The consistent ethic after 'Webster'

Bernardin, Joseph L.

THE CONSISTENT ETHIC AFTER WEBSTER' OPPORTUNITIES & DANGERS JOSEPH L. BERNARDIN The title contains two themes which I will not treat equally. On the one hand, it calls for assessment of the...

...There is the danger we might become increasingly shrill or strident, forgetting the importance of civility and charity in public discourse...
...75 percent favored parental notification for teenagers...
...The church's teaching authority is ultimately a moral authority, a wisdom to be shared with all its members...
...In a complex democracy like ours, public opinion seldom translates directly into policy decisions...
...In the nineteenth century, the debate centered on black slaves...
...These issues, the circumstances surrounding conception, and the resources needed to sustain a pregnancy and support children, are also part of the moral fabric of the abortion debate...
...In a Newsweek/Gattup poll last fall, 88 percent of U.S...
...Let me simply summarize the data: In Connecticut Mutual Life's extensive survey of American values in the 1980s, 65 percent of U.S...
...May my words this evening contribute to this confidence...
...The Roe rationale asks, "Who decides...
...What happens to our moral imagination and social vision if the right to life is not protected for those who do not look fully human at the beginning or end of life...
...A society which is willing to make killing a normal solution for life's problems misunderstands its corrosive effect...
...Civil law, of course, is not coextensive with the moral law which is broader in its scope and concerns...
...But we must be prepared for a long, strenuous effort with no solid hope for early progress...
...but it does not focus on "What is being decided...
...We should be second to none in our sensitivity to the problems pregnant women face...
...I will comment briefly on selected moral issues: where we stand, and what needs to be done...
...There must be a connection-logical, legal, and social-between our lack of moral vision in protecting unborn children and our lack of social vision in the provision of basic necessities for women and children...
...We have the opportunity to be a consistent and constant defender of human life and dignity, a teacher of the truth that every life is precious-no matter how young or old, how rich or poor, no matter what race or sex or status in society...
...Those at the edge of the circle-the vulnerable and the broken-were very special to God, he said, and indeed, God was found among them in a particular way...
...At the moral level, the first challenge of the post-Webster period is to redress the consequences of Roe's definition of the abortion issue...
...In the first instance, this will be the conscience of Catholics, but the U.S...
...The consistent ethic gives us a way both to propose the vision and to pursue it...
...I thought it would be useful to begin a discussion about the utility of relating problems without submerging one into another...
...A society which fails in either or both of these functions is rightfully judged morally defective...
...By the radical character of the 1973 decisions, I mean their profoundly damaging consequences for life and law in U.S...
...As you know, the question of [Catholic] political leaders and the abortion question was included in a resolution from the General Meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops last November...
...To evaluate the status of the abortion question since Webster, it is useful to look quickly at the larger picture of abortion since Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973...
...We should encourage and foster an ongoing conversation within the church about strategies to address abortion...
...There is more to this question than the mere phrase "freedom to choose" can capture...
...The claims cannot simply be on the mother of the unborn child, but on society as well...
...The combined judgment of the last twenty years is that both our constitutional policy on abortion and our social policies for women, children, and families have failed to meet minimum standards of justice...
...the general public does not share the conviction of the consistent ethic on capital punishment...
...It will also require that we raise the quality of the public debate on abortion from rhetoric to rational dialogue even as we seek to reduce the quantity of abortions performed...
...But there is also the danger that we could make the mistake of some of the pro-abortion groups and narrow our public concern to a single issue, ignoring other threats to human life...
...For the church and for the consistent ethic, there are both opportunities and dangers in this post-Webster era...
...We can seem to be unaware that women who want to bear their children are without the social and economic resources needed to sustain new life...
...they do not need religious agreement today to understand the argument that a part of the human community is without fundamental protection of the law...
...Centuries ago, the prophets taught Israel that the quality of its faith could be tested by how the widows and orphans were treated...
...it will also demand a capacity for creative choices to build consensus at the level of law and policy...
