the pro-criminalization movement. It seeks to impose the Catholic/Evangelical version of Sharia law on all of the women and doctors in the nation who do not share these religious beliefs and therefore make criminals of these women and doctors. I believe that this is profoundly wrong and immoral.


No Catholic should ever have an abortion, for any reason. But to try to impose one's personal religious beliefs on others whom one doesn't know and whose circumstances one doesn't understand and to justify it through the hurling about of outrageous language like "slaughter" is indeed an example of holier than thou and is the height of irresponsibility, as it inflicts what can be lifelong guilt and depression and promotes hatred, on many levels.


The affordable care act will prevent a thousand fold more abortions than all the clinic picketing in history, through its provisions for counseling, contraception, and improved economic well being, through affordable health care.


Leave those unfortunate  women alone. There are so many other things that you can do with your time that will be much more effective and which will not cause so much in the way of collateral damage. And please be more understanding of the point of view of those who do not share your personal religious belief that a brainless embryo is a human being.


Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA


Leave those unfortunate  women alone.

Mental images always get in the way in these discussions. Larry Weisenthal sees the "unfortunate women" being harassed by demonstrators and sidewalk counselors. I've seen some unfortunate women harassed by boyfriends or parents until they are beside themselves with confusion and indecision. Abortion customers are not all the same. For many, the abortion decision is made under high pressure and in a less than serene emotional state. (Shortening the period in which abortions may be obtained, as some states have been doing, will only add to the pressure and may force more decisions to abort than there would be with time for measured discussion.)

If the only advice the customer has received is from a boyfriend who wants to play but not pay and the helpful folks at the clinic who make their living through abortion, it can't be bad if uninvolved women offer maybe a less pressured view

Dr.Larry - thanks - so well written, concise, to the point and yet - feels like a personal gospel parable.  If only the rest of us...................

Hi Tom, 

"Women as abortion customers."

and the demonization goes on and on and on.


"uninvolved women offer maybe a less pressured view"

Makes me think of the "crisispregnancy clinics" run by pro-life organizations to convince women not to have abortions and which give false medical information such as abortions =  breast cancer ...

The title of this posting is:  Pope's man in Italy on abortion, homosexuality & Communion for the divorced & remarried.

So what are the comments about:  the usual Catholic obsession with abortion.

Any wonder why so many others just grin behind their hands when they hear the words “Catholics” and “abortion?”

I don’t.

Jim, you forgot that your girlfriend was going to break up with you because she didn't like dogs, that you were allergic and would be suffering constant rashes, that the shelter would only take the puppy after you had stayed with it for the first three months, and that none of your friends was able to take the puppy for you during those three months. You also forget that your landlord does not allow dogs and would request you to move, that you'd have to cut down on your work hours because the puppy could not stay alone for more than a few hours at a time, and that you'd have to look for a job close enough to your place that you'd be able to go walk the puppy every few hours. Also, do you know that the puppy was not actually there yet, that your friend had only given you a gift order for delivery of the puppy to your steps on the next day, and that if you could just call and tell the people that you were canceling the delivery, they'd take care of getting rid of the puppy, while if you waited until they brought it, you'd have to deal with all the trouble - with girlfriend, lodging, and job - yourself?

Fair enough, Jim McCrea. I was wondering why Bishop Galantino did not include ordination of women in his list of arguments the Church should listen to "without any taboo." Maybe it was an oversight. I hope it does not mean that things the Church has long considered grave sins are now up for debate and possible revision, sensible as that may be, but that an administrative decision founded in age-old prejudice is still beyond the pale. 

Hi, Larry,

What do you want? I tried "clients" earlier but that sounded, to me, too evenly matched. Your unfortunate woman is met by a greeter, just like at Wal-Mart. She's in, gets treatment, and she's out. Just like at the beauty parlor. "Patient" would overstate the service; "victim" would be judgmental. If you look at what I've written nothing makes the woman out as demonic.

And, Crystal, bad information from "crisis pregnancy clinics" is as much a fraud as bad information from abortion providers. Our local provider didn't tell clients there was such a thing as an ultrasound until the prolifers showed up outside with  bus and an ultrasound machine. I mean, if condemnations are going to fly for lying, then let them fly at whoever is lying, and everybody else, duck.

I mentioned those clinics and their lies because they are so pernicious that the US House of Representatives issued a report on them ...FALSE AND MISLEADING HEALTH INFORMATION PROVIDED BY FEDERALLY FUNDED  PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTERS ...

And here's a news story ... "Deception used in counselling women against abortion" ...


Larry ==

Here's the 1990 Wolter and Sullivan article about medieval arguments about when a human person's life begins.  The arguments are essentially the same as yours:   to be a thing of a particular kind the thing must possess all of its essenial parts, and the zygote, etc., do not possess the  essential *rational* part of a human person, because it doesn't have a human brain.  It follows that what develps is actually a succession of different substances -- vegetative, animal then the human one at the last stage in the process.  

Augustine and Anselm didn't have arguments quite as elaborate as that, but theirs too followed the same general form.  As does, I might add, the argument of the contemporary philosopher Peter Singer.  His argument is more radical, however, because he argues that the rational capacities don't emerge until the child is around age 3, as I remember.  This allows him to approve of killing  defective babies after birth. 

Wolter and Sullivan consider the Aristotelean-Thomistic argument in some detai.  The article shows clearly that it simply isn't true that there is *one* Church teaching and it is that life begins at conception.  (Wolter was one of the great medieval scholars of the 20th century, so you can trust him.  He also writes extremely clearly.)

The article is in PDF form.


