I can remember the first time I saw the movie "The Cardinal". The movie follows the life of an American priest as he climbs the corporate ladder. One of the dilemnas the Cardinal was confronted with when he was a bishop was making the medical decision between the life of his pregnant unwed sister and the child whose labor and birth was killing her. He opted to 'leave it up to God' rather than choose the intervention which would kill the child but save the life of his sister. I assumed he made the choice in that way partly from Church teaching and partly because he himself didn't want to play God, having to determine which life deserved life more.
At the time I thought leaving it up to God was a reasonable dodge concerning a very difficult moral choice. Now we don't have to dodge because Peruvian bishops have come out and said women have no inherent right to life above their unborn child. But in reality, since they oppose the choice of therapeutic abortion for the sake of the mother's life, they are saying women have no right to their own life if it's threatened by their pregnancy. Peruvians won't be given the same choice the Cardinal in the movie had, of leaving the outcome up to God. Law will force Peruvians to choose in favor of the embryo.
Peru's Roman Catholic bishops slammed a bill allowing abortion in rape and fetal deformity cases, calling it a "death penalty" for embryos in a country where capital punishment is illegal.
"Life is a right from its conception... any attempt to justify the elimination of children about to be born into illness or disability brings to light our difficulty in accepting sick people," the Peruvian Bishops Conference (CEP) said in a statement. (This is life at all costs. Easy for him to say bishop won't have to pay for those costs for the family or the child. I guess this means a child has the absolute right to be born into absolute misery.)
Spearheaded by Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, the church has openly lobbied lawmakers to drop proposed legislation to legalize elective abortion for rape cases or when the fetus is deformed.
The bill was approved by a parliamentary committee a week ago, sending it for debate in the full Congress.
Cipriani denied allegations made in a report by civil groups that said some 300,000 illegal abortions are performed each year in Peru.
The CEP said life should not be terminated for any reason, neither for rape nor to save the life of the expectant mother.
The notion that "the mother's life is worth more than her child's is arbitrary and false," it said. (Which means the notion that the unborn child's life is worth more than the mother's is alive and in play.)
"Since we've done away with the death penalty in Peru for even the worst criminals, how can we accept the death penalty for an embryo that hasn't even had the time to commit a mistake and cannot even defend itself?" it said. (But he will accept a death sentence for a woman who also has done nothing of a criminal nature. **I couldn't help but notice the Cardinal never uses the term child or baby in this story. It's always fetus or embryo, until that statement on the abritrariness of a mother's life over her child's. Where is Freud when I need him?)
It's getting harder and harder to step around the fact that in Catholicism the right to life runs in this order: men, especially men who have the power to declare war on others-- usually justified by a perceived need for self defense; the unborn, whose innocence gives them an ontological right that supersedes their mother's right to life and her right to self defense-- but not their father's; and finally women and existing children who are at the mercy of those whose right to life is further up the pecking order. So says God through his Church.
Over on Inside Catholic.com there is another article by Todd Aglialoro, he of the masculine Catholicism article. This one deals with the five pro abortion dodges used by pro choice Catholics and others. My frustration wasn't so much with the article itself as it was with some of the comments. The article is predictable and refutes pro choice arguments from a strictly theoretical position. This position is an essentially male point of view uncluttered with practical input from women. In this view males seemingly have little to do with abortion. It's not their problem except from the standpoint that they must protect the theoretical unborn children of mothers and fathers they don't know--and make sonograms mandatory for pregnant women in any health care reform. (I guarantee I could show them a sonogram of a fetal pig at a similar embryological state that most abortions occur and they couldn't tell it from a fetal human.)
My issue is not with the main article, it's in the comments. One man asked a very good question. He wanted to know how the criminalizing of abortion would be investigated and penalized. Like every other time I personally have brought this question up, he was attacked and the question never answered. Rather than offer any practical understanding of the implications of criminalizing abortion, his male detractors stayed in the realm of theological theory and justification. No one addressed the practical implications of enforcement or punishment.
I suspect the reason they won't is because any practical real life application would necessitate major violations of rights to privacy, patient/doctor confidentiality, and self incrimination. Not too mention, if the Catholic teaching became law, women would be legally classed as an inferior class of humanity, subject to the right to life of an embryo. Just as in Peru. Maybe I'm off base, but it seems to me these are serious constitutional issues, the very one's that precipitated Roe v Wade.
Serious theological reasoning should also have to take in to consideration practical consequences of the theology. It's easy to argue abortion from the realm of theory, and for most men abortion stays in the realm of theory. What I appreciated about the movie 'The Cardinal' is that it took this very issue out of the realm of theory and made it ever so very real for the Cardinal in question.
His theoretical belief system was tested by very personal and practical consequences. His more or less non decision bothered him for the rest of his life. It had real emotional, spiritual, and practical consequences for this Cardinal--and according to the Church, his decision was the RIGHT decision. It didn't however stop him from experiencing guilt and loss or knowing he forced his other family members into the position of caring for the subsequent child. Knowing and experiencing this tragedy made this bishop a much more pastoral and compassionate shepherd. He knew doubt about previously held theoretical absolutism. Sometimes there are no good answers.
Real pastors know this because this is what the human condition is all about. It's about finding one's way through doubt and learning from experience. It has been this way from the very first moment a human recognized the capacity for self reflection and independent action.
Taking away a fundamental right from one class of humanity in favor of another makes great theoretical sense, usually appears self evident, and seems rational--if you don't question the underlying assumption. And it's really great when you can assign responsibility for the whole theoretical problem on the 'other' whose behavior you are tying to criminalize. It's so much easier when by definition it isn't your personal problem.
This is a lesson the Peruvian bishops have not learned anymore than the Bishop of Recife, Brazil. I suggest they sit down and view the movie 'The Cardinal'. It may help them understand their theory is not so black and white when it comes to the consequences of the reality.