Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bishops, Health Care, and Abortion

By John E. Carrigan

Editor’s Note: The following was first published in the Indianapolis Peace & Justice Journal, Volume XXVII No. 12 - December 2009.

It seems to me that Catholic House members, and perhaps some bishops are confusing two elements of canon and civil law, namely the question of law and the question of fact. The killing of a human being is clearly prohibited by the Constitution of this country, and is assumed to be known by all citizens. The question of fact, however, namely whether the combined egg and sperm is human from the first moment of conception, is not nearly so well known and is not required to be known under the Constitution. In fact I believe that both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, doctors of the church, believed that the zygote did not become human until 90 days after conception.

The document on Religious Liberty of the Second Vatican Council clearly states that in a pluralistic society like the United States those who are not Catholic cannot be required to follow Catholic teaching. It was this element of the Vatican’s newly adopted teaching that allowed John Kennedy to reassure Baptist ministers in Houston in 1959 that he would not impose Catholic teaching on all were he to be elected president; and that position is widely credited with his actually being elected president.

The bishops’ position is inconsistent because while they are happy to accept fungible (mixed) dollars for Catholic hospitals, social programs, etc., they are vehement in their refusal of Catholic fungible dollars for abortion to those not obliged to accept Catholic teaching on that matter. Seems to depend on whose ox is gored.

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