...As Noonan observed in 1973, Roe and Doe were analogous to the Dred Scott decision...
...The second reason the church should pursue the consistent ethic in the political process is that religious institutions in a democracy stand at the intersection of public opinion and public policy decisions...
...My purpose a moment ago was simply to put it in the context of professional choices made by others in the church...
...By virtue of its opinions, human life has less protection in the United States han in any country of the Western world...
...We should be confident but collegial with others who seek similar goals but may differ on means and methods...
...The consistent ethic since 1983 The idea of the consistent ethic grew from a conviction I developed as chairman of both the committee which prepared The Challenge of Peace and the Committee on Prolife Activities...
...But does this imply that we are imposing our religious beliefs on society as a whole...
...We have the opportunity-by our witness, advocacy, persuasion, and arguments-to make a positive contribution to the national debate on abortion...
...The abortion question must be addressed within the church and society in terms of its full human substance...
...A consistent ethic will ask, What happens to other rights in a society when protection of the right to life is selective...
...The intensity of the public debate, the passions aroused, the positions taken, and the persistence of views cannot be understood without focusing squarely on the underlying issue...
...By no means do I wish to collapse these two different questions...
...In contrast to the nuclear question, a brief report on this topic must be starkly negative...
...While the effort continues, there is much work to be done in terms of public opinion...
...4. In accord with the bishops' statement, I am firmly committed to the position that public officials who recognize the evil of abortion have a responsibility to limit its extent, to work for its prevention, and to protect unborn life...
...By ignoring the second question, it evades and eviscerates the heart of the moral challenge posed by abortion: not only who is human, but how do we respond to the human when it is vulnerable and voiceless...
...and we have recently had the spectacle of people running for public office on the basis of whom they are prepared to kill...
...This article is based on an address he gave at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center on March 20,1990...
...we enhance our treatment of each issue by illustrating its relationship to others...
...It sets limits for policy choices and provides indications of policies desired by the public...
...I will explore the second topic at greater length, but in the context of the consistent ethic...
...Both fall within the scope of civil law...
...Webster offers an opportunity to use the democratic process to translate a significant consensus on key limits to abortion into law...
...To do so will require clarity of moral vision on our part...
...A consistent ethic challenges this conclusion and indicts it for its failure of social vision and moral courage...
...As a bishop and a citizen, I cannot passively accept a definition of the fundamental human, moral, and social question posed by abortion which is cast in purely procedural terms...
...The new challenge was a product of "the signs of the times" in the sense that technological change, growing global interdependence, and the complexity of an advanced industrial society brought together several new challenges to life and some very old ones in one large problematic...
...To convince this 60 percent of the populace of the wisdom of at least limiting abortion would be a major advance for life...
...The damage done in abortion is not simply to the unborn child, but also to the society which permits, sustains, or encourages abortion...
...The number of men and women condemned to die grows each year...
...I wish to make ten points on this sensitive issue...
...In the polarized setting of the abortion debate, it is still possible to locate the majority of Americans as the broad middle, generally opposed to abortion on demand, but ambiguous about how many restrictions to place upon it...
...At the constitutional level, for example, the bishops have supported and continue to pursue a constitutional amendment which would protect the life of the unborn child...
...Particularly significant was the finding that women, racial minorities, and the poor opposed abortion more strongly than 65 percent...
...It is my conviction that the strength of the Catholic moral tradition, its persistent defense of unborn life, responds directly to the needs of the post- Webster moment-redressing the exclusion of concern for the unborn in Roe...
...The aftermath of Roe and Scott in the Court's history forced this nation to debate and decide who was to be counted as legally protected and fully human...
...But it does set a framework for policy decisions...
...They may not be where the Catholic bishops are, but neither are they where Roe and Doe left us...
...Redress means lifting up for evaluation the forgotten factor in Roe, the moral meaning of unborn life...
...citizens favored informed consent for women seeking abortions...
