Single-issue Church?

The Church and Abortion
A Catholic Dissent
George Dennis O’Brien
Rowman and Littlefield, $29.95, 171 pp.

We are witnessing an unprecedented era in church history, one in which a single moral teaching has become so important for the magisterium that it appears to many, both inside and outside the church, to be the central dogma of the faith. Two millennia ago, in the early church, even the practice of eating meat cooked in sacrifice to the Roman gods—an enormously divisive issue—was declared morally permissible (reasoning that it constituted what later theologians would describe as a morally licit act of remote material cooperation). Politicians today, by contrast, can be denied Communion, and religious sisters formally excommunicated, for any complicity whatsoever in the evil of abortion. The situation seems perverse. If a Catholic politician were to stand up on national television and deny the Resurrection or the doctrine of Real Presence, not a single bishop would blink. But if one votes for a health-care bill to subsidize health insurance for millions who would otherwise have no health care, some of whom might use that subsidy to help purchase plans that could provide coverage for abortions—abortions they might well never have—such a politician is condemned by bishops as part of the culture of death.

In The Church and Abortion: A Catholic Dissent, George Dennis O’Brien argues that abortion has become “foundational” for the church, and has turned Roman Catholicism into a “Religion of Anti-Abortion.” In O’Brien’s view, the emphasis placed on abortion by...

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About the Author

Daniel P. Sulmasy, OFM, is professor of medicine and ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of Chicago.