Irish Times, May 27, 2005
tells of pro-choice tradition
by Christine Newman
The Catholic Church has a little-known, strong
pro-choice tradition on abortion, a leading
US theologian said in Dublin yesterday.
Dr Daniel C. Maguire, a Catholic theologian and
professor of moral theological ethics at Marquette
University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said the
Roman Catholic position on abortion was pluralistic.
He said it had a strong pro-choice tradition
and a conservative anti-choice tradition. Neither
was official, and neither was more Catholic
than the other.
In an interview with The Irish Times ahead of
giving an address on The Hidden Tradition of
Abortion last night, Dr Maguire said all the
world religions had pro-choice and no-choice
"What would be very good for the US and
for Ireland would be to get this abortion bone
out of the Catholic throat, and realise that
Jesus did not found an organisation to condemn
contraception, abortion and stem-cell research."
That was not the definition of the Jesus mission.
In fact, those issues were totally unmentioned
and were not part of the tradition whatsoever.
He said the Bible did not condemn abortion, and
scriptures did not touch it at all.
Abortions were going on since the foundation
of the church. St Antoninus was the first Catholic
to write extensively on abortion. He was pro-choice
for early abortions where necessary to save
the woman's life. There was a large acceptance
of this. There was no hub-bub, and he was considered
a very holy man.
St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinus both held
that the early embryo foetus had the moral
status of a plant, a vegetative soul, and then
as it developed it had an animal soul. They
did not know when the soul was there but the
common view was when there was quickening.
"The idea of a little cluster of stem cells
being a person goes against the longest Christian
tradition in existence, and makes no sense
Things began to change to a stricter regime in
the 19th century as the Church began to realise
that its world view was collapsing around it.
There was more communication, other viewpoints
and the solidities were disappearing.
Recently the Vatican and conservative Muslims
were "buddy-buddy" in the UN on one
issue, abortion. "My analysis, fallible
as it is, is they're not suddenly worried about
foetuses; it's a different threat and that
is liberated women. I think the liberation
of woman poses a threat to these two patriarchies."
He said fundamentalism in any religion was always
misogynistic. It feared mutuality between the
Dr Maguire said women who have had abortions
should not feel they were no longer good Catholics.
The killers of the species were men and male
clerics and administrators who thought they
had to control women.
"It's good news. I'm not here to promote
irresponsible sex, but to promote respect for
women and respect for their choices."
© The Irish Times
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