Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bishops Forfeit High Ground.

At Seattle Times, Sam Sperry looks at the USCCBs involvement in health care:

The philosophical and moral aspects of the bishops' political stance are not universally accepted. Nor do they rest on as solid a basis as they might want us to believe.

First, the bishops' position reflects the church's questionable doctrine that human life begins at the moment of conception. Not only is this not demonstrable biologically. There also is no consensus among traditional Roman Catholic authorities on the point, including the venerable St. Thomas Aquinas, the foundational 13th-century scholar of the Catholic Church. When first conceived, a fertilized egg possesses only human potential, not "humanness" itself. When that occurs has never, in moral terms, been satisfactorily resolved.

Second, the bishops' position affects a quality of absoluteness that does not exist.

Catholic doctrine prohibits an abortion in cases of rape or incest. When a woman's life is at serious risk, Catholic teaching holds that her claim on life supersedes that of the fetus or child: in ethical terms, the "double effect."

Moreover, Catholic teaching admits to such taking of life as in self-defense and in its doctrine of a "just war." So even for Catholics there is no absolute aspect to the sanctity of life, however precious we hold life to be.

Finally, the Catholic Church teaches that it is up to an individual, not the church, to resolve matters of conscience as best that individual can inform her or his conscience. For some women, that may include considering an abortion.

In lobbying Congress to adopt the Church's position via the Stupak Amendment, the American Catholic bishops advocate enactment of a particular religious belief, one at odds with many other churches. Many of these churches allow for an abortion in cases of rape, incest and the health of the woman.

The Catholic bishops, then, argue that Congress should enshrine in law a particular belief of their religion. That would not be in the best interest of our multidenominational, multicultural people and would be an abuse of our democratic, nondenominational system of government.

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