The Court on Roe: Not all Catholics Agree: Far From It

By Ray McGovern, June 24, 2022

I customarily write on national security matters. This, actually, is one, and it matters.

I had two seminal exposures to Catholic teaching: one in the 50s and one in the 80s. I am grateful that in 1986, when I earned a Certificate in Theological Studies at Georgetown, educated Catholic theologians had been empowered to discuss abortion and what Jesus said about it (zero) in an honest, non-fundamentalist way. My professors – some of them just back from places like El Salvador, focused on things that Jesus DID talk about – like humility and justice (check out Matthew 5:1-12).

The Preferential Option for the Poor

THIS is what Jesus talked about – not things like abortion or homosexuality. The key tenet of most paying-attention Catholics is summed up in Catholic social teaching: the preferential option for the poor.  (Some wags have called Catholic social teaching the best kept secret of the Church.  The more reason to bring it up in today’s context!)

In 1986, the U.S. Catholic bishops issued a formal statement on the economy, calling for a fundamental “option for the poor.” I shall quote just one sentence: “The more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others.”

Yes, U.S. Catholic bishops issuing a solemn call for the redistribution of wealth.  A radical idea, indeed (in the original sense of radical — rooted in the core of Abrahamic faith). Another way to express this is that no one is entitled to accumulate still more of what they don’t need, while others are deprived of the necessities of live.

If that sounds downright un-American, that’s because it is. The biblical approach to “justice” does not square with the American concept of justice. No blindfolded “even-handed” lady here; rather, one who looks for the poor and gives them preference. I tried to spell this out on New Year’s Day, 2020, in “Biblical Justice: It’s Not What You Think”

So today the question is how does the Supreme Court decision on abortion square with the biblical insight into the core of justice? Whom will it affect most?

Christian Theologians on Abortion

Truth be told, the Supreme Court’s approach does not square with most Catholic theologians either. (Sorry, most bishops are pastors and administrators and not professional theologians.)  One theologian and professor of moral philosophy from whom I’ve learned a lot is Daniel C. Maguire. Here are excerpts from a Letter to Editor that he got published by The New York Times on June 29, 2007. (Adult content: discretion advised.)

Re “On Abortion”…

… Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas both favored legalization of prostitution even though they thought prostitution evil. Their thinking was that “greater evils” would result if prostitution were banned and this outlet for aberrant sexuality energy were unavailable.

In so doing, St. Thomas Aquinas said, the “wise legislator” is imitating God who, though all powerful and supremely good, tolerates certain evils lest greater evils ensue.

Similarly, today’s legislators who think abortion immoral could vote to keep it legal since greater evils, multiple deaths of women (especially poor women) from botched abortions as seen before Roe v. Wade, would follow.

Daniel C. Maguire
Milwaukee, June 25, 2007
The writer is professor of moral theology at Marquette University

Maguire Would Not Be Silenced

… in pursuit of Catholic honesty ( from: )

…Feminist scholars have documented the long record of men’s efforts to control the sexuality and reproductivity of women. Laws showcase our biases….

After all, canon law excommunicates a person for aborting a fertilized egg, but not for killing a baby after birth. One senses here an agenda other than the simple concern for life. What obsessions are operating?

A person could push the nuclear button and blow the ozone lid off the earth or assassinate the president (but not the pope) without being excommunicated. But aborting a five-week-old precerebrate, prepersonal fetus would excommunicate him or her.

May we uncritically allow such an embarrassing position to posture us as “prolife”? …

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