Lots of people are discussing abortion these days with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My own take is: 1) abortion always carries moral implications and is usually wrong, though I wouldn’t consider it murder until far into the pregnancy; but 2) attempts to make abortion illegal are by their nature discriminatory (and insulting) to women. So I prefer the third way: moral development that makes women more likely to choose to carry a pregnancy to term when this is the moral option combined with good sex education and access to contraception that minimizes unwanted pregnancy, rather than trying to make abortion illegal.
That’s a nuanced position that requires more than a single post, and really these days my interest is elsewhere. I also don’t have a lot of personal experience with this issue, so I’m letting other folks take the lead on blogging about this issue. But I have been very interested in the Vatican’s statements regarding gun control, and since I see a real connection between them and the culture of life that drives the Vatican’s position on abortion, I thought I’d use the Roe anniversary to point people to them.
To be fair, the article headline is misleading. This is the statement by the official Vatican spokesman, but it looks like he’s speaking for his own understanding of how Catholic ethics affects this issue rather than making an official pronouncement. And he’s also taking an ethical position more than a political one. I think it would be completely consistent with this statement to say the government has no right forcing people to disarm (which, to be clear, no American politician is proposing) while also believing Catholic ethics required people to recognize that reliance on guns was at best an imperfect measure for an imperfect world. When I read an English translation of Fr. Lombardi’s piece (which I can’t find online; sorry) it seemed to be more about the moral cost of relying on violence to address violence, rather than a political position on whether and how American law should regulate guns.
I’m mentioning all this now, tied in to the Roe anniversary, because it shows the RCC is at least remarkably consistent on the issue of human dignity and the culture of life. In many cases, I think the way this culture of life is applied in the case of abortion is indefensible, and has led its representatives to ignore the mother’s health. I also find the way their opposition to the ACA over contraception is focused on minutiae to such an extent it threatens to do real harm to the people Christians are most called to help. (It also takes focus away from real victims of religious persecution in a way I can’t condone.) But even while I think the RCC’s policy on abortion and contraception sometimes is so focused on the trees that it is blind to the forest, I have a lot of respect for the basic principle at work here, and I commend the RCC for living by that principle across the board. When you have a culture that focuses on violence as a right without taking into account its effect both on the victim and the perpetrator, that’s dangerous. Sometimes necessary, yes, but the danger can’t be ignored.
So, here’s to the RCC: we may not always agree, but I enjoy wrestling with you, and admire your commitment to your core principles.