Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Peru Women Have The Right And Duty To Die When It's Their Life Or An Embryo's

Cardinal Cipriani of Peru might just want to watch Otto Preminger's movie The Cardinal. He might get some insight.

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 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.


  1. Once again Colleen, we need to remind the so-called "pro-life" forces of some basic history.

    (Aside: In a marked Freudian slip, instead of typing "pro-life", my dyslexic fingers first produced "pro-lie". Interesting).

    The rigid insistence on the unborn child at all costs, over and above all other considerations, is a new position.

    The earliest theologians through to the 17th century seem to have accepted that late term abortions were acceptable to save the mother's life, and that the earliest abortions were not strictly abortions at all, as such early embryos lacked souls (Augustine).

    Over and over, I am finding that the proclaimed "traditional" views of the church are modern inventions.

  2. That's because they are recent inventions and pretending they are now and always have been Church teaching is a lie.

    It's hard to hear a message which bases it's authority in tradition when the truth is the tradition was never absolute. This kind of teaching negates the whole idea of the importance of tradition in any teaching. At least in my book it does.

  3. Colleen, I've just read Peter Nixon's summary of Steve Wildman's analysis of the abortion-health care debate at Commonweal. A thought struck me as I read that summary, and I think your statements here validate that thought.

    It fascinates me that it's MEN who are most concerned with the niggling, "logical" analysis of every jot and tittle of the health care bill to assure it won't translate in any shape, form, or fashion into support for abortion.

    The same men, in fact, who still find it possible to niggle around with justifications for some churches' denigration of gay and lesbian folks. (Waldman founded Beliefnet. I quit that site when he defended Obama's choice to invite Rick Warren to his inauguration.)

    I wonder why it is that men, largely heterosexual ones, are so fascinated today with thinking about any and all strictures they can devise to control the lives of others--of others they don't address or include, as they develop their tortuous "logical" arguments?

  4. I will have to check out that movie Colleen.

    What comes to my mind as I read through this again today is the movie Sophie's Choice. She was forced to choose which of her children would live or die. The rest of her life was of guilt and shame and self-loathing from what I recall.

    It seems that the men commenting are like the gun wielding German soldier forcing people to make decisions that will ultimately cause the death of the mother to save the life of a fetus. The father would have no say either in the event of a pregnancy in which his wife's life might be in danger in the event of outlawing all abortions. The children who might already exist will grow up without their mother in many a family if outlawing all abortions takes place. That does not seem to bother those who are "pro-life" for the fetus extremist.

    The extremist and violent men who want to outlaw all abortions, even in the case to save the mother's life, have become like the German soldier in Sophie's Choice, only the life of Sophie will be lost and her life does not matter a single bit, just as the life of one of Sophie's children did not matter to the soldier a single bit.

    They are pro-life for the fetus but not pro-life for the mother and the rest of her family. That they do not comment on the real life effect of promoting the life of the fetus over the mother and making it illegal to save the mother proves that they don't even care what will happen to the mother. It seems a form of hatred for the mother over the life of a fetus, that as you say Colleen, resembles that of the fetus of another type of mammal in its earliest stages and is not a child.

    The diabolical extremist view that ending a pregnancy within the first trimester is "infanticide" causes many women to feel guilty about their choice, in a similar way that Sophie felt guilty. The extremist pro-life view is a modern invention and the intention is not truly promoting life, it is promoting unnecessary shame upon the woman who often has to choose in a way that is forced upon her, either by rape or by being able to care for her other children, or for her very life.

    The diabolical extremist pro-life view sentences many women and their families to a slavery to the laws of diabolical reasoning.

  5. Stephen Fermoyle's dilemma comes straight from Henry Morton Robinson's 1950 novel. Robinson was more explicit about his and Fermoyle's preference that Mona sacrifice her life for that of her daughter, Regina. Some observers have noted Robinson modeled Stephen Fermoyle on Francis Cardinal Spellman, but if so, Robinson did not mention some of the more unsavory aspects of Spellman's career, including his open clerical careerism and his living firmly in the clerical closet. Some aspects of the book are apt to make many modern Catholic women cringe, including Fermoyle's insistence that most married women should be capable of bearing at least five children.

    These are the folks that would point to the late Italian doctor, Gianna Molla, as their ideal mother. Molla refused treatment for cancer while pregnant, so that she would deliver her child, and JPII canonized her before his death. One letter writer observed the woman who raised Molla's children should have been made a saint. To me, the "traditionalists'" view of women looks more like the Tleilaxu axlotl tanks in Frank Herbert's Dune series. The axlotl tanks are really the Tleilaxu women, their sole purpose is to be silent wombs.

    Oklahoma has already enacted legislation to make certain information about abortions performed available on the web. It would not take much for some people to learn about abortions performed in small towns, who underwent one, and who performed one.

  6. It dawned on me today pro-lifers only talk about abortion as if this is all there was to talk about or all that was going on in the world. I thought today that we never ever hear about the number of babies born. So I looked it up on the internet. There are approximately 216,000 babies born every day in the whole entire world.

    That is a lot of babies everyday being born. I wish the pro-lifers would talk about the babies that are being born and the conditions they are born into that we can work to improve to make this world a better place for adults to bring up children.

  7. Amen, butterfly. I would find the pro-life emphasis on the value of unborn human life a whole lot more compelling if I saw the same emphasis on the value of the lives of babies already born.

    I've come to think that, in the last analysis, the pro-life movement is really all about respect for life.

  8. Great comments one and all. I've been giving more thought to this whole notion of why the correct thing to do is to let the mother die in favor of the child. From a practical standpoint alone, this makes no sense. Why leave existing children without a mother?

    I wonder if the answer doesn't have some unconcious motivation along the lines of favoring the genetic line of the male, over the female. The child carries the genetics of the father, the mother does not.

  9. "To me, the "traditionalists'" view of women looks more like the Tleilaxu axlotl tanks in Frank Herbert's Dune series. The axlotl tanks are really the Tleilaxu women, their sole purpose is to be silent wombs."

    There is a lot of truth in Frank Herbert's writing. I can remember vividly how upset I was when I finally figured out who the Tleilaxu women actually were.

  10. Correction to my last comment: I meant to write (final sentence), "I've come to think that, in the last analysis, the pro-life movement is really NOT AT all about respect for life."