Monday, September 8, 2008

Letter To The Editor - Catholics and Abortion

Last weekend, there was a letter to the editor in our local paper, The Eagle, about abortion and the Catholic Church. It made the same arguments that Nancy Pelosi did in her recent dust-up with the US Bishops (see one of many posts I made about it here).

Here is the letter from last week and after it is my letter in response.

Simple-minded approach to a complicated issue

In response to a question about when human life begins, Barack Obama said that the answer was "above his pay grade." Don McLeroy (Eagle, Aug. 26) pokes fun at this answer, implying that the obvious answer is that human life begins at conception. This has not been the obvious answer to some of the greatest thinkers in history, however.

Aristotle taught that the fetus first had a vegetative soul, then an animal soul and finally -- when fully formed -- a human soul.

In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas expressed this exact same view.

Catholic Church leaders have expressed widely varying opinions on this matter, but the idea of a delay between conception and "ensouling" is the most consistent thread throughout history.

The Catholic Church allowed abortion before "quickening" until 1869, and many Catholics today support a woman's right to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

McLeroy takes a simple-minded approach to a serious and complex matter.

On the other hand, Obama's response suggests that he is well aware of the complexities and is not dogmatically bound to any one point of view.


College Station

Here is my letter:

Church ideology unwavering

Teri Metcalf made the same mistakes in her letter about abortion [The Eagle, Aug. 30] as Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.

The first mistake is equating a political sound-bite to a rational argument. The second mistake is trying to make a historical and theological argument with a little bit of knowledge without having the firm grounding to do so.

Just because individual Catholics have disagreed with church teaching does not mean the truth of the teaching is up for grabs, even if one of those persons is declared a saint. Nor does it change the authority with which the Catholic Church speaks. Like it or not, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, it is Jesus' kingdom and he is in charge. The church has consistently taught that abortion is wrong. Trying to explain away this truth with poor history and even worse theology is stepping into a realm where Pelosi, Obama and Metcalf have no expertise. If you want official Catholic teaching, then the Catechism tells us, "This teaching has remained unchanged and remains unchangeable."

Augustine also believed that males were vivified at 30 days and females at 90 days. I am going to guess that Metcalf doesn't want to cherry-pick that argument. By the way, Augustine still believed abortion was murder, regardless of the timing of ensoulment. I would suggest that Augustine is not the source these abortion advocates want to use because his thought doesn't fit in a tidy sound-bite supporting their position.


Assistant Director of Campus Ministry

St. Mary's Catholic Center

College Station

Unfortunately, we don't get to title our own letters.

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