Another great article on the ABC R&E site

This time, on abortion, by Fr Dr Anthony Kelly of Australian Catholic University: “Abortion and the Selective Compassion of Our Time”

It is written in an eirenic tone (of the “come let us reason together” type), and while very well stated, I fear (taking the uniformly negative comments as evidence) that Fr Anthony has failed to achieve his objective. Nevertheless, I applaud him for his attempt.

This article does appear to fall into the same basket as the previous one I linked to about “Catholic Voices” and the push for “same-sex marriage”. It is an issue which, from a Catholic point of view, is not specifically religious, but rather about what is necessary for human flourishing. Yet that is precisely the point, I think – this point of view on human flourishing IS a precisely a characteristically Catholic point of view. Although you will find the occasional protestant or Muslim or Jewish or even non-theistic voices raised with us along the same lines, it is nevertheless true that it is a position almost uniformly represented in our society today by Catholic voices.

Which causes me to wonder, whether Kate Edwards might not be partly right in her recent comments about how we represent our position in the media. We can and do and must argue from reason and natural law when we take our stand in the public square. We cannot expect much gain from appealing to authorities which non-Catholics do not recognise. And yet perhaps we will only advance in convincing others of our vision for human flourishing in so far as we are ultimately able to convince them of God’s love for humanity and that it is his will that human society and individuals prosper.

In other words, we will succeed in evangelising our society only in so far as we are able to convert hearts and minds to God’s vision for his creation.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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24 Responses to Another great article on the ABC R&E site

  1. Hannah says:

    David I read the whole article and most of the comments and took exception with most of the comments because they were from the very ones who refuse to see life as a mystery and think that it is easily disposable.
    I also took exception with a comment that Fr Kelly made, “potential new citizens?” this is the problem brought to us by the Roe v Wade bill in USA 1973 that the child in the womb is not a “human” “Potential new citizen” says the same, that there is a possibility for a citizen but not YET. Rubbish. a human being is a human being from the moment of conception. From the moment of conception
    http://www.ichrusa.com/education/pdfs/THE%20CODE%20FOR%20HUMAN%20LIFE.pdf . see this article and many others and not some point in time in the future.
    “Potential” means possibility. A New life life is a new life commenced from the point dot. Further, there are over 100,000 Australian abortions performed pa, but globally without knowing the numbers for China and India its over 50,000,000 pa.
    A demographic winter? this is assured. And I do agree with Fr Kelly that having permitted abortion to full term, the next step will be “post birth Abortions” (euthansia of babies) leading to euthanasia for other matters. eg. elderly too expensive to maintain.
    Does anyone remember a very old movie Soylent Green? It doesnt seem so far off now does it? It would be good viewing to see how prophetic it was.

  2. Christine says:

    Does anyone remember a very old movie Soylent Green? It doesnt seem so far off now does it? It would be good viewing to see how prophetic it was.

    Sure do!

    In a similar vein, someone in New York has opined that cremation of human remains puts too much nasty stuff into the atmosphere and proposed that the remains be disposed of via a chemical treatment which will liquify them so that they can be put down the drain.

    Christine

  3. Mary H says:

    The situation in Australia seems very different from that in the US. We’ve had legal abortion, effectively for any reason at any stage of pregnancy, for about 40 years now, and we have one million abortions a year.

    While I see nothing wrong with Fr Dr Anthony Kelly’s article, it seems somewhat irrelevant to me. To those who agree with him, he’s speaking to the choir, to those who disagree, it practically backs up their unfounded assumptions that the Church (and other pro-life people, who are mostly Christians as well) isn’t already doing an incredible amount to help women in those difficult situations (at least in the US, CPCs
    are such an enormous impact that they get targeted for political action by pro-abortion activists). And to the US generations (under 40’s) who’ve grown up without a right to life, and who’ve had internet all of their adult lives if not earlier, it’s just a fact of life. Whether they’re liberal or conservative, they already know all the stuff that Father said.

    I also read the Kate Edwards article you linked to, and sometimes it seems that my experiences are vastly different. How much of an impact does the MSM even have anymore, at least on people under 40? For example, we had rallies in the US last Friday, called for by the bishops, protesting the HHS mandate. That evening on US Google News, it was one of the first page news results. Did it make the front page on any other national MSM site? I wouldn’t know, but considering how such things are usually covered in the MSM, I doubt it. And yet, don’t you think people of a certain age are more likely to check Google News than the NY Times or Washington Post?

    The fact is, there’s already a big traditional Catholic presence on the internet, and as far as I can see, it’s much younger than the liberal Catholic presence on the internet, and much more joyful. It also seems much more pragmatic. They grew up without having a “right to life.” Most of them know personally someone who’s had an abortion. They’ve grown up with sex being one of the expected “costs” for a girl for even having a relationship. They’ve built their own ministries or expanded existing ones to deal with the issues the liberals told them they’d never have.

    It’s kind of like the “Catholic Mum” blogs Edwards mentions, except that’s only a very small part of it. These kinds of things are everywhere, in many other (most?) areas of life, vocation and interest. I guess what I’m saying is that while the official Catholic presence may be ignored by MSM, they’re not being ignored by traditional Catholics online. And while the office Catholic presence may be somewhat behind the times, young (as in under 40) traditional Catholics aren’t and I think they’re making more of an impact on the internet than young liberal Catholics.

  4. Mary H says:

    “It is an issue which, from a Catholic point of view, is not specifically religious, but rather about what is necessary for human flourishing.”

    Yes, I completely agree with this. And I think the Catholic point of view on what is necessary for human flourishing is immensely attractive to the younger generations.

    I’m not sure that at least the liberals of the only American generation that got both the advantages of a traditional upbringing (stable family, sex or at least childbirth almost always within marriage, almost universal right to life) plus the permissiveness of the new laws (easy divorce, widespread contraception, abortion on demand) quite understand how far they’ve left that behind, because when they were growing up the Catholic (which was also the general American culture’s) view of what’s necessary for human flourishing was basically accepted.

    • Hannah says:

      Mary when you tell God to go away He usually does. He is gentleman and then we are left with the aftermath of His absence.what we have today.
      You say in the first post that young Americans have grown up with abortion as their norm so have Australian young, but they have also grown up with a lack of or loss of knowledge of God and life and love and sin. They have grown up with an absence of the “Holy” deeply etched in thgeir being. Yes its written in their hearts (Jer 31:31-33) but it hasnt been fed, nourished and grown and like the seed which feel upon rock has withered.
      What do we need? A New Evangelisation for Life!!!
      A new evangelisation about the Holy.
      A New Evangelisation that speaks to the sacrednedness of the body and what it shows and what it holds and for this evangelisation we need someone to start and have the courage to bring it to fruit. slowly but to bring it to its renewal.
      As we have it I cannot see much good in the future.

  5. Peregrinus says:

    In other words, we will succeed in evangelising our society only in so far as we are able to convert hearts and minds to God’s vision for his creation.

    I think what you say here is right, and it’s right for the reasons you give.

    But it gives rise to this observation: to the extent that we succeed in evangelizing society (specifically, with a Christian understanding of the value and significance of human life) then

    (a) the easier it will be to secure laws and public policies which reflect that value and significance, but

    (b) ironically, in many ways the less necessary it becomes to do so. For example, to the extent that women choose not to have abortions, and to the extent that others don’t treat women in ways which encourage or coerce them to choose to have abortions, then a law preventing them from choosing abortions is unnecessary.

    I’m not saying that legislation on abortion has [i]no[/i] role to play, but I think it must always be a minor strand. And I think if we foster – or even participate in – a public discourse about abortion which largely revolves around its legal status, I fear we may be undermining our own evangelization.

    As you and others point out, arguments about abortion that appeal to the authority of the church or the gospels have no traction in wider society, and won’t – and arguable shouldn’t – result in legal change. But if we argue from reason, human flourishing, natural law, etc for legal change, as far as a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is concerned we are still attempting to coerce or constrain her, not with the authority of the church, but with the authority of the state. From her point of view, this is no better; “Christians” are still attempting to dictate to her what she may or may not do, rather than attempting to show her what she can do and who she can be. I doubt that this can be an effective form of evangelization.

    There are connected, but nevertheless distinct, moral issues her. Is it ever right for a woman to choose to abort her pregnancy? Is it right for the state to constrain women’s choices with regard to abortion? So long as discourse revolves around the second question I think we have a real problem with regard to ever evangelizing society on the first, and I don’t think that problem goes away if our arguments on the second question cease to be explicitly Christian ones.

    • Schütz says:

      I grant what you say, Perry. It is the old principle that good laws do not make good people. Yet the law exists fr the protection of the vulnerable. We have a law which forbids stealing. This law is not designed to make bad people stop stealing, but to protect the property of citizens. Evangelisation – conversion – can change the heart of a theif in a way that the law is incapable of doing. But the role o fthe law is to protect the vulnerable. By this analogy, we will change the hearts of those who might consider an abortion only by evangelisation. Yet the State has the obligation to enact laws that protect the vulnerable unborn children.

  6. Gareth says:

    Pere: ironically, in many ways the less necessary it becomes to do so. For example, to the extent that women choose not to have abortions, and to the extent that others don’t treat women in ways which encourage or coerce them to choose to have abortions, then a law preventing them from choosing abortions is unnecessary.

    Gareth: Ironic also that on other issues, one or we (in a post-feminist society) wouldn’t dare put the same emphasis on other issues that society feels strongly about.

    Imagine if one was to hypothetically say as above that the more Christain a society is then a law preventing rape or domestic violence would be unecessary because men are more reluctant etc. This would be deemed insensitive.

    Sad that in modern society the agenda of the radical feminist left dictates to us even our conversations on a Catholic-orientated blog.

    • Peregrinus says:

      It’s not so much the influence of the radical feminist left that leads me to this position, Gareth, as the observation that a pro-life campaign which focuses on securing legal change has been singularly unsuccessful in either evangelising people to accept Christian values with respect to lifeor providing any effective protection for the unborn. And this is true not just in Australia but in, e.g., the US, the UK and other countries. It just isn’t working, on any level, and if we care about either of these objectives, that should concern us greatly. I don’t think that makes us the unwitting dupes of the radical feminist left.

      I accept, of course, that it’s a bit quixotic to envision a world in which all women are free to abort, and no woman ever does, and it follows that I also accept that legislation around abortion does have some role to play in protecting the unborn. But I think it’s always going to be a minor role, as compared with changed attitudes and values, and it won’t even play that role in a very effective way unless and until we can change those attitudes and values (not least, because we won’t succeed in getting laws changed and, if we somehow do, the change is unlikely to endure).

      And, I think, a campaign which focuses on securing legal change is not well adapted to changing people’s hearts, and therefore is ultimately counterproductive.

  7. Gareth says:

    I beg to disagree on much of what you write here Peregrinus.

    I will try to keep it short;

    1) The main reason that the pro-life movement has ‘failed’ in some western societies over the past forty years is not because as you suggest of the misdirection of the movement at influencing change in terms of societies legal status but rather due to the laziness of many Church goers (in particular Catholics) in our society who are happy just to keep the ‘status quo’ and as a consequence has left the ‘middle-road’ section of society or those good-willed people in the community who see abortion as not something right but cowardly ‘don’t want to impose their views on others’ be orientated towards the pro-death camp/position rather than the pro-life position as was the case before the 1970s when the majority of society, church-goers or not perceived abortion as a wrong and accordingly saw nothing wrong with negative sanctions in our criminal law against it.

    2. Many people in the pro-life movement in Australia realise that changing the legal status is not really a reachable goal presently, but do their best they can to work towards changing people’s hearts. These people should be supported, not maligned.

    3. Countries where abortion is still illegal DO record the lowest abortion figures. Sure this figures may not entirely reflect reality (eg there would be some underground abortions not recorded in official health figures), but it can not be denied that where abortion is present in the criminal code, it does have a substansial difference in terms of stopping abotion to a certain degree, more so than if there was no law present.

    4. The western democratic country with the most active pro-life movement is the United States. Now did that occur where people sat around and said ‘this is all too hard, lets do nothing’ – quite on the contrary, pro-life ideals only influence people’s hearts where people actually get up and make a positive stance.

    5. Surely it is a matter of principal that if abortion is really the deliberate destruction of human life, then it follows that a country’s criminal code should not be in its favour. Like I said before, we wouldnt dare question whether rape or domestic violence should be illegal – it is simply a matter of principle that we have laws governing against it whether a society is Christain or not. My point was that it is sad that as a society heavily influenced by feminism, the same theory doesnt apply to abortion.

    • Peregrinus says:

      1) The main reason that the pro-life movement has ‘failed’ in some western societies over the past forty years is not because as you suggest of the misdirection of the movement at influencing change in terms of societies legal status but rather due to the laziness of many Church goers (in particular Catholics) in our society who are happy just to keep the ‘status quo’ and as a consequence has left the ‘middle-road’ section of society or those good-willed people in the community who see abortion as not something right but cowardly ‘don’t want to impose their views on others’ be orientated towards the pro-death camp/position rather than the pro-life position as was the case before the 1970s when the majority of society, church-goers or not perceived abortion as a wrong and accordingly saw nothing wrong with negative sanctions in our criminal law against it.
      And in that last sentence lies the key to the problem. We have to change the views of “the majority of society”. As David and others have pointed out, we’re not going to do that by appealing to the authority of the church, or of the gospels, and my point is that we’re not going to do that by campaigning for legal change either.

      2. Many people in the pro-life movement in Australia realise that changing the legal status is not really a reachable goal presently, but do their best they can to work towards changing people’s hearts. These people should be supported, not maligned.
      Indeed they should be supported. But their efforts are undermined by others in the movement, who campaign for legal change.

      3. Countries where abortion is still illegal DO record the lowest abortion figures. Sure this figures may not entirely reflect reality (eg there would be some underground abortions not recorded in official health figures), but it can not be denied that where abortion is present in the criminal code, it does have a substansial difference in terms of stopping abotion to a certain degree, more so than if there was no law present.
      Sure. But my suggestion is that abortion is illegal in those countries (and the laws are effective and observed) in large part because they do have sounder values and attitudes that we seem to have in Australia. If you succeeded in securing legal change without changing attitudes – let’s imagine a scenario in which a DLP-type party holds the balance of power and makes this the price of its support for a government – that change would not endure, and it could very well make the real objective – evangelisation – more difficult to achieve. On the other hand, if you are successful in evangelising, legal/public policy change can and probably will follow. But it will already have become less important; by the very fact of having changed hearts you’ll have reduced (but not eliminated) the need for legal change.

      4. The western democratic country with the most active pro-life movement is the United States. Now did that occur where people sat around and said ‘this is all too hard, lets do nothing’ – quite on the contrary, pro-life ideals only influence people’s hearts where people actually get up and make a positive stance.
      And, if I’m not mistake, the western democratic country with the highest abortion rate (and certainly one of the highest abortion rates) is also the United States, which suggests that its very active pro-life movement hasn’t achieved very much in the way of influencing people’s hearts. And the reason for this, I think, is that the discourse is framed as one of fundamental rights, and the strategies and campaigns are framed in terms of law, politics and public policy – or, at least, the ones that attract notice and controversy are. I’m convinced this is counterproductive. And where we’re talking about saving lives, counterproductive strategies are a really, really, really bad thing.

      If we are looking to other western democracies, shouldn’t we be looking at the ones with [i]low[/i] abortion rates? That would be countries like Luxembourg, Austria, Malta and Ireland. Some of them make abortion illegal or available only on very restrictive grounds; others have quite liberal regimes. I think to find out why they have lo abortion rates we need to look beyond the legal regime.

      5. Surely it is a matter of principal that if abortion is really the deliberate destruction of human life, then it follows that a country’s criminal code should not be in its favour. Like I said before, we wouldnt dare question whether rape or domestic violence should be illegal – it is simply a matter of principle that we have laws governing against it whether a society is Christain or not. My point was that it is sad that as a society heavily influenced by feminism, the same theory doesn’t apply to abortion.
      Actually, I don’t think it is a matter of principle – at least, not for a Catholic. In Catholic teaching, political affairs should be conducted so as to serve the common good. And if there’s evidence that campaigning for legal changes to restrict access to abortion is (a) not resulting in restricted access to abortion, and (b) impeding a necessary evangelisation of attitudes and values that will help to reduce recourse to abortion, then it doesn’t seem to be serving the common good.

      Catholic teaching has never held that it is the duty of the state to criminalise evil behaviour – even intrinsically and seriously evil behaviour. That’s why, e.g, adultery is not a crime in Catholic countries, and it’s why Papal Rome not only permitted prostitution but actually licensed brothels. Whether the common good is best served in relation to a particular evil by criminalising it (or by campaigning to have it criminalised) requires a prudential judgment, and I don’t think you can argue that one answer or the other is required as a matter of principle.

      • Gareth says:

        Pere: But their efforts are undermined by others in the movement, who campaign for legal change.

        Gareth: So what you are stating Pere is that abortion is a grave evil but we should freely leave it on demand?? just because you think (I argue wrongly) that the pro-life movement is misdirecting its opposition and concentrating on changing the legal status too much.

        At the very least, if you are going to take your line of thinking at least offer a positive alternative?

        • Peregrinus says:

          The positive alternative is to look for strategies that work. The US model has been demonstrably ineffective, not only in the US but in other Anglophone countries whose pro-life movements and pro-life discourse are heavily influenced by the US model, such as the UK and Australia.

          What I call the “US model” is one in which arguments about abortion are essentially framed as arguments about fundamental human rights, and strategies to oppose abortion are correspondingly framed in terms of constitutional or legal protection of fundamental rights, laws. As far as I can see, this strategy is in theory very strong, and it appeals to many of the values which underpin the modern secular liberal state, so it should have traction with non-Catholics and non-Christians. On the face of it, it’s very attractive.

          But in terms of actual outcomes, it just isn’t working.

          If you look for a country where it has been successful, I think the best you could do would be to point to Ireland, where there was a successful campaign to amend the Constitution to mention the right to life of the unborn. But this campaign gave rise to a debate about abortion and to a series of events which led to a further referendum which amended the constitution to enshrine the right of citizens to travel to other countries (meaning, the UK) to obtain abortions. And the end result is that (nominally Catholic) Ireland, where abortion is constitutionally banned, has a markedly higher abortion rate than (nominally Catholic) Austria, where abortion-on-demand has been freely and legally available for decades (and, for what it’s worth, a markedly higher abortion rate than it had before the pro-life campaign got going). If that’s the best that the US model has achieved – and I honestly think it is – it’s just not good enough. We [i]have[/i] to look elsewhere.

          And, if the cause of our dissatisfaction with the US model is its poor outcomes, then the “elsewhere” where we look is places with (comparatively) good outcomes. Canada has a much lower abortion rate than the US; why? Germany has a much lower abortion rate than France; why? Austria is lower again; why? Finland, Norway and Denmark all have much lower abortion rate than Sweden; why? These countries are close to one another, share many cultural similarities and have similar levels of prosperity and freedom.

          I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think they are a good place to start if we want to develop a pro-life strategy that actually reduces recourse to abortions.

          • Gareth says:

            Once again I disagree vehemently.

            Far from the active pro-life movement failing in the United States, over the past twenty years some major inroads have been made.

            For example, opinion polls in the 1990s consistently showed that those that considered themselves pro-life fell to as low as 30 per cent.

            That figure in the late 2000s rose to close to 50 per cent. In some American states, particularly in middle America, believe or not the proportion of people that consider themselves pro-life now outnumbers for the first time since the late 1960s those that consider themselves anti-life.

            The only minor ‘blimp in the radar’ has been over the past two years since the most pro-abortion President in US history (a man that supports abortion up to nine months of pregnancy) has gained office, but I am show once the American people see that Mr Obama is all style and no substance and his bad economic and social reforms (some which discriminate against Catholics) – this minor bump effect will wear off.

            Reliable statistics show that the number of abortions in the United States has fallen from 1.3 million in the early 1990s to approx 800,000-900,000 in the late 2000s. Ok, I am willing to admit there may be other factors at play here to assess why the rate is falling, but generally speaking things are a tad better.

            Prominent people in the pro-abortion industry in the US such as former abortion-clinic manager Abby Johnson and many other influential people have turned pro-life.

            There are massive amounts of women who have previously had abortions who now regret their decisions and now give of their time to the movement.

            In Australia and places like the UK where there is a somewhat passive pro-life movement, the figures are in reverse. Those that consider themselves pro-life has fallen over the past fifteen years and abortion rates still remain high and show no signs of falling.

            The moral of the story – the aggressive US pro-life movement must work in some way and in many ways is a model to follow in place like Australia which is culturally more like the US than the feminist-driven Scandavian countries (which also record low fertility rates).

            I asked you to present an alternative to the what you perceive as the correct legal status in our society given we agree abortion is an evil and I don’t think you came up with anything considerably concrete besides quoting from countries that have little culturally in common with Australia and whom also record low fertility rates.

            The hard truth is that the pro-life ideals in Australia fail politically not because of the hard work of those that get involved in the pro-life movement, but because there are too many lazy (often left-leaning ‘spirit of Vatican II’) Catholics that are not willing to give support or are happy with the ‘status quo’ – whatever that is. I know this because I talk to them every week in my parish.

            There are a lot of people that identify as Catholics in Australia, but don’t put their hand up when it comes to putting in the hard yards in being opposed to abortion. Why? Too lazy and too influenced by the secular left to care.

            If all Catholics actually stood up and made a stand, I am sure more politicians would take notice and less people as your line of thinking seems to suggest would unfairly belittle active pro-lifers.

            • Peregrinus says:

              Gareth

              Abortion numbers in the US rose sharply in the 1970s (following legalisation and then plateaued through the 1980s. Starting in 1989 they fell quite rapidly until 1995 and then more slowly until 2005, since when they have more or less stabilised (though of course they wobble a bit).

              As you say, there are a number of factors at work. The biggest one is demographic; as the cohort of the population made up of women aged between 15 and 44 shrinks, the numbers of abortions fall, and vice versa. If we look at abortions in proportion to live births, which is perhaps a better measure of the propensity of pregnant women to abort, then abortions peaked in 1979 and have fallen ever since (though not always at the same rate).

              Another factor at work is economic; in times of economic uncertainty, the abortion rate tends to rise, whereas when times are good it falls. It’s not difficult to see why this might be.

              But, interestingly, a factor that’s not at work is the apparent political successes of the pro-life movement. In fact, looking purely at the statistical relationship, that appears to be counterproductive. The sustained peak in abortion numbers coincides with the Reagan/Bush I administrations. The fastest fall in abortion rates was under Clinton. Under Obama, abortion rates (both absolute numbers and as a ratio of live births) are at their lowest level in 35 years. The passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, hailed as a major victory by the pro-life movement, had no discernible effect on abortion rates. And so forth.

              It’s true that in Gallup polls a majority of Americans now describe themselves as “pro-life”, but we need to be careful about claiming this a “major inroad”. The same polls show that an even larger majority of Americans favour the legality of abortion in some or all circumstances. The percentage of Americans who favour making abortion illegal is exactly where it was when Gallup first started asking the question, back in 1975 – 22%. What has changed, then, is not so much people’s attitudes to legal abortion as people’s willingness to call themselves “pro-life” despite their attitudes to legal abortion. If that’s a “major inroad”, it’s nothing like major enough.

              The bottom line is that that, of mature and prosperous democracies, the US, Australia and the UK have strikingly high abortion rates, and this situation has persisted for decades. There is no denying this fact. And the inevitable corollary is that the pro-life movements in those countries have been among the least successful in the developed world. In terms of meaningful outcomes, their “major inroads” are mostly meaningless, as the Gallup polls neatly illustrate.

              As for comparing countries which have “little culturally in common with Australia”, I’ve already pointed to Ireland, which has a great deal culturally in common with Australia, and has a much lower abortion rate. We could also point to New Zealand, which has even more culturally in common with Australia, and has markedly tighter abortion laws, but a similarly high abortion rate. Which suggests, again, that tighter laws are not going to solve our problem.

              As for your final paragraph, making the point that if “Catholics actually stood up and made a stand: stood up, “more politicians would take notice”, yes, they would. But so what? It’s not politicians who decide to have abortions; it’s pregnant women. And as long as Catholics are seen to try to stop pregnant women from making that choice through the exercise of the power of the state, they will never evangelise women’s hearts and minds, and they are delusional if they think they will.

            • Gareth says:

              Pere,

              I don’t have long.

              Not sure if you are on the mark on your assessment of the situation in the US – I have it from reliable people in the trenches that if things continue, Roe V Wade could legitimately be challenged within the next generation and what a positive thing that would be!!

              I sincerely don’t believe that the efforts of the pro-life movement has undermined anything in Australia – a pretty baseless argument if you ask me. IMO it is the group of lax Catholics and their willingness to accept the ‘status quo’ in wider society and within our Church’s at a local level that is the real problem.

              I also think it is a bit rich to point the finger at what is perceived as ‘undermining’ things when no real legal alternative can be presented. David pretty well summed up things above and may I add that we as a Church have an obligation to do everything within our means to educate the masses and support this ideal.

  8. Gareth says:

    Pere: it’s why Papal Rome not only permitted prostitution but actually licensed brothels.

    Gareth: I would tread very, very carefully here Pere. I am actually very well educated in prostitution law and know for a fact that whilst some bad Popes may have enacted such laws (some with the incentive to raise taxes), equally very saintly Popes supressed the laws.

    It is rich to take a sweeping view that Papal states supported legalised prostitution, when on the other hand there were equally as valid time in Church history where laws where the precise opposite.

    In any case adultery/prostitution and the Church’s reactions are different kettle of fishs because it is possible that whilst there are no emplicit laws/sanctions against it, one can implicitly be in opposition to it through other means and semi-related laws.

    • Peregrinus says:

      I defer to your greater expertise, Gareth, but I suspect it’s a mistake to assume that popes who legalised prostitution always did so for base motives (the money) while those who suppressed it always did so for pure motives (virtue); my hunch would be that the reality was more complex than that.

      Those popes who did tolerate prostitution could always point to the support of Augustine and of Thomas Aquinas, both of whom explained how it was sometimes, or generally, right for a civil ruler to do this. They had different explanations for [i]why[/i] it was right, but they both boiled down to the same thing; it served the common good. Yes, they both agreed, prostitution was evil, but banning it would result in greater evils, and therefore the common good was served by not banning it. (They disagreed about exactly what evils would flow from banning prostition.)

      As a matter of prudential judgment, we might disagree with their view that banning prostitution would result in greater evils, but the point is that the Catholic discourse on this subject does revolve around the question of the common good. The necessity of criminalising prostitution or brothel-keeping does not appear simply from conceding that it is intrinsically and gravely wrong.

      If anything the view that “gravely evil” means “should be illegal” is a distinctively Protestant stance. Luther argued for the criminalising of prostitution. He knew perfectly well that prostitution would happen anyway, but at least the prince would not be implicated in it. And it’s not a coincidence that we associate attempts to criminalise prostitution, gambling, adultery and the like with the Puritans – a distinctively Protestant expression of Christianity.

      (I can’t help wondering, in fact, if the very legally-oriented focus of the American pro-life movement is something that comes to them not from their Catholicism, but from their Americanism, influenced by America’s Puritan heritage.)

      • Gareth says:

        Pere: I defer to your greater expertise, Gareth,

        Gareth: I beg your pardon. I would have you know that I used to work in a politicans office in the early 2000s for a short period of time and had to prepare single-handely a 100-page report on the positive and negatives of Australian jurisdictions that have legalised prostitution.

        The report was presented to all members of the Upper House of the state of where I live and was quoted heavily during the Parliamentary debate on the topic by various politicans.

        In the end I gained an extensive knowledge of the historical perspective of historical prostitution law reform (and hence can dismiss your incorrect quotations of the Papal States) and the report played some role in my own state rejecting other Australian States laws that have legalised prostitution and hence lead to many bad effects.

        In the year that followed I was paid to present an overview of the paper at a few academic Seminars around the country

        I am confident in my knowledge of the topic and your sarcasm on this occasion is not appreciated.

  9. Mary H says:

    @Pere I do think the legal status of abortion makes a big difference, or at least has in the US experience. When Roe vs Wade was passed, the majority of people thought abortion was wrong. Remember that abortion was not legalized here due to any kind of legislative campaign – it was effectively imposed by fiat by the courts. And yet, after living with legalized abortion for a few years, people came to accept it.

    I’m not exactly sure why the only Gallup poll figure that seems to matter to you is the percentage of people who think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Abortion was usually (maybe always?) in cases when the mother’s life was threatened, and perhaps in some other cases as well. It’s not surprising that isn’t changing much. More important, I think, is that the percentage of people who think it should be illegal in certain cases is growing, and has now become a majority. We’re clawing our way back to where we were before Roe vs Wade.

    I guess I agree with @Gareth, about the US at least. I think we’re going to see Roe vs Wade overturned within the next decade (if we can survive Obama – the power he’s taking for the state, or at least trying to, if we don’t stop him, truly scares me) or two. I think that simply because the younger generations are more pro-life than the older generations, and the younger they are, the more pro-life they are. And I think that’s simply because they’ve experienced what no right to life means.

    I’d also like to say that I think it’s a mis-statement and playing into the hand of the abortion activists (I honestly have gotten to the point where I can no longer consider them feminist, radical or otherwise) when we talk as if abortion laws were about giving women a right to “choose.” By making abortion a legal option, in the US at least, it became an acceptable option. Once it became acceptable, it became a weapon that has been overwhelmingly used *against* women. Sure, it was the woman who made the “choice”. After being pressured into sex to keep her relationship, which was possible because after all, if all else failed she could get an abortion. And if she made the “choice” to have the baby instead, well then, it’s not like the guy feels responsible, because she could have made a different “choice”.

    That’s what happened, in the US at least, when we made abortion legal.

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