Friday 4 June 2010

Catholic Church must move decisively against dissent on direct abortion

This weekend's edition of The Tablet has three articles and several letters on the stand taken by the Catholic bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, against a direct abortion performed in a Catholic hospital in his diocese. Sister Margaret McBride (pictured), a hospital administrator, had authorised the killing of an unborn child through direct abortion. Sr Margaret and fellow members of the hospital's ethics board claimed that the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother, who had pulmonary hypertension. Bishop Olmsted confirmed that what Sr Margaret did -co-operate formally in procuring an abortion - was subject to an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church. did a full report on the case, including an interview with a neo-natologist who says that pulmonary hypertension isn't a threat to the life of a pregnant mother.

Predictably, yet no less scandalously, The Tablet is - both slyly and not-so-slyly - working to undermine Bishop Olmsted's witness to the sanctity of human life. Two of the articles it carries are written by notorious dissenters from Catholic teaching on pro-life/pro-family, Charles E. Curran and Tina Beattie. Charles Curran's article, "Catholics are not utilitarians", is the more intelligent and sly of the two. Most of his article is a reasonably accurate account of the facts and history of the Church's teaching on abortion. Curran, however, calls upon the Church to re-think previous rulings on whether certain procedures were direct or indirect abortions. This tactic by Curran is sly in that it seeks to confuse an issue where no confusion exists. No one denies that the abortion which took place in Phoenix was a direct abortion. And it is abundantly clear that the Catholic Church has taught definitively that all direct abortions are impermissible:
"[B]y the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium."
John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (1985), para.58
Tina Beattie's article, "In the balance", is replete with canards invented by the pro-abortion movement:
  • ensoulment: unborn children only become persons some weeks or months after conception, and the Church's opposition to early abortion is a modern aberration. This canard was well debunked in a joint statement by Christian theologians in 2001.
  • relationship: an unborn child isn't a person until his/her mother can have a relationship with him/her. On that basis, people whose mothers are deceased or unknown to them aren't persons either!
  • spontaneous abortions: human embryos can't be persons because too many of them die naturally. On that basis, all children born before the 20th century (when advances in medicine lowered hitherto universally high child mortality rates) aren't persons either!
  • contraception: "ready access to contraception" keeps abortion rates lower than would otherwise have been the case. So why has the number of legal abortions in Britain (200,000) increased four-fold (1969: c.50,000) since modern contraception techniques became widely available (late 1960s)?
  • illegal abortions: there are more abortions (mostly illegal) in Latin America than in western Europe (mostly legal): therefore abortion bans are (at best) ineffectual and (at worst) endanger women. This is straight out of the pro-abortion movement's book of lies. Time and time again the pro-abortion movement has been exposed for massively exaggerating and even inventing statistics about illegal abortions.
  • war: abortion is occasionally OK because war is occasionally OK, and war also entails intentional killing of innocent people. She confuses the question of whether a war is just (e.g. was Britain morally right to have declared war on Nazi Germany?) with the question of whether certain actions in war are just (e.g. aerial bombing of open cities). Her argument also confirms her dismissive misunderstanding of the principle of double effect.
  • martyrdom: the Church forces the pregnant woman to sacrifice their lives for their children. In fact, the responsibility for the lives of both mother and child in the operating theatre lies with the treating doctor, whose role it is treat illness, not kill children.
The third article, Sister of Mercy, is written by Michael Sean Winters, who does his best to disguise his agenda of pitting what he calls the Catholic Left (which he supports) against what he calls the Catholic Right, meaning Catholics who oppose Barack Obama's presidency because of Obama's support for abortion. Yet labels such as "Left" and "Right" have no place when considering the issue of abortion. All Catholics, regardless of political or ideological leanings, must recognise the wrongness of abortion. Even religious adherence has a limited applicability to the morality of abortion. No religious or political value-set can evade the truth that the intentional killing of an innocent human being is always the greatest wrong. The Catholic Church's teaching that unborn children must always be protected from direct abortion is a gift to a misguided and selfish world.

The Tablet's freedom to publish and distribute its pro-abortion message is a direct result of the failure of key Church authorities to implement fully the Gospel of Life. Another, related example of the same failure is the failure to deal adequately with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He remains in post despite refusing to retract an article which undermined the Church's stand against abortion. This situation continues, not least because the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not deal thoroughly with the archbishop and his article. The Congregation issued a clarification which read:
“As for the responsibility of medical workers, the words of Pope John Paul II must be recalled: 'Their profession ... which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.'
At this point the Congregation's clarification stop abruptly, when in fact para.89 of Evangelium Vitae continues:
“Absolute respect for every innocent human life also requires the exercise of conscientious objection in relation to procured abortion and euthanasia. 'Causing death' can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patient's request. Rather, it runs completely counter to the health-care profession, which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life."
Had the Congregation's clarification not omitted this sentence, the core error of Fisichella’s article would have been corrected.

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