Crystal, I am not surprised that a House committee in 2006 might release a report on lies anti-abortion clinics tell. Now that the Rs are in control of the House, I wouldn't be surprised if a House committee has released a report on lies abortion clinics tell and how they are related to Benghazi. You and I could collaborate on a report on lies Catholic bishops tell. Shooting fish in a barrel is a time-honored way to make a point but not necessarily the way to understand the underlying truthy.

Dear Tom, The woman obtaining an abortion is a patient; she is not a "customer," unless people obtaining other minor surgical or medical treatments for conditions from bunions to colon polyps to cutaneous melanoma are also not patients.

The people you demonize by calling an abortion patient a "customer" are the doctors who treat these patients and the people who work in the facilities where these treatments are administered, from hospitals to doctor's offices to free-standing clinics. In a capitalist health care system, it is customary for doctors to charge for their services, and the average doctor who performs surgical procedures tends to be very well compensated.  But their patients are not "customers," unless one has the clear intention of using that term pejoratively.

Someone else wrote that, in Italy, abortions are free of charge.  That is also the case in the Netherlands (and native born Dutch have only 1/3 the abortion rate of Catholics in the USA, despite there being free abortion on demand in The Netherlands). So what are you going to call abortion patients in Italy and the Netherlands?  You can't very well call them "customers," can you?  Is abortion more ethical when there is no charge for it?

Once again, your personal religious views inform you that brainless embryos and fetuses are human beings. You have every right to be personally appalled.  You have every responsibility not to be an abortion participant yourself.  But you have absolutely no right to impose your personal religious views on everyone else.  To do so is simply akin to Sharia Law.

Dear Ann,

Thank you for the interesting historical link, but I honestly feel that the views of earlier generations of philosophers are not relevant, given that they had no understanding of fetal development.  Even the educated and thoughtful people who write comments to Commonweal articles display ignorance. Recently, on another thread, an otherwise thoughtful commenter stated that abortion "tortured" fetuses.  No, it doesn't, if abortion is performed before the fetus has a frontal cortex.  And I'm not talking about "age of reason" (n.b. I view Singer's arguments as appalling), I'm talking about the total absence of the frontal cortex, which is what is responsible for human thought and for the perception of pain.  This is not a matter of philosophy; it's a matter of embryology and anatomy and neurophysiology.

I am truly not trying to change anyone's personal religious beliefs on what constitutes a "human life" and what does not.  I'm simply saying that the motives of highly ethical, devoted doctors and supportive staff who perform abortions deserve to be understood and respected, as these people do not share the personal religious belief that an abortion is the taking of a human life.

For the record, as I've stated before, I favor a hard cut off line for abortions, which would be the point at which the frontal cortex begins to form. Beyond that point, abortion should be performed only in cases where the mother's life is truly threatened, e.g. as in pulmonary hypertension (e.g. the Arizona case).

One problem, however, is lack of access to abortion at the earlier periods in gestation.  I'm thinking of a poor young woman in the hinterlands of Texas or Montana or Mississippi, with no access for hundreds of miles. That's the problem with overly restrictive laws regarding medical facilities which provide abortions. These laws may delay abortion until late gestation, with the result that the woman finally ends up traveling to a state permissive of late term abortions, which I personally feel are gravely troubling.  In this regard, I'd point out another unintended consequence of vigils around abortion clinics -- i.e. the scenario in which the woman is temporarily dissuaded from proceeding, only to decide, much later on, to go through with it.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA


She's in, gets treatment, and she's out. Just like at the beauty parlor

Or, you know, just like any other out-patient medical clinic.

I can't think of any other medical procedure, except possibly chemotherapy, in which you end up with less life than you started with. Maybe brainless embryos and fetuses are like cancer cells, but I just can't see it.

BTW, Larry, your scientific view doesn't seem to inform you that brainless (once again with the pejoratives) embryo is in the process of growing into what you would recognize as a human person. It wil not become asparagus, a firefly or a table lamp. If it would, we wouldn't have to kill it.

And, btw, I am not trying to impose my religious views on society. I don't see much point, for example, in making abortion illegal. I am trying to coinvince society its views on abortion are unsustainable. I do see a point in making abortion unthinkable. And not (to anticipate you) by brainwashing but by argument.

I think those who are trying to counsel someone who is thinking of an abortion should stick to the real reasons why abortion is wrong rather than resorting to what amounts to propaganda. For instance, whether abortion predisposes one to breast cancer later in life is an argument often cited.  As soon as someone brings up statistics that prove it does, someone else will bring up statistics that prove the opposite. The wrongness of the act doesn't hinge on whether it causes breast cancer, or depression, etc. even though that may be true.  The other side of the aisle is of course no less guilty of propaganda. Case in point is the recent spate of youtube videos of women filming their abortions to show others that it's not so bad.  The cognitive dissonance was particularly deafening when one woman spoke of her picture of her ultrasound, which she still kept.  Even went so far as to say it would be the thing she took with her if she was leaving a burning house.  But abortion was no big deal.


Speaking of the reasons why abortion is wrong, the arguments have centered on when personhood actually starts, and whether it actually constitutes murder if it happens prior to that point.  In fact there is never going to be agreement as to when human personhood starts. We believe as Christians that God has willed each of us into existence.  That we each have gifts, that we are born to help others in their journey to heaven. So abortion opposes the will of God for the person-in-the- making. It is often stated that ancient scholars such as Augustine and Aquinas believed that ensoulment didn't happen until quickening; and prior to that didn't consider abortion to be murder. However what is ignored is that they still considered it a grave sin.  They were mistaken in their biology, but not their theology.  The first sentence of this quote from Augustine is often cited, not so much the second part:  "Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish like seeds that have never fructified.  But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting...but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed."


Katherine - on one level, what you write makes a good insight.  But, it also gets us into the whole, *new*, category of *intrinsic evil* (as if that is separate from human action, behaviors, etc.)

Concern about calling birth control or even an abortion in the first weeks *murder* is that the catholic moral system would not agree with this.  We have to be more nuanced.

To call something *murder* we have to know the person's motivation, intent, context, freedom to make a valid and mature decision, etc.    In my experience, many women would not meet this level in order to arrive at a label of *murder*.

Yes, agree that it is serious, that we need to value and protect life - but, being human, we live in a world that has steps, levels, tiers so that we can better make moral decisions.  So, any loss of life saddens me but, as some said well above, will not jump to the other extreme and label, judge, condemn others based upon some *ideal* category such as intrinisic evil. 

Examples of intrinsic evils - lying, adultery, masturbation, etc.  Shoot, more and more the church is moving to view the death penalty as an intrinsic evil - so, is the state committing murder?  Yep, its complicated.

Bill, I am not interested in labeling abortion as murder, or in judging/condemning women who have had an abortion.  I am more interested in getting people to think about the will of God in their lives, and how abortion is contrary to that. 

And as far as considering things such as the death penalty to be an intrinsic evil, no argument there from me.

"I honestly feel that the views of earlier generations of philosophers are not relevant, given that they had no understanding of fetal development.  .  .  

"I'm talking about the total absence of the frontal cortex, which is what is responsible for human thought and for the perception of pain.  This is not a matter of philosophy; it's a matter of embryology and anatomy and neurophysiology.  .  .  

"I am truly not trying to change anyone's personal religious beliefs on what constitutes a "human life" and what does not.: "

Larry --

The position of Wolter and Sullivan is exactly the position that you're defending -- contemporary discoveries must be made premises of the argument.  However, W & S add that the the reason *philosophy* is relevant is because, as usual, metaphysical principles underlie and are part of scientific proofs.  If you deny the validity of logic, if you cannot justify saying that one thing is a different kind of thing than another one, then you have not established any sort of proof of what the argument is about in the first place.  The Aristotelian position -- still adhered to at least implicitly by science -- is that we know what a thing is by its properties (still a word used in scientific proofs), and one of the main properties of things are their operations.  So to a large extent we have to say that we know *what* kind of t hing a particular thing is, is by *what it does*.  Put in more Aristotelian terms, we know substances by their specifying actions (e.g., water freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit).  And we know what a fetus is by what it is capable of doing -- operating on a rational level no matter how primitive a rational level, and where there is no specifically rational-human brain parts there is no specifically rational-human kind of thing.

In other words, there are two big sides to the abortion controversy -- some people do not want to admit the relevance of modern science, some do not want to admit the relevance of philosophical presuppositions.  But both are necessary for a full proof.

Also note:  I haven't said a word about theology here.  The Aquinas' argument I'm talking about here doesn't have one theological premise.  It is only when you bring in theological premises (revelation) that you are arguing theology.  Further, I would say that in a pluralistic democracy such as ours, theological arguments are not only irrelevant, they do more harm than good because when they are introduced into the public debate they are attempts to impose one person's theology on another.  And that is not moral.  It violates freedom of conscience. 

Keeping discussions going on the morality of abortion and when human rights begin seems a wholly good and prudent course, considering how easily ignoring those rights has been historically.  The problem at hand, though, is how Catholics should be going about that.  Are the clinic protests merely hardening hearts, including those of the protesters?  Isn't that what the “pope's man“ meant by referring to expressionless protesters reciting Rosaries?  Some actions merely confirm stereotypes (in this case, against Catholics ourselves) and acco of accomplish little else.  Certainly the many attempts to force passage of anti-abortion laws in the face of majority opposition gives the appearance of religious tyranny, not at all an image those demanding religious freedom for themselves should be promoting.  If anyone has a right or duty to point this out, church authorities do.  There may be method to this seemingly misspoken “madness.“

"In fact there is never going to be agreement as to when human personhood starts. We believe as Christians that God has willed each of us into existence . .  .   It is often stated that ancient scholars such as Augustine and Aquinas believed that ensoulment didn't happen until quickening; and prior to that didn't consider abortion to be murder. However what is ignored is that they still considered it a grave sin."

Katherine --

How do you know there will never be aggreement?  Contemporary biology, especially neuroscience, is giving us more and more evidence about the nature of the fetus at various stages.

Yes, it's true that Aquinas thought that prior to ensoulment abortion was a grave sin, but not all medievals thought so.  And so far as I know there wasn't much debate about this issue.  But even if there had much discussion, we would still have to ask:  was Aquinas right in this matter?  I say he was clearly wrong.  Why?  Well, the West has done a lot more thinking about human rights since his time.  Looking at his position from a modern, clearer understanding of rights, it seems ludicrous to say, as he did that *a non-human thing has a human right to life".  Why?  Because it is our humanity-- our combination of spiritual soul-and-body that is the foundation of our right to life in the first place.  No human soul-plus-human body and there is not foundation for a right to life.  You might as well say that a chimpanzee, because it is biologically much like a person has a right to a person's life.

But this question is independent of the question of late abortions, and, I would grant you, the moral  gravity of early abortions needs more attention.  I think the issue is urgent, however.  I'd say that, for instance, when a woman's health would be seriously affected by continuing the pregnancy then the issue is a grave moral issue.  Whether trivial reasons justify such abortions is, perhaps, another issue.  

Obviously, pointing out the discrepancies involved in acting like religious tyrants while demanding religious liberty for our side hasn't been a strong Catholic suit, but we turned a significant corner at Vatican 2.  Unlike his immediate predecessors, this Pope seems committed to that new course.  Little wonder he elicits controversy.  For 30-some years  we've been exhorted To turn back.

God's will?  Each one of us has to discern for ourselves what God's will is for us - that's why many other Christian denominations leave women's reproductive choices up to the individual.  Does God will every life into existence?  I don't know ... what of those babies who are miscarried?  Did God "will" their early deaths?  Not everything that happens is a result of God's will.  That would make him responsible for a lot of horrible stuff.

It may be hazardous to found the human right to life on some sort of body-soul synthesis, since neuroscience appears to be working slowly but steadily toward an understanding of human personality arising naturally from the physical properties of our brains. That would render the hypothesis of a soul superfluous, making us less a special creation than simply a very interesting development in the history of life.

We know, of course, from young-earth creationists and many politicians that it is possible to ignore or repudiate findings of science that one doesn't like. And science and theology are indeed quite different disciplines. But the Church has generally tried to reconcile them, albeit haltingly and sometimes a bit grudgingly. It certainly would not lessen the glory of God, in my view, if his initial creative act was so fruitful and true that it requires no course corrections or last-minute additives.

And actually you can be a Christian and not believe in the soul, like Nancey Murphy (from Wikipedia) ...

Nancey Murphy is a Christian theologian and philosopher .... currently Professor of Christian Philosophy at the Fuller Theological Seminary .... Her first book, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning, won a prize from the American Academy of Religion. The Templeton Foundation awarded it the 1999 Prize for Outstanding Books in Theology .... More recently, Dr. Murphy has written a book entitled Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? .... Murphy serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. She also serves as an editorial advisor for Theology and Science, Theology Today, and Christianity Today.

I have a blog post about her here ...

Neuroscience is too young and patchwork for us to know where its going. No doubt most neuroscientists believe that they are bringing us to "an understanding of human personality arising naturally from the physical properties of our brains" and they will no doubt present every advance as a step in that direction. But there are very good reasons, I think, for not believeing in this kind of reductive materialism.

In any case belief in the soul is a cornerstone of our faith. It isn't a scientific hypothesis that can just be thrown out when it is deemed "superfluous."

"Reductive materialism" may just be inattentiveness. Here is another view:


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

My italics.


Many things have been "a cornerstone of our faith" until they were not.


". . . neuroscience appears to be working slowly but steadily toward an understanding of human personality arising naturally from the physical properties of our brains. That would render the hypothesis of a soul superfluous, making us less a special creation than simply a very interesting development in the history of life."

John P. --

That is what neuroscience *claims* it's doing.  See the oft-recommended work "Mind and Cosmos" of Thomas Nagel who disputes the claim powerfully.  The problem is that contemporary scientists generally don't realize that their presuppositions which validate science are generally  not scientific ones.  That is, they're not empirical, they're philosophical/logical/metaphysical principles.  And there are now first class philosophers of science such as Nagel (an atheist) who see that those who claim that everything that is is material (e.g., the Darwinists and most neuroscientists), violate their own fundamental presuppositions.  Nagel, of course, struck a nerve because he is a pre-eminent philosopher of recent decades.  The reaction of some of the scientists was laughable.  For instance, Steven Pinker was reduced to calling Nagel senile -- but without engaging Nagel's arguments.

i should perhaps add that there is one physicist/philosopher (John Polkinghorne) who has also taken on the materialists.  Unfortunately for the seculars, Polkinhorne is not just a physicist, he's a notable one whose scientific contributions are as solid as the scientific contributions  of the materialists.

Oops --  I forgot to note that Polkinghorne is also a theologian and an Anglican priest.  You can imagine what the materialists think of him.

Keith Ward too is an Anglican priest and the former Regius orofessor of Divinity at Oxford and he's written a lot about idealism vs materialism.  Here's a short video of him talking about "Thoughts without brains" ...

Thanks, Crystal, but the closed captioning (as usual) is a lot of gibberish.  (Or is it just philosophy? :-)

I just remembered a debate I once listened to on the Unbelievable? podcast between a Thomist and a materialist who happened to be an Evangelical Christian. Seems to be obviously relevant here. Unfortunately it looks like I can no longer listen to it, since I don't have QuickTime. Oh well, here's the link if anyone's interested:{7A2179A8-B2C2-4F32-BE24-2AFF6628FF9F}

Ann, sorry.  This Gresham College page has a video of his lecture, "Materialism and its discontents" but if you scroll down it also has the written transcript of the lecture too ...

Warren, thanks for the Physicalism link - I think that is a really interesting concept.


I'm pretty sure I don't understand what you mean by contemporary scientists' non-scientific presuppositions, or whether earlier scientists were better supplied with presuppositions. But many able men and women are engaged in serious research to understand the workings and sometimes the failings of our brains. It is a vast enterprise and perhaps the greatest challenge in our attempts to understand our world. It is very early, and there is no knowing yet where the work will lead. Perhaps it will lead to the conclusion that humanity cannot be understood in purely physical and material terms, and that a non-material or spiritual component must be part of our makeup. Perhaps not. I am willing, having no alternative, to wait and see. I see no need to stake our right to life, dubious and dishonored as it is, on either outcome.

But I sense even now two difficulties with the doctrine of souls. One is that soul is simply a term and not an explanation. A resort to souls tells us no more than we knew at first about how we perceive the world, how we make decisions, how emotions and hormones affect our actions, how we connect disparate ideas and remember things, how things go wrong, and what might be done about our many disabilities. We may as well go back to dryads to explain the woods.

The other difficulty is doctrinal. We are born into a fallen world, we are taught,  as a result of the sin of Adam, the effects of which we all inherit. And we do inherit our bodily traits and dispostions from earlier humans. But the soul is supposedly the seat of intellect and free will, and therefore for us fallen creatures, the locus of sin. And if the soul is infused directly by God into each new human at the moment of conception or a little later, then that part of us responsible for sinning is not derived from Adam. Not, that is, unless we picture Adam's soul as a yeasty mass from which God tears a little piece for each of us.

Egads, Warren, that is truly weird!

