Catholic Liberals and Abortion

By Hitchcock, James | The Human Life Review, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Catholic Liberals and Abortion


Hitchcock, James, The Human Life Review


When the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago first articulated the concept of the "seamless garment of life issues" two decades ago, liberal Catholics embraced it enthusiastically, as requiring a heightened moral seriousness on the part of American Catholics, a transcending of single-issue politics to a recognition that a broad range of public issues involve the sanctity of human life. Not only was the proposal considered a moral advance on the anti-abortion movement, liberals also predicted that it would make the anti-abortion stance itself more credible, as it became apparent that Catholics genuinely revere human life in all its stages.

Many anti-abortion activists were sceptical, even dismayed, by the proposal, fearing that it was an attempt to distract Catholics from the primacy of the abortion issue, that it might even lend legitimacy to the pro-abortion stance by broadening the definition of "pro-life." As these critics pointed out, there was no concrete political constituency for the "seamless garment." As a guide to voting, it was useless, since there were few candidates for office who espoused the consistency which Cardinal Bernardin insisted was required.

In theory liberal Catholics have remained anti-abortion, even as they demand that the issue be considered in a larger context. But liberal Catholics' response to the thirtieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade this year revealed that abortion is an issue which they can scarcely face in a forthright manner, that in effect they have to be counted as pro-abortion.

The National Catholic Reporter is the principal organ of American liberal Catholicism and for almost forty years has functioned as a battering ram against the full range of Catholic teachings, one of its fundamental premises being that the hierarchy of the Church is dishonest and addicted to power, protecting and defending doctrines and practices which the modern world has rendered untenable. Locked into that rigid stance, the paper's formal acceptance of the Catholic teaching on abortion has always been an uneasy one. The paper devoted a good part of its January 17 issue to an assessment of the situation thirty years after Roe v. Wade.

The direction of the discussion was set by John Cavanaugh O'Keefe, a pro-life activist with long connection to the political left, who pronounced the pro-life movement a failure. However, in the overall context of the NCRs stance the point was not to urge pro-lifers to a renewed commitment to their cause but precisely to sound a retreat. In ostensibly friendly fashion, the paper warned pro-lifers that they were wasting their energies and ought to turn to other things.

Although pro-lifers of course regret their failure to achieve their ultimate goals, the movement has had a profound effect on American society scarcely even noticed by the NCR's writers. The movement has successfully blocked most kinds of public funding of abortion and has finally achieved legislation to prohibit partial-birth abortions. Under the Bush administration the United States is practically the only Western nation strongly opposed to governments and international agencies promoting abortion throughout the world.

Above all the movement has kept the issue alive in the United States, in contrast to most other Western countries. One reader pointed out that the NCR itself had quoted pro-abortion activists warning that the "right" to abortion hangs on a slender thread in America, and the paper acknowledged that public opinion on the issue is deeply divided. Thirty years of officially sanctioned abortion, as well as unrelenting pro-abortion propaganda in the media, have not moved the public to a full acceptance of the practice.

Calling the movement a failure, however, relieves liberal Catholics of any lingering burdens of conscience, in that they can affirm their commitment to the cause while at the same time excusing themselves from what they pronounce to be an unrealistic struggle. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Catholic Liberals and Abortion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.