...Webster's significance is not that it reversed Roe, but that it returns the democratic process to the fifty states and gives them the opportunity to redress the faulty logic of Roe...
...But this view reduces the compelling moral question-how do we recognize the human among us?-to a procedural problem...
...New questions arise for the church at this level: Should the consistent ethic be pursued in the political process-in the world of party platforms, campaigns, specific legislation, and an examination of the positions of public officials and candidates for public office...
...The indictment is not directed in the first instance to the woman caught in these circumstances, but to a social policy and vision fostered since Roe, which presents abortion as the normal, natural response to the circumstances I have described...
...And there is the temptation to lose hope, to give up, to turn away in frustration, apathy, or discouragement...
...By definition, these views are open to debate...
...The view that Roe is satisfactory contends that its answer has a traditional American character to it: it protects freedom of choice...
...Euthanasia Complementing a willingness to kill criminals to solve crime is the call to legalize euthanasia in our society...
...No, for two reasons...
...To be both prophetic and public, a countersign to much of the culture, but also a light and leaven for all of it, is the delicate balance to which we are called...
...the fact of our pluralism means that the content of civil law, what binds us all on essential social questions, is a major public concern...
...The nuclear threat The danger of nuclear war, perhaps more than any other single issue, symbolizes the new character of threats to life in the twentieth century...
...The style should be prophetic, but not sectarian...
...it was born in the 1970s and has sustained the witness for life until today...
...citizens...
...When we wrote the pastoral letter on peace, we addressed it to the citizens of a nuclear nation, but we were conscious of the specific responsibilities and choices faced by Catholics in the military...
...In an article written just prior to Webster in 1989, Professor Glendon observed that "no country in Europe has gone so far as our Supreme Court in permitting abortion on demand...
...Others in the 1980s-from the Congressional Budget Office to America and Commonweal-have documented how we have failed to protect children in terms of infant mortality, health care, nutrition, and housing...
...The consistent ethic of life seeks to protect and enhance human life from conception to natural death...
...On the other, it focuses the discussion on one issue in the ethic, abortion, in light of the Supreme Court's decision of last July...
...At the moral level, we should stress that the key to sound moral analysis is how the several moral elements of a complex situation are ranked and related to a decision...
...Within weeks of the Court's decision, Noonan concisely summarized its impact...
...In the pastoral letter on war and peace, our hope was for a mix of arms control measures and modest political changes to transform gradually the world we have known for almost fifty years...
...The essential challenge we face is that unborn life is deprived of even minimal legal protection...
...Now I will apply it to Catholic political leaders, offering here my personal interpretation of these issues...
...It will not be enough to be against abortion...
...But a moral position alone is inadequate for the post-Webster period...
...May my words this evening contribute to this confidence.nd to collaborate with them...
...It struck me that the age-old task of the church, to protect and promote human life as a gift and trust from God, faced in our time a series of threats and challenges of a different magnitude than the past...
...Prolife constituencies, including the Catholic bishops, but not limited to them, have pursued two approaches to the civil law...
...On health care issues, physicians, nurses, and administrators have unique choices to face, and special witness to offer...
...Moreover, there are solid public opinion grounds for pursuing a regime of limitation on abortions...
...These were the inhabitants on the edge of the circle of life in Israel...
...Jesus specified the message more dramatically...
...3. While public officials are bound to fulfill their offices in light of a given constitutional framework, they obviously have some room for specific choices within that framework and can choose to emphasize some issues over others...
...Obviously, the Webster decision offers a new range of possibilities at the state level for this strategy...
...the civil law should be rooted in the moral law even if it should not try to translate all moral prohibitions and prescriptions into civil statutes...
...In terms of substance, I remain convinced after seven years of experience that its original premise remains valid...
...The people of the United States did not need a religious consensus to agree on this proposition then...
...In our society we cannot depend on moral agreement alone...
...6. The relationship of moral principle, civil law, and public policy is complex...
...To return to the analogy of civil rights: The struggle of the 1960s was precisely about extending the protection of the law to those unjustly deprived of protection...
