The Religious Consultation Report

Published by The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics

Volume 9 No. 1
November 2005

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   Table of Content

How the Right-Wing grinches stole Christmas — the co-opted gospel

America the hypocrite
Pro_Life Abortions and Morality
Progress Report: Participating Scholars Gather at Villanova
Pew Poll Results: Taking America's Pulse on Social Issues
Sacred Choices Video Documentary Available
The Religious Right — They're Creeping Into Your Bedroom
Women's Rights Progress in Saudi Arabia
Update: Obstetric Fistula — Educating Men in Nigeria
The Legacy of John Paul II
Catholic Theologian Tells of Pro-Choice Tradition
Is Abortion Murder?
Reversible Birth Control For Men
Movers and Shakers
Beyond Choice
Travels of a Retired Participating Scholar

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How the Right-Wing grinches stole
Christmas — the co-opted gospel

A devout atheist friend of mine often commented:       
“Wouldn’t it be something if Christians really believed
what they say they believe — that the poor are their
prime concern and that ending poverty is their mission!”

By Daniel C. Maguire

My friend, warming to his topic, would continue his
thought along these lines: The Bible says that the Christian
gospel is ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18), that ‘the
poverty of the poor is their ruin’ (Proverbs 10:15), and
therefore ‘there shall be no poor among you’ (Deut 15:4) because the
poor are the apple of God’s eye. (Ps. 72:14)

“If they believed that,” my friend would say, “Christians would
be a stupendously powerful lobby for the poor, and no politician
would dare neglect ‘the least among us.’”

The English writer, G. K. Chesterton, was just as damning
when he commented that Christianity has not failed; it simply has
never been tried. Actually, it has been tried in the past, and at
times, it pushed parts of humanity into greater achievements of
compassion, justice, and peace.

Modern Caesar & the poor

Lately, however, Christianity has been a scary thing for the
poor — and for lovers of peace. Look at the United States, a
country that is always God-blessing itself and compulsively stuffing
Bibles in hotel drawers. In this country, Christianity has been
largely co-opted as ideological cover for a mean-spirited Right
Wing that is zealously transferring wealth from the bottom to the
top of the economic food chain while exporting death in a string of
senseless wars.

Modern Caesars have nothing to fear from this modern crowd
of “Christians.” If Jesus were like them, Jesus would have died
merrily in his bed at a ripe old age. Of course, Jesus was not like them.He
fought against the Roman Empire, his time’s “last remaining superpower.”
He championed a kind of non-violent resistance so threatening to Empire that
the Romans killed him and many who joined him.

Theology & the military

Jesus didn’t die to “atone for our sins,” a lousy piece of theology,
gorily indulged in Mel Gibson’s blood bath. Rather, he died resisting
an empire that was stomping on the poor — militarily and
economically. Sorry, America, but he died fighting the likes of us.

From our founding, Americans fancied ourselves “The New
Rome,” and right we were, for such we have become. Like Rome,
we topple governments (more than 25 since 1945) and spread 800
military installations over the world.

Stingy beyond belief

We also fancy ourselves the most generous people on earth,
though we are among the stingiest. Empire is always animated by
lies and hubris. American hubris is being undermined by
embarrassing data. Of the 22 richest nations of the world, we are
first in wealth and last in developmental assistance.
Among those 22 rich nations, the United States devotes a
smaller percentage of national income to developmental assistance
than nearly any other developed nation—less than one-tenth of
one percent (.1%). Compare that to .97% for the Danes, .89% for
the Swedes, .55% for the French, and .31% for the Germans.

Even in absolute terms, if we exclude US aid to our two top
recipients, Israel and Egypt [largely military aid often used in Israel
to oppress Palestinians, and given to Egypt to suppress democracy,
and none of which makes Israel or Egypt safer], the 265 million
people in the US give less than Denmark’s 5 million people.
Meanwhile, if you’ll recall, we villainously squander 6 billion
dollars a month making wars in the oil-rich Middle East, absurdly
claiming, as empires always do, that we are there for the noblest of

Christians cheering the lions

And the Christian Right cheers its new Caesar. They are, as
George Bush says, his “base.” They purr consolingly in his ear at
prayer breakfasts, and they warm him at America-the-Beautiful
spectacles at the National Cathedral.

In his powerful new book, The New American Militarism,
Andrew J. Bacevich, a Catholic and a retired army officer, now
professor at Boston University, notes how the Protestant Religious
Right pushed for the American invasions of Iraq — and even
pushed for the barbarism of “preventive” or preemptive war, a
concept championed by Adolph Hitler.

Writing as “a Catholic author,” Bacevich says that “the
counterweight [to this action] ought to have been the Roman Catholic
Church...[which] was eminently well-positioned to put its stamp on
public policy.” It failed to do so. Bacevich puts major blame on the
pathetic Catholic hierarchy. I put it on the all-too-mute American
Catholic theologians who succor the military with their “just
war” euphemisms.We can also direct the “j’accuse” at the seduced
and so-called “Pro-Life” Catholic citizenry who gave Slaughtermaster
Bush a solid majority of their votes in the last election.

Nothing more stirs the human will than the tincture of the
sacred. The worst of madmen is a saint gone mad, said the poet,
Alexander Pope.Wrap the sacred around evil policies, and you
have added infinitely to their strength. And that is precisely the
mission of the Protestant and Catholic Christian Right today.
Their “piety” is their shame, and the poor and the peacemakers
are their victims.

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America, the hypocrite

Americans bask in a marvelous self-image: a good and generous   
people, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” “No,” says
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. We are really the “land of

Americans give 15¢ per day per person to help the poor of the world but
spend 60¢ a day for soda.

Money is beautiful because of what it can do. Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia
University economist, estimates that spending $2-3 billion a year on malaria
might save more than one million lives each year — an amount that we spend in
a couple of days on military kill-power. Says Professor Sachs, “This is probably the
best bargain on the planet.”

Yet it is not a bargain that “America the Beautiful” is interested in. It is not a
bargain the so-called “Pro-Life” people give a damn about.

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Pro-Life abortions and morality

No decision for an abortion is moral unless it is Pro-Life. There are many
life values, and sometimes other life values supersede the value of a fetus.
Cases from real life speak louder than books.

  • CASE # 1: A woman is two months pregnant when she discovers she has cancer and needs chemotherapy. The chemotherapy would be fatal to the fetus. She decides on an abortion. If you were this woman, or if this woman were your wife, your sister, or your daughter, would you be Pro-Choice for that abortion?

  • CASE # 2: A woman, in spite of her best contraceptive efforts, is pregnant. She has a serious heart condition, and two physicians tell her that continuing the pregnancy would likely cause her death. She chooses to abort. If you were this woman, or if this woman were your wife, your sister, or your daughter, would you be Pro-Choice for that abortion?

  • CASE # 3: A woman who suffers from a serious bi-polar condition discovers she is
    pregnant. The medicine she requires to function everyday would damage the development of the fetus. She chooses abortion. If you were this woman or if this woman were your wife, your sister, or your daughter, would you be Pro-Choice for that abortion?

If you were at the clinic when these women arrived for their abortions, would you join the pickets in insulting them and calling them murderers? Or would you see women who made serious decisions for Pro-Life abortions?

What it comes down to is this: if a woman is pregnant and wants to terminate that pregnancy for good medical, psychological, economic, or other reasons, should we force her to stay pregnant? Should we bring in the federal and state government to control her and her pregnancy? Neither Democrats nor Republicans should want that kind of coercion and governmental intrusion. In a fascist state, it would be understandable; not in a democracy

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Progress Report:
Participating Scholars gather at Villanova

The Consultation has two ongoing projects at this time:

  • The Religious Roots of Violence Against Women

  • Heterosexism: Roots and Cures in World Religions

Both projects will look for cures to solve these problems in those same religions. Scholars from these projects came together last summer at the Villanova Conference Center at Villanova University to complete their plans for publication of their work.
Note: The Violence Against Women project has also received funding to film a one-hour
video documentary. Filming has already begun in Thailand.

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Pew poll results — taking America’s
pulse on social issues

As nominees for the Supreme Court appeared in the news, they
once again enlivened the American conversation. At issue:
human rights and personal freedom. The legality of these
issues teeters precariously as the makeup of the Supreme Court
  changes. The greatest fear? That the new
court will base its decisions on the political climate
or religious ideology rather than the Constitution
and the intent of the law. Last July, two Pew
Research Center for The People & The Press polls
gathered some interesting numbers on how
Americans felt about the big issues that Supreme Court nominees
stir up. Here is what those who participated in the Pew poll said:

ABORTION. Views have not changed much. A majority of
Americans (65%) still support a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.
People support the Roe v.Wade decision, but nearly 75% believe
some restrictions should apply. For example, large majorities of all
religiously affiliated respondents and approximately two-thirds of
those who do not attend church felt parental consent must be
obtained for girls under the age of 18.

68% of white evangelical Protestants reject abortion. They
maintain it should be allowed only in situations of rape, incest, or
where the procedure will save a woman’s life.

THE MORNING-AFTER PILL. 52% are in favor of women
being able to purchase a morning-after pill without a prescription.
37% are opposed.

GAY UNIONS. Slightly more than half (53%) of Americans
support civil unions as a means to give gay couples the legal rights
afforded married couples.However, these same respondents still
oppose sanctifying these unions in marriage.

STEM-CELL RESEARCH. Support is growing. 70% of
Protestants, 61% of white Catholics, and 77% of those who do
not attend church are in favor of the research. Among evangelical
Protestants, however, only about one-third favor stem-cell

PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE. Slightly more than half of
Americans (51%) agree that the law should allow doctors to give
terminally ill patients a means to end their lives.

END-OF-LIFE ISSUES. 74% of respondents said that the
Congress should not have become involved in the Shiavo case.
Even 69% of white evangelicals, 68% of conservatives, and 65% of
Republicans said that this is not a Congressional matter.

ISSUES IMPORTANT TO LIBERALS. The threat to abortion
is the most important issue that liberals fear as the Supreme Court

conservatives and white evangelicals have two concerns that rank
nearly as high as their concerns about abortion: court rulings on
the rights of detained terrorist suspects and the right to display
religious symbols on government sites.

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Sacred Choices video documentary available

The Consultation has produced a 55-minute video, Sacred Choices and   
Abortion: Ten New Things to Think About. It is available on request for
$10.00 in DVD or VHS formats, in English or in Spanish. To order,
phone the office at (414) 962-3166, email us at, or fax
(414) 962-9248.

In 10 insightful segments, the video explores “the big lie”... that religion
is opposed to a woman’s right to choose. The video, made possible by the
David and Lucile Packard Foundation, reframes the debate over reproductive
rights within the context of the world’s religious cultures.

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The Religious Right…
They’re creeping into your bedroom

As the names and faces change in the Supreme Court, there
are those who warn that Americans should be worrying
about more than abortion rights. The Religious Right is
beginning to infiltrate the nation’s bedrooms, denying a citizen’s
right to privacy.

These Rightists are unimpressed with the fact that 94% of
Americans consider contraception a moral act. They ignore the fact
that Emergency Contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies and
thus prevents abortion. Still, the Religious Right doesn’t like it, and,
fascists that they are, they want to prevent all American women
from using it. According to A Clinician’s Guide to Providing
Emergency Contraceptive Pills
, these pills "prevent pregnancy by
delaying ovulation, inhibiting fertilization and/or preventing
implantation." They are most effective when taken within 72 hours
after unprotected intercourse. The sooner the better. They are not
abortifacients. "They will not be effective if a pregnancy is already

Cynthia Tucker, the Editorial Page editor of the Atlanta
reports that Emergency Contraception (EC)
has been studied and proven to be safe and effective in preventing
pregnancy. Yet the Food & Drug Administration has refused to
approve EC as an over-the-counter device, to be purchased like
condoms. Those who support EC argue that it should be taken as
soon as possible after sexual intercourse. Seeing a doctor and
getting a prescription might not be feasible.

Why would the FDA refuse to approve this “safe and effective”
contraceptive as an over-the-counter product? Because groups like
Stop Planned Parenthood allege that this contraceptive is “designed
to kill human beings.”That may be their opinion, but it’s not science.

Yet this distorted mix of wrong-headedness and Right-Wing religious zeal
is finding supporters and spreading to other areas of birth control. Ms.
Tucker writes that women are beginning to report that some pharmacists
are now refusing to fill perfectly legal prescriptions for contraceptives.
Women say that they have been interrogated as pharmacists try to
ascertain facts that would sanction the purchase: for example, whether
or not the woman is married. If the customer passes the test, proving
herself a “legitimate” user of the prescription — whatever that may be —
the transaction is completed. Essentially, in these instances, a woman’s
right to fill a prescription comes down to her making a good enough
impression on the pharmacist. It’s a game of chance.

This intrusion into a woman’s privacy is bad enough. But now
this concern for guarding a woman’s moral welfare is being taken
on by a government agency. The FDA is supposed to base its
decisions on data. Instead, it seems, the FDA’s decisions are being
influenced by extremists whose ideological agenda seems to
outweigh the results of scientific testing.

It’s a dangerous and slippery slope we’re on. Cynthia Tucker likens the
movement to a US Taliban, a group who wants to impose on others their
harsh 10th-century philosophy.

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Women’s rights progress in Saudi Arabia

The religious authorities in Saudi Arabia have declared that
the practice of compelling women to marry
against their will is “not permissible” under
Islamic law. Saudi women have long been
coerced into marrying men chosen by their
fathers. A woman’s wish to marry a man not
chosen by her father has held no sway.

Fact: Nearly half of Saudi marriages ends in divorce. Arranged
marriages are thought to contribute to this high divorce rate.
With this new decision to honor a woman’s wishes, fathers
who attempt to coerce their daughters into marriage will now be
jailed if the law is observed. They will not be released until they
agree to respect their daughter’s views.

This new mandate is a major step for women’s rights in a
country where a conservative interpretation of Islamic Sharia law
has imposed a variety of restrictions. Saudi women must wear a veil.
They are not permitted to travel alone. They cannot be inthe company
of men other than their relatives. Until 2001, women could not own an
identity card. Now they may file for such a card, but only if a male relative
permits the application.Women are barred from voting or holding public
office. (Saudi Arabia is lucky that the US doesn’t invade countries for
reasons like these.)

However, there is another sign of the progress of women’s rights in the
Saudi kingdom: In June, the ban was lifted on working in most jobs outside
the home.

Source: Saudi Arabia Bans Forced Marriage, BBC News, April 12, 2005

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Update: Obstetric fistula —
educating men in Niger

Several issues ago (Volume 7,No.1), this newsletter covered the
widespread problem of obstetric fistula in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Some glimmer of hope seems to be emerging in Niger.

The problem

Young girls, victims of their culture and powerless to reject
their father’s or family’s will, are forced to marry.When they get
pregnant, it’s a case of children having children. The bodies of
these young girls are too immature to manage a successful labor.
Their pelvises are too small, and so the baby cannot pass through
the birth canal. Other factors — like large or poorly positioned
babies — can further complicate the labor.

As a result, the obstructed labor stops the blood supply from reaching the vagina, bladder, and/or rectum. The tissue dies
and rots. The mother is left with an uncontrolled flow of urine
and feces.

Their babies dead, the girls now must live with the stench of
their wrecked bodies. Abandoned by husbands, ostracized from
villages and families, the girls find themselves outcasts. Socially
repugnant and uneducated, they have nowhere to go.

The culture

Early pregnancies and home births are not the only causes of
obstetric fistula. In Niger, as in other African nations, the culture
dictates that very young girls marry — and that frequently, they marry
much older men. Many girls meet their husbands at the marriage ceremony.
Some girls are married off because now that they are menstruating, “it’s
time.” For other girls, their families marry them off early so that the
girls do not get pregnant out of wedlock. For still others, families wish to rid
themselves of the economic burden of daughters.

Although Islam does not encourage early marriage, many Muslim leaders
continue to influence communities in that direction.Moreover, when a girl
is married, Islam considers the marriage valid even if she has not yet
reached puberty.

Working for change

While the United Nations Population Fund and other NGOs have begun
programs to care for girls with obstetric fistula, Niger has begun a grassroots
movement to prevent the condition, rather than try to fix it. The aim is to
overcome poverty and ignorance by educating men — fathers and potential
husbands — about the appropriate ages for girls to marry.

The Association of Traditional Chiefs of Niger established The National Forum
on Early Marriage in Niger. The United Nations Children’s Fund helped orchestrate
this meeting.

At the end of the gathering, the group decided to call upon the
traditional broadcasters in Niger to carry the group’s message
across the land. These broadcasters included traditional
storytellers, Islamic religious figures, blacksmiths, hairdressers,
and butchers. Observers are guardedly optimistic because, in
some places, the message is being accepted.What could it mean?

 Fathers who stop pressing early marriages, understandingthat such unions expose their daughters to risk.

 Fathers who, therefore, might keep their daughters in school
instead of marrying them off. A trend that could immeasurably improve
the country in many ways.

 Girls who may, for the first time, have the opportunity to get
an education. Currently 50.1% of boys attend primary
schools vs. only 33.3% of girls.

 Future husbands who might postpone marriages to spare
their wives the risk of fistula.

Prevention is the key, says doctor in neighboring Nigeria

Caesarian sections, surgical procedures that have eradicated fistula
in wealthy countries, are out of the question in impoverished African
nations. Two years of fundraising by the United Nations Population Fund
has yielded only $11 million to grapple with the obstetric fistula
problem. The World Health Organization put the number of untreated
fistulas in Sub-Saharan Africa at 2 million, and that was 16 years ago.
Nigeria alone claims 400,000-800,000 — and those are only the reported cases.

One Dutch physician, Dr.Waaldijk, who toils nine months a
year in rural Nigeria, has single-handedly repaired 15,000 fistulas
in 22 years. Nigeria (population 137 million) has eight fistula
repair facilities. Dr.Waaldijk has trained 300 physicians for these
centers. However, once trained, many of the doctors leave Nigeria
to find better pay in wealthier nations. In Mozambique, three
surgeons repair fistulas in a population of 17 million.

Without prevention and male education, even those girls who
are lucky enough to have their obstetric fistulas repaired run the
risk of tearing holes in their bodies again with another pregnancy.
As Dr.Walldijk says, “To be a woman in Africa is a terrible
thing.” To learn more about Dr.Walldijk and the story of
Nigerian women, see, September 28, 2005,
Nightmare for African Women: Birthing Injury and Little Help by
Sharon La Franiere.

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The legacy of John Paul II

Thomas Cahill, well-known author, posted a powerful OP-ED
column in the New York Times on April 5, 2005. The article,
The Price of Infallibility
, reviewed Roman Catholic papacies
over the ages. Here are some highlights of Mr. Cahill’s
observations with regard to John Paul II.

Despite taking the name of John Paul I,
John Paul II shared little with his redecessor.
John Paul I congratulated the parents of the
first test-tube baby — hardly something the
late pope would do.

Nor did this pope emulate Paul VI, who, “though
painfully cautious, allowed the appointment of
bishops (and especially archbishops and
cardinals) who were the opposite of yes
men, outspoken champions of the poor and oppressed and truly
representative of the parts of the world they came from.”

True, John Paul II may have been a powerful political figure who
sallied forth into the world and battled Communism. However,
John Paul II was not anything like John XXIII, a pope who tried
to drag the church into the modern world and undo the antiquated
and backward papacies that preceded him. John XXIII, like Peter in
the early church, was inclusionary — celebrating all God’s children.

John Paul II found reasons to exclude the voices of those
groups within the church whose beliefs or behaviors did not
follow party lines. Says Cahill, “John Paul II’s most lasting
legacy to Catholicism will come from the episcopal
appointments he made. In order to have been named a bishop,
a priest must have been seen to be absolutely opposed to
masturbation, premarital sex, birth control (including condoms
used to prevent the spread of AIDS), abortion, divorce,
homosexual relations, married priests, female priests and any
hint of Marxism. It is nearly impossible to find men who
subscribe wholeheartedly to this entire catalogue of certitudes;
as a result the ranks of the episcopate are filled with mindless
sycophants and intellectual incompetents.”

But popes who are hard-line disciplinarians don’t want
participation or group effort. They prefer obedience and a
solid, albeit small, core of extremely loyal of followers. And now
former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope, selected from
John Paul II’s closely selected minions will continue the legacy:
a tight-fisted adherence to rules and exclusion.

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Catholic theologian tells of Pro-Choice tradition


THE IRISH TIMES -- MAY 27, 2005 The Catholic Church has a littleknown,
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
antichoice 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 views.

“What would be very good for theUS 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 hubbub, and he was
considered a very holy man.

St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas 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 at all.”
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 “buddybuddy”
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

He said fundamentalism in any religion was always misogynistic. It
feared mutuality between the genders.

Dr Maguire said women who have had abortions should not feel they
were no longer good Catholics. The killers of the species have been
mainly men.

“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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Is abortion murder?

Murder is the unjust killing of a person.

So can you murder a fetus?

Not unless it is a person.

The longest view on this issue in the Christian tradition is that
the fetus is not a person until it is fully “formed.” St. Augustine
held that, early on, the fetus has the moral status of a plant.
St. Thomas Aquinas said all life has a soul. According to Aquinas, the
early fetus has a vegetable soul; when the fetus develops a bit more, it
has the moral status of an animal. Only when it is “formed” could
God infuse a spiritual soul.When is that?

Catholic philosophers Daniel Dombrowski and Daniel Deltete
from the Jesuit Seattle University say that modern science would put a
fully formed fetus at around six or seven months. Religions hold
similar views. (See Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and
Abortion in World Religions
, Oxford University Press, 2003 and
Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten
World Religions
, Fortress Press, 2001.)

The modern argument is often heard that the fetus is “potential
life.” That’s wrong.

The fetus is real life. It just has not reached personal status. The
fetus is potentially a person, but the potential is not actual. After all,
gentle reader, you and I are potentially dead but would not like to be
treated as if that potentiality were fulfilled. Personhood was potential
in the early evolutionary process. Even if some extraterrestrial being
killed one of the highly developed species that predated humans, the
act may have been wrong, but it was not murder.

There exist serious and justifying reasons for ending pre-personal
fetal life. The decision on that belongs naturally to the woman who
carries that life.Women have a far better track record than men when
it comes to cherishing and protecting life. Let’s leave abortion
decisions up to them.

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Reversible birth control for men

A way for men to help out with birth control.

The IVD, the Intra Vas Device, is the first implantable — and reversible —
male contraceptive. In a sevenminute procedure, which takes place in a
doctor’s office and uses a local anesthetic, surgeons make a small opening
in each vas deferens tube, the duct that carries the sperm from the testicles
to the male urethra. The tubes are then capped shut using 2.5 cm hollow
silicone plugs. The plugs block the flow of sperm from the testicles to the penis.

Vasectomies cut and cauterize the vas deferens tubes, permanently damaging
them in most cases, resulting in permanent birth control. Not so with the IVD.
These plugs can be removed, restoring the sperm flow.

So far, the IVD has succeeded in two primate studies and preliminary human
trials.While removing the device has proved successful in primates, similar
research on removal in humans has yet to be completed.

Shepherd Medical, the US company that owns the patent on the IVD, has been
awarded a $1.4 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health to perform
clinical trials this year. The tests will take place in Seattle for 18 months under
FDA-approved conditions.

If all goes well, the data may open the door to European, US, and Canadian
markets. Scientifically, the IVD could prove a gigantic step in the area of family

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Movers & Shakers … Activites of our Participating Scholars

Kelly Brown Douglas has written a new book, What’s Faith Got to Do With It?:
Black Bodies/Christian Souls
, Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005.

Hsiao-Lan Hu. Her recent book, Taoism, has been published by Chelsea House
Publications (January, 2005).

Ben Hubbard
has written an article, The Impact of Religion on Western Culture:
A Mixed Legacy in Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism
: 6 (2005), pp. 55-66.
After serving for 15 years as chair of the Department of Comparative Religion at
California State University-Fullerton, Ben has stepped down.

Mary E.Hunt and Radhika Balakrishna, co-editors of Good Sex:Feminist Wisdom from the World’s Religions, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001) are celebrating the third printing of the book.

Patti Jung was promoted to full professor last spring and was recently appointed
co-editor of the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. She has also published, The Call to Wed: A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage, Liturgy.Volume 20, no. 3, 2005: 31-42.

In addition, Patti’s book, Sexual Diversity and Catholicism: Toward the Development of Moral Theology (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2001), was translated and published in Portuguese as Diversidade Sexual e Catolicismo. Adail Ubirajara Sobral, Trans. Sno Paulo, Brazil: Ediçtes Loyola, 2005.

Paul Knitter’s
essay won the Catholic Press Association’s “Best Essay/Scholarly Journal”
award in May 2005. The essay: The Vocation of an Interreligious Theologian: My
Retrospective on Forty Years in Dialogue
, Horizons, 31/1 (2004) 135-49.

In September, Orbis Books published The Myth of Religious Superiority: A
Multifaith Exploration
, which Paul edited. The book gathers the best papers from an international/interreligious conference at the University of Birmingham, which Paul organized together with John Hick. The book shows that there are resources in all the religious traditions to move beyond

Judith Plaskow has published The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972-2003 (Beacon Press).

Liu Xiaogan has just completed the manuscript of his book The Laozi from the Ancient to the Modern: Comparative Studies of the Five Versions, including Introductory Analyses and Criticisms (with Comparative Concordance), which is prefaced by Ying-shih Yu, Donald J.Munro, and Lao Sze-kwang. The book is in press by the China Social Sciences Publisher (Beijing). Liu is the founding director of the Research Centre for Chinese Philosophy and Culture in the Department of Philosophy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The research centre was inaugurated in May this year. It organizes and promotes exploration and research in new issues and new methods in the study of Chinese philosophy and culture.

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Beyond Choice

I n the tradition of his grandmother,Margaret Sanger, Alex Sanger is challenging us to look in a new way at a woman’s reproductive freedom. Beyond Choice contends that the Pro-Choice movement must re-think its message if it is to have political success and then gives a thorough outline of why and how to change the rhetoric. Well researched and readable, Beyond Choice should be required reading for both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life supporters.
– Governor Christine Todd Whitman


Travels of a retired Participating Scholar

While Participating Scholar Paul Knitter is officially “retired,” he doesn’t seem to have
slowed down much.Here’s a quick update on Paul’s most recent activities.

Dateline: Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. From June 23 to July 10, Paul participated with seven other US scholars in a State Department-sponsored visit to Pakistan,
India, and Bangladesh. The trip was part of an exchange program intended to promote a conversation, rather than a clash, of civilizations between Muslim leaders from South
Asia and Christians and Jews from the USA.

Paul reports that in all conversations, their group heard comments that South Asian participants deeply appreciated that the American government would support
a program intended to listen to what Muslims have to say. Yet at the same time, attendees expressed consternation and anger at the policies of the Bush administration, especially in Iraq. “Your government is turning many in the Muslim world against the United States!” was the repeated message.

The visiting Americans were able to console their South Asian Muslim friends with the fact that a large and growing number of US citizens agree with such criticism of
Bush policies.

On Roman Catholicism: September 7-17th found Paul meeting with about 15 Roman Catholic theologians in Bangalore, India. Funded privately and meeting independently of the Vatican, the group has gathered annually over the past three years seeking to reach a consensus on a Catholic theology of religions that would support an authentic dialogue. The group — representing all points on the spectrum of Roman Catholic theology from the most conservative (mostly from Europe) to the most progressive (mostly from Asia) — was not able to attain a consensus. “For the moment,” Paul concluded, “the practice of interreligious dialogue within the Catholic local communities is way ahead of the official theology of religions of the Magisterium.”

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