Jim, you forgot that your girlfriend was going to break up with you because she didn't like dogs


Claire:  obviously yuo were not addressing this comment to me.

Good try, but apparently no cigar:


John PriorSubscriberMay 16, 2014 - 4:49pm

Fair enough, Jim McCrea. I was wondering why Bishop Galantino did not include ordination of women in his list of arguments the Church should listen to "without any taboo." Maybe it was an oversight. I hope it does not mean that things the Church has long considered grave sins are now up for debate and possible revision, sensible as that may be, but that an administrative decision founded in age-old prejudice is still beyond the pale.


Maybe this has something to do with Galatino’s reluctance to talk about the ordination of women:  (it translates itself into English if you are patient)

Things look quite tense within the CEI and maybe Galatino has enough on his plate, what with the apparent recalcitance of the CEI president, Cdl Bagnasco to reduce the number of Italian dioceses, which Francis & Galatino favor.

It is going to be fun to see how these forces play out and what Francis has to say tomorrow as a lot rides on whether or not Francis can unscrew the CEI nut so firmly tightened by JP II and Benedict.

John Prior - sorry, but your comments about *inheriting Adam's sin* are not the position of the church's theology. 


Key Points:

- first, this is a story in scripture that explains in images what the people experienced - it is not a *literal*; much less philosophical or theological treatise

- second, scripture scholars believe that the Genesis account describes the *original condition* of mankind.  (you have actually stated a heresy - that humans are born with fact, humans are born good with freedom (but that freedom entails choice which may be morally sinful)

- third, a number of heresies have happened in the church about how Adam's sin was transmitted ....but, the church does not believe that we inherit Adam's sin...we inherit his condition which may or may not lead to sin

For Catholic theology, therefore, "original sin" in no way means that the moral quality of the actions of the first person or persons is transmitted to us, whether this be through a juridical imputation by God or through some kind of biological heredity, however conceived.

Well, I was taught ... and I suspect most of use cradle Catholics were as well .... that we have all been born with the stain of original sin on our souls which is removed by baptism.

Furthermore I was taught that we do not inherit guilt but only our fallen nature.

John P. =


Sorry about the length of this post, but it sort of covers a chunk of Western philosophy.


A presupposition is what is assumed to be so.  Scientific presuppositions include the validity of logic as well as some metaphysical presuppositions such as the principle of noncontradiction, and "every effect has a cause", and "no thing is other than itself". These sorts of principles are the objects of philosophical study.  Most scientists assume they're true without analyzing them or considering them critically.  A few scientists have gotten into philosophy of science and made some contributions to it.  However, scientists are not required in their course of study to get into their own presuppositions, and these days most scientists are still making the assumptions articulated by the Vienna Circle, a group of first rate early 20th century scientists and mathematicians (including Godel, at least for a time).  One of their presuppositions was that if you cannot establish something using empirical evidence, then you have not come to a scientific conclusion.  This would eliminate discovering God and the human soul because they cannot be established empiricaly.  They are wrong to think that we cannot discover them by other means. Unfortunately (or fortunately) one of the members of the Vienna Circle noticed that that very presupposition *cannot* be established by empirical means, so it had to be thrown out, and that was the end of the Vienna Circle.  However, their influence is still dominant in scientific to this day.


They were mainly materialists -- that is they thought that everything which exists is material (another presupposition that cannot be established empirically and, therefore, by their own criteria it cannot be assumed, but that has never stopped a materialists).  Again, read the Nagel, who finally caught on that they were building on sand.  No one denies the truly extraordinary gains of contemporary scientists, but they just are generally thoroughly incompetent as philosophers yet they make some extraordinary philosophical claims.  Now to souls.


One of their claims is that since souls are said to be immaterial that they can't exist.  This is based on their un-establishable claim that only material things exist.  


So where does the notion of soul come from?  Why think there are souls in the first plac?


To oversimplify radically, the West got the notion from the Greeks, mainly starting with Plato who looked into the kinds of things that present themselves to people.  He found some that are material (i.e., spatial, dimensional, measurable, material), while some are nonmaterial (i.e., non-spatial, non-dimensional, non-measurabe, non-material).  Even though the latter don't exist in the external world, he found that they are really present "within" in our minds and are as real as shapes and colors and the other measurable realities.  Note:  Plato didn't *reason* to the existence of those immaterial realities any more than he reasoned to the existence of physical things - he *found* them in his mental experience.  He called them "ideas" or "forms".  They're now also called"concepts" and "abstractions".


They include ideas such as 'straight line'.  We know what a straight line is.  Your math teacher defined the idea exactly:  a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.  But we don't find straight lines in our experience of the physical world -- we *call* some physical things 'straight lines', but they always *have width*, a physical property.  They're dimensional/material. Nevertheless, we know, have in our mental possession 'the idea straight line', and it is not to be found in the physical world. This awareness, this knowing, is also a non-physical reality which has neither length, breadth nor width.  Philosophers say this knowing of non-material reality in a non-material act of knowing is a spiritual/non-material act found by introspection, not by reasoning to it.


Another non-sensory conscious datum is what is meant by "negation", a logical concept.   (This argument is from Frege, who was a latter-day Platonist.)  Negation has no measurable qualities at all: but we know it even though it is "not" is not a dimentional reality. It's a non-dimentional/non-material/non-physical thing.  We can also add that the reality which is the *awareness of negation* is *also* a non-physical/non-dimentional thing: it simply cannot be found "out there" among all the physical things like your cat.  Our very awareness is immaterial, and many philosophers identify this with what the Greeks called a "psyche" or "soul".


Some older philosophers (e.g., Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz and their followers) argued that there is an even more basic spiritual reality than the mind/awareness.  They argued that there is a more basic  spiritual reality which grounds the actions of choosing and executing choices and it unites our physical experiences with our spiritual ones.  (Notice how if you stub your toe this can be located spatially in the physical world, so it's a physical reality, but  your experience is that it is John who is hurting, not just your toe:  "JOHN-I hurt").  


The important thing about such arguments is that they begin with descriptions of things -- consciousness of physical data, consciousness of ideas and judgments and will acts, and all of them are immaterial/spiritual.  


The words "soul" and "spirit" in everyday use have many sort of spooky connotations, so many people resist thinking there are such things.  But there's nothing spooky about the concepts of ideas, awareness or willing or a more basic reality called "soul".  


Nagel, by the way, doesn't use the word "soul", but he does talk about being aware that there a conscious acts (e.g., judging, evaluating) which simply are not reducible to physical events. And he argues (essentially as the older philosophers did) that if  material things are *only* material, then thy cannot be what is producing what is non-material.  (You can't give what you haven't got.)  His arguments are more primitive, actually, than say, Aquinas', but he agrees with the ancients that there is stuff in our experience that simply cannot be reduced to the dimensional.  Give him a read.

Bill deH,

sorry, but your comments about *inheriting Adam's sin* are not the position of the church's theology.

If you look again, Bill, you will see that I said nothing about *inheriting Adam's sin*. I said that the Church teaches that we inherit the effects of that sin, such as loss of original innocence, estrangement from God, clouding of the understanding and judgment, conflicts with the non-human creation, and more. Nevertheless, the Catechism has this to say:

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul".291 Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.292

To be sure, the Catechism tells us in the very next paragraph that

404...that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.

But probably no one needs to be told that we did not commit Adams's exact sin, whatever that was. And it would be a service to us all if the Church would designate these two different things by two different words.


you have actually stated a heresy - that humans are born with sin...

Not at all. I neither affirmed nor denied any teaching of the Church. I merely said that two teachings seem to me to be hard to reconcile. Whatever is transmitted to us from Adam as a result of his sin, and that requires a washing away in Baptism, would have to come by way of the soul, because the cloddish body, though often an instrument of sin, is incapable of assenting to it. That is the point of the body-soul duality, is it not? And if our soul is infused into each of us directly by God, then it is hard to see how it could be impaired by anything that Adam did.



Thank you, Ann, for your very interesting post. It is, as you say, quite long, so I will only comment on a couple of points.

There are a great many scientists in the world (hundreds of thousands, low millions?), and they are, I think, as varied as any other large group, being humans even before they are scientists. So it is not easy to generalize about them. Some may make overlarge claims, but most seem content to labor in the field of the material, the observable, the testable, and to report what they find there. And equally important, what they fail to find. The natural world is their concern. Whatever exists beyond it is not in their scope, although they are as much entitled to a layman's opinions ad biases as anyone else.

No one denies the existence of concepts and abstractions or "geometrical" straight lines, and everyone, I hope, agrees that they are not made of matter. But a soul is—excuse me!—a different matter. Or rather, a different non-matter. It is not in itself a concept (although we can have a concept of a soul), but a living substance that thinks and chooses and experiences suffering and bliss.

I do not deny the existence of souls. I say only that they have very little explanatory power, and that the early and far from complete investigations of neuroscience have already produced more useful natural-world information about us than all the musings of philosophers and poets since Plato and Homer. Souls may still hold their own in the supernatural realm, but for practical investigations here on earth, there is a more fruitful model.

John P. --

We're in almost total agreement.  Please forgive me for lighting into "the scientists".  It's true that 60% of American scientists believe in God, and, I assume, many believe there is a soul.  However, the leaders of the scientific establishment including such fine scientists such as Dawkins (and he is undoubtedly a fine scientist) make it their business to argue against belief in God and soul.  See for insance, the skeptic's regular column in the mainly fine magazine "Scientific American".  Philosophers and theoloogians are constantly on the defense against their unwarranted attacks.  I say unwarranted because they address philosophical and theological matters publicly without the competenc to do soul, mainly because they don't know a specificaly philosophical argument when they see one.

I agree that at this point in history the experience of our souls does not explain a lot of our actions.  What most people know of their souls is not very much.  And even the philosophers and theologians have a long way to go to explain the interactions of our various capabilities and behaviors.  i thoroughly agree that neuroscience will eventually answer many questions for us of how our parts are related.  If only they too don't try to invent the wheel!  Gazzaniga, for instance, is a great contemporary neuroscientist, but he has a very primitive concept of mystical experience.   He and his colleagues need to learn what has already been discovered and not dismiss out of hand what the philosophers and theologians have alreay discovered.

I think we are going around in circles. Abortion on demand is immoral. However, there is the ssue about what is considered "direct" or "indirect abortion". In this argument, we enter into the infamous Phoenix case where the life of the mother is threatened by an unviable fetus. Everything is done to save both, but the critical point is reached where only one life can be saved. The life of the fetus cannot be saved under any circumstances (e.g., it is unviable). Thus, if the mother dies (a forgone conclusion in this case if the pregnancy is allow to continue), then the fetus dies as well. In this case, I argue that when everythiing is done to save both lives, and this cannot be done, then is imperative and not immoral to save the life of the mother by terminating the pregnancy.The same applies to an 9 or 11 year old child who is raped or is the victim of incest, and cannot survive the pregancy.

As for unplanned pregnancies, nothing is preventing a poor woman with existing children or not, single or married, from taking the unplanned pregnancy to term and giving up the baby to adoption. 

The issue of abortion is not a question about a woman's civil and legal rights in the U.S.  provided that she follows the law. If there is no legal civil law preventing her from procurring an abortion, then there would be no criminality associated with her decison. However, there remains a moral issue with respect to abortion. This become highly complex when determining the moralitiy of a certain voluntary human act, as in the example I mentioned above and with respect to questions about personhood, ensoulment and the like.



As for unplanned pregnancies, nothing is preventing a poor woman with existing children or not, single or married, from taking the unplanned pregnancy to term and giving up the baby to adoption. 

Good call, bro. Because 9 months of pregnancy and the associated medical costs and needs are, like, nothing. 

I mean, at least try to be a little less tone deaf.


Your sarcasim and classification of me, and anyone who I assume would disagree with your sense of morality, does not move the conversation forward toward a better understanding of truth. Catholic charities can help the poor in these cases. In any case, I have never heard any moral theologian argue that economics (e.g., financial affordability) is a justifying moral factor for determining the morality of volutnary human action. Certainly not Aquinas.




To clarify; I am not saying that finanical affordabilty is unimportant or irrelevent. However, we are not talking about a decision about having a certain number of children in a marriage (as such finanical affordabilty would be a factor). Rather, we are talking about abortion on demand. 



In other words, you don't get it. It doesn't matter if the economic situation doesn't justify an action. The point I was making was not that you have to change your opinion with respect to what "voluntary human action" is justifiable, but rather that you are completely ignoring the on-the-ground reality of how being pregnant could impact "a poor woman with existing children or not, single or married." Do you think that such disregard for suffering is going to (and I'm trying not to gag here) "move the conversation forward toward a better understanding of truth"?

Catholic charities can help the poor in these cases

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻


I don't think you have sufficiently grasped my comments. If so, I will take responsibility for not being completely clear. Let me try again.

What you are asking about (e.g., the impact of being pregnant on a poor woman with existing children) is called consequences of an action or inaction in moral theology. By your remarks, it seems to me that you are justifiy abortion for this poor woman because of conseqquences. This is called consequentialism, and consequentialism is not a moral theory that most, if not all, theologians embrace. This does not mean that consequences are not important or should not be considered when determining the morality of a volutnary human activity. However, consequences do not solely justify voluntary human acts. 

As Aquinas teaches, the morality of a voluntary human action is based on the agent's good motives, good ends and intentions, good circumstances as well as the choosen action that must be appropriate, suitable and proportionate to the good in those ends. The terms ends, intentions, et al, are very explicitly defined in moral theology and are terms that can easily be confused by those not familiar with moral method. 

What you imply by your comments is that a poor woman with existing children, who has an unplanned pregnancy, is morally justified in having an abortion because of the burden that the pregnancy and additional child would have on her and her family. If that is what you are saying, then it would seem clear that the mother's end and intention is to terminate the pregnancy, a pregnancy that is not threatening her life. This is called direct abortion and it is immoral. I don't know of any Judeo-Christian religion that disagrees with this conclusion. If you disagree, I do not agree with your moral calculus. In other words, we will have to agree to disagree.




No. I'm saying that you should try and sound like less of a dick when you talk about a person in a really, really tight spot. That's all. 


Your choice of degrading language (sounding like less of a dick) is something that most people would find offensive. As adults, such judgements and manners of expression are not warranted in a respectul exchange, especially on religious blogs. I realize that blog comments are a poor method of communications and not a substitute for live conversation. This is why I took responsibilty for not being completely clear, so I offer you a better explanation of my argument. If you found my explanation reasonable, your irresponsible remarks did not convey it.

We all get into tight spots and we all are asked to be merciful, compassionate, helpful and understanding. However, abortion on demand is immoral regardless of tight spots that do not threaten the life of the person or are the result of rape or incest. These are exceptions to terminating a pregancy that I argue should be morally permitted, not financial considerations.

For your information, I minister to the poor in my Church and I am not a dick or sound like one as you claim.




Look, this is not so complicated, and I don't feel like I should have to draw you a diagram. And, honestly, I'm not really too worried about whether you are offended or like the tone of my responses. Imade a very simple point: don't proceed as though a pregnancy isn't a big deal. That means, don't just say (allowe me to paraphrase): "she can carry the baby to term and then give it up for adoption." I didn't mean that you can't believe that that is what she should do, nor that you can't produce an argument that that is what she should do. I meant, believe what you will and argue what you will, but don't do it without ignoring the reality of the difficulty of the situation. If you breezily suggest that a woman just carry a child to term, problem solved, then you are totally steamrolling her experience. And if you tack on the claim that she can just hit up a charity, then you are just making it worse.

That's all. That's it. No need to trot out even a whiff of Aquinas. Nobody needs a few paragraphs about moral theology. You wanted an argument about "voluntary human actions" and "intentions," and I just wanted to tell you that you sounded like a jerk, the same way I might tell a stranger that his fly is down.

So I said you were a douche and dick. You'll be okay. A lot of us might be good if it had been somebody there to call us a douchebag every minute of our lives. 


Abe --

You have a point about the seriousness of the woman's position.  Otherwise you're just name-calling.  Grow up.


You have a lot to learn about respectful dialogue. You resort to name-calliing because you think this is the best means to educate someone who you think irresponsibily disregarded the seriousness and reality of a person's circumstances. The reality is this: You have exaggerated and misunderstood my comments and not paid attention to my explanations. You also arrogantly think that your name-called is justified and appropriate.

My motivations and intentions are clearly reflective in my comments. I never implied that poor women who have unplanned pregnancies are not in a very tight spot or that these circumstances should not be seriously considered in any decision-making. However, finanical difficulties is not a justification for abortion-on-demand. This does not mean that women in these circumstances should be not be helped.

The bottom line is this: Your style of dialogue is sophomoric and immature. I suggest you rethink how you come across to people, which from your comments will not be easy for you.

As Ann Oliver said: grow up.



Thanks, I'll get right on that.

Mike, "in a tight spot" is when you discover that your water junker car has to be replaced in the same month you learn that tuition for daycare went up by 10% and you no longer qualify for food stamps because Congress just decided you and your kid are expendable members of the citizenry.  That's a tight spot.  Imagine 18 or 20 years, month after month of tight spots just like that.  After a while, it's no longer a tight spot, it's existential, that is, it's poverty. 

As for "well, there's always adoption," this seems to be the biggest reserve of denial among people who otherwise profess profound adoration for young children.  There are a lot of studies showing that giving up a baby for adoption is deeply traumatic in an ongoing way for many women.  Whereas, studies on the aftermath of abortion show much less regret, and little of the same kind of ongoing trauma (and in some cases have been suppressed for not showing what was deemed to be an "obvious" consequence).  How can this be?  I can speculate and so can you, but if you are a woman, an unplanned pregnancy puts you in more than a tight spot, in need of disposable diapers and temporary housing.  And this is all under the assumption that there are no emotional ping pong games going on among your family members and the father and his family.  Did you know that a significant percentage of domestic violence against women begins at the time a woman announces she is pregnant or has just given birth? 

Women alone are expected to "do the right thing" (according to someone they might not even agree with) no matter how self-immolating the act is for themselves. I don't use language like Abe, but I think it when I read these threads. 

Men are expected to do the right thing too- that is, to marry the woman and support her. Perhaps that's less expected these days, but that can't be blamed on pro-lifers.

Mike is largely correct. These consequentialist issues do not effect the intrinsic evil of abortion. In discussions of abortion they are, in a sense, a distraction. We can accept that women may be placed in very serious hardship after carrying a baby to term, but what are we to conclude from that.  That she should have the choice of getting an abortion? But we need to ask the question of what is at stake in that choice- what the moral significance of abortion is when these considerations are taken out.

To give an analogy, I remember reading an essay where a philosopher suggested that there should be an Organ lottery, where people are entered in and the losers killed for their organs. Now I think we can recognize the suffering caused by the shortage of organs while still believing that killing someone for their organs is intrinsically wrong. Simply pointing out that suffering is caused by a lack of organs does not constitute a complete argument for an organ lottery, because it skips the step of proving that killing someone for organs is acceptable. And one can hold that an organ lottery would be unacceptable without neccessarily having an alternate solution.

Consequentialism is offensive to many pro-lifers because it pretty much guarantees that the intrinsic evil of killing an innocent child will be ignored. In fact under consequentialism any loss of human life is pretty easy to gloss over if it isn't mourned. I'll admit that restricting abortion causes more visible suffering than allowing it does. But that does nothing to change the intrinsic evil of the act.


No one has the answers to all the suffering in the world. We do what we can to alleviate this suffering, as best we can and within reason...and can and should do more. However, as Warren Patton pointed out (as well as my previous comments), consequentialism does not justify abortion-on-demand. This is quite different if a pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother or in the cases of rape and incest. Make no mistake about what I am ssying: I do not minimize the suffering of women, those in extremely difficult circumstances and moral dilemma. 

The issue is: where do we draw the line on consequences that justify abortion? What is the criteria? Is it merely up to each individual or an authority (e.g., a religion) to guide people? I admit that many teachings of the RCC/magisterium should be reformed. However, we need to be guided by Jesus, His Gospel. I realize that Scripture and he Bible is not the "answer book" especially when there is much confusion and disagreement over interpretation of Scripture. When we do disagree with a magisterium teaching, perhaps we need to be guided by an consistent moral method for ethical decision-making. In some cases, the decision is easy, for other cases the decison is extremely difficult especially when it is in tension with one's conscience and experience.

The problem is that the RCC does not adhere to a consistent moral method with respect to sexual ethics. This leaves them to decide what is right and wrong without being consistent with any moral method. On the other hand, the RCC does adhere to a consistent moral method with respect social ethics. Thus, many sexual ethical teachings should be the subject of a rethinking by the magisterium. Nevertheless, the prohibition of abortion-on-demand is the most difficult to change because it deals with life. Some specific circumstances might be reasonable and just to terminate a preganancy (e.g., threats to the mother's life, rape and incest). However, I seriously doubt the RCC will reverse its teaching that life begins at conception, although the issue of when a fertilized egg becomes a person with a soul is highly debatable. Is it at implantation, when a brain and organs are formed and functioning, when consciousness is detected? I wish I had the answers to these questions.

I truly get what you are saying about the trauma and burdensome circumstances of many women in poverty and near poverty, those whose husbands are irresponsible and have, in some cases, abondened them while they are pregnant and with existing children, et al. In my larger family an unplanned pregnancy resulted after a breakup while both agents were single. Rather than to abort the fetus, they married, not for true love under normal circumstances, but to give the child a name and to try to make the marriage work. Today, most couples would resort to abortion. The marriage in question did not work out and ended after a few years. Neither agent remarried and the husband remained a responsible father even after 40 years have passed. During this time, the lives of both agents were replete with much difficulty, hardship and sorrow. However, there was also joy. The bottom line is this: seeing my niece now, married with children of her own, is a testament that the decision not to resort to abortion was truly the right moral decision.





This isn't a game of ping pong -- where you start out by saying "life begins at conception and a zygote/fetus at any stage is just as important as the mother it inhabits," and then, when told that a lot of people genuinely and strenuously do not agree with that assessment, you jump to "pregnancy is a mere inconvenience we should err on the side of life" and when that is show to be wrong, you revert to, back to, "life begins at conception and consequentialism is an invalid moral analysis."  If you are a member of the RCC and take its doctrine seriously you should not have an abortion.  No one should disagree with that.  But this is why freedom of conscience and self-determination exist, so that people with strong views one way don't get to impose them on others who disagree just as strongly and who, by the way, would bear all the costs from having their liberty curtailed. 

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