...society...
...It will be more central, I fear, in our future...
...We hope we can help our society turn away from abortion and save the lives of millions of our unborn sisters and brothers...
...We can appear to ignore the fact that pregnancy for some women is at least partly the experience of being left alone with the consequences of immoral, irresponsible male behavior-at the point of conception and afterwards...
...When the issue at stake poses a threat to the public order of society...
...It was proposed to help and urge the church to keep our moral perspective broadly designed, to address issues on their intrinsic merits, but also to recognize that the life issues today are not confined to one area of human activity...
...We are not a single-issue tradition or a single-issue church...
...This is a response as fundamental and as far-reaching in scope as the Roe decision was...
...In a sense, all of the above issues and more are encompassed in the decisions public officials must make...
...In the New York Times a month after Webster, 71 percent favored parental consent laws and 60 percent favored testing for fetal viability...
...I believe that the church can be most effective in the public debate on abortion through moral persuasion, not punitive measures...
...Neither the right to life nor other human rights can be protected in society without the civil law...
...When should the civil law incorporate key moral concerns...
...Since political change was judged impossible, the best to be hoped for was strategic stability...
...Specifically, I plan to (1) review the consistent ethic of life since 1983, (2) examine the abortion issue since Webster, and (3) close with a perspective on the future of the consistent ethic...
...This implies asking what moral claims the unborn child has on us...
...If life is to be respected in a society as a whole, it must be protected in its most vulnerable members...
...First, in making the case for a reversal of Roe and a legal order which protects the unborn, we present our views in terms of the dignity and equality of human life, the bond between human dignity and human rights, and the conviction that the right to life is the fundamental human right...
...To acknowledge the moral weight of the circumstances of conception, and the challenge of sustaining a pregnancy, does not mean one has to accept the direct killing of innocent life as a solution...
...The consistent ethic-both pre- and post- Webster-is helpful in that it illustrates the consequences of a range of issues when we fail as a society to protect the sacredness of every human life...
...Second, our objective, that the civil law recognize a basic obligation to protect human life, especially the lives of those vulnerable to attack or mistreatment, is not new in our society...
...in technical terms, the moral status of fetal life...
...In 1983, euthanasia was a passing reference in the list of threats to life...
...citizens...
...Raising up the forgotten factor of Roe means reexamining publicly why life, which is demonstrably human in its genetic character and development, can be denied all legal protection for six months and any effective legal protection until birth...
...But the two should not be separated...
...5. I am also firmly convinced that all Catholics are bound by the moral principle prohibiting directly intended abortion...
...A confident church will speak its mind, seek as a community to live its convictions, but leave space for others to speak to us, help us to grow from their perspective, and to collaborate with them...
...Our necessary-indeed, essential-public witness in providing a place in the public debate for the moral claims of unborn children can lead to a failure to address the situations faced by pregnant women...
...To hold the moral position of the Catholic church-that all directly intended abortion is morally wrong-and not to relate this moral position to civil law would be a grave abdication of moral responsibility...
...Neither church leaders nor politicians should simply wait for consensus to form...
...I am convinced that moving the middle depends upon projecting a broad-based vision which seeks to support and sustain life...
...On the one hand, it calls for assessment of the status and role of the consistent ethic of life...
...for life, which enhances the chance for the next generation to come to adulthood well-educated, well-nourished, and well-founded in a value structure which provides a defense against the allure of drugs, violence, and despair...
...Basing our position on Vatican IPs judgment that abortion is an "unspeakable crime," we must combine moral wisdom with specific social policies of health care, housing, nutrition, and counseling programs in our own institutions...
...9. I have always believed dialogue with public officials- Catholics and others-is an essential part of the church's social ministry...
...We should use the model of the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: We should be convinced that we have much to learn from the world and much to teach it...
...the potential lies in the 60 percent of Americans who do not identify themselves completely with either of the major voices in the abortion debate...
...Examining how the Court, in its two sweeping decisions, had changed the