Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Catholics for a Free Choice' argument fisked

Comment: a recent article by Jakob Cornides we reported here on the attempt to make abortion a 'right' throughout Europe and the world has clearly rattled Catholics for a Free Choice, who have published a response. This response so eloquently demonstrates the bankruptcy of their position that it is worth reproducing and commenting on it. See also our dossier on CFFC here.

From Catholics for a Free Choice: There are many flaws in the arguments presented by Jakob Cornides ('Human Rights Pitted against Man', IJHR, February 2008). I shall restrict myself to responding to just one: his assertion regarding religious beliefs on abortion.

Cornides asserts that 'practically all of the world's major religious traditions' are opposed to abortion and that it would therefore be impossible for any meaningful international forum to assert a right to abortion. In the first case, it's hard to see why religious opposition to a policy initiative should hold sway at any international or national forum. While religious voices should certainly be heard in such policy discussions, they should never be given extra weight because they are religious, let alone given veto power.

But no-one is saying that religious views should be given unfair extra weight. The fact that opposition to abortion is almost universal in world religions should be a veto on saying that opposition to abortion should be condemned as contrary to a universally recognised human right. It is absurd to establish as a 'human right' something which so many people, in accordance with their traditions, think is actually gravely wrong.

In addition, it is simply incorrect to say that most religious beliefs are opposed to abortion. Many denominations, including the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, as well as Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism have all adopted official statements that support reproductive choice as a matter of conscience.

Translation: a bunch of liberal protestant denomenations have accepted abortion in restricted circumstances, contrary to the rest of the Christian world and their own predecessors. And in Judaism abortion is allowed in some highly restricted circumstances, many of which don't count as abortion at all (see below).

Specifically pertinent for my organisation, Catholics for Choice, it's important to note that there is much in the Catholic tradition that supports the pro-choice position. While a cursory examination of Catholicism might suggest a definitive and unchanging opposition to abortion, a more careful reading of church documents shows that Catholics may support the legalisation of abortion and its morality in a wide range of circumstances. [This is simply a lie. Catholic politicians may vote for laws or ammendments to laws which permit abortion if this is the only practical way to improve the law: eg voting for a lower age limit. Legalising abortion is always wrong. It is morally permissible for a pregnant women to have urgent medical treatment which may harm her baby, but this is not 'abortion'.] In addition, there is a deep regard for individual conscience at the heart of church teaching on moral matters - meaning that decision-making on abortion is left up to the individual. [Decisions are made by the individual - that is what conscience is. If they are in accord with morality, that is right, if they are not, that is wrong.]

It is also noteworthy that despite several opportunities, the official teaching forbidding abortions has never been proclaimed infallible. [Another lie. The teaching was declared infallible by John-Paul II in Evangelium Vitae section 62: quoted below.] The reality is that the official teachings against abortion do not meet the traditional tests for infallibility. A prerequisite for infallibility requires a consistent church position on the teaching, but the church hierarchy has favoured varying opinions regarding the moment of personhood throughout history. [An attempt to confuse two issues: debates on the 'moment of personhood' have never translated into controversy over the wrongness of abortion. Even if an early embryo is not a person, it is wrong to kill it: this is the constant teaching of the Church.]

During the second Vatican Council the Catholic church adopted the principle that laws must not prevent people of other faiths from practising their faith. Since many religions support a woman's right to choose, laws against abortion would violate their rights.

This is truly amazing. It refers to the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae which explicitly says that tolerance of other religions does not remove the state's obligation to maintain a 'proper guardianship of public morality.' (section 7).

Cornides is right that access to abortion is severely limited in many countries, but it is widely available in others. If we are to accept that human rights are truly universal, then we need to ensure that the human rights of women to decide when and whether to continue a pregnancy are also recognised. Until such time as women's human rights are considered universal, the law will continue to be a battleground for arguments such as these.

But the fact that abortion is at least restricted in almost all countries in the world is powerful testimony that it cannot be regarded as a universal moral right. Universal rights can only be enforced if they are based on a consensus: otherwise they become a tool by a monority to force everyone else in a certain direction. That is exactly what CFFC and their friends are trying to do.

Not for the first time, here is the infallible declaration on abortion from
Evangelium Vitae 62 (1995):
Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

1 comment:

Pavel Slonsky said...

CFFC say that "during the second Vatican Council the Catholic church adopted the principle that laws must not prevent people of other faiths from practising their faith. Since many religions support a woman's right to choose, laws against abortion would violate their rights."

In other words: according to CFFC, abortion is an act through which a woman practiqses her faith(!). So far, I always thought that pro-abortionists believed in the rationality of their point of view. I now discover that they are fully aware of its irrationality.

As such, CFFC completely misses the point: Cornides' argument was that moral judgments should not be determined by religion, but by reason. As we can now see, CFFC has some difficulty with this.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen