Nation

National Catholic Reporter, August 27, 1999 | Go to article overview

Nation


Pro-lifers blast report linking abortion to decreased crime

A study hypothesizing that the legalization of abortion in 1973 is the main cause for a drop in the crime rate in the 1990s is prompting outrage among pro-life leaders.

"This is absolutely the most insidious rationale I have ever heard of for tolerating abortion," said Joseph Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, of the unpublished research paper, "Legalized Abortion and Crime."

Gail Quinn, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-life Activities, called the study's conclusions "insulting" and said they were based on "tentative assumptions" rather than solid scholarship.

The 40-page study by Steven D. Levitt, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and John J. Donohue III, a professor at Stanford University Law School, was made available to Catholic News Service in mid-August.

"Between 1991 and 1997, crime fell substantially. Murder rates dropped 30 percent; property and violent crime each fell between 15 and 20 percent," the report says. "According to our estimates, legalized abortion is a primary explanation, accounting for perhaps one-half of the overall crime reduction."

Levitt and Donohue said other possible explanations for the drop in crime fail to account for "the timing, large magnitude, persistence and widespread nature of the drop."

Texas court halts execution that pope sought to stop

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Aug. 17 stopped the execution of Larry Robison, a paranoid schizophrenic whose life Pope John Paul II had sought to save.

In a 5-4 ruling, the state's highest criminal court blocked Robison's execution just four and a half hours before he was scheduled to receive a lethal injection.

Pope John Paul II had urged Texas Gov. George W. Bush to spare the life of Robison, who admitted killing five people in a 1982 rampage. He was convicted in one of those deaths.

The court's four-paragraph opinion sent Robison's case back to the trial court to consider the question of insanity. The action effectively put off the execution for weeks, if not months.

In a letter sent on the pope's behalf, his ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, told Bush, "Killing people to show that killing is wrong is a striking contradiction, even more so when mental illness seems to be involved, as in this case."

Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he asked the pope to get involved after Robison's mother, Lois Robison, told him of her son's struggle with mental illness.

She said Robison was diagnosed as a chronic paranoid schizophrenic when he was 21, but he could not get long-term institutional care because he did not have a history of violence. After he was released from two hospitals to free up bed space, physicians, acting according to privacy laws, did not inform the family about his daily medication needs, so he didn't receive them, according to his family.

Teacher charged with nearly 400 counts of sexual abuse

Sheriff's deputies in suburban New Orleans have arrested a Catholic grade school teacher on charges that for 13 years he sexually molested at least nine students, including one whose father went to officials of the New Orleans archdiocese a year ago in a vain attempt to get the teacher removed immediately.

Authorities have charged Brian Matherne, 44, with nearly 400 counts of various sex abuse statutes. They said Matherne, a teacher and coach at Sacred Heart School in Norco, La., about 20 miles from New Orleans, molested grade school boys on trips to a nearby fishing and hunting camp. The incidents began in the mid-1980s and continued until just three weeks ago, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's office said.

Matherne was jailed in lieu of $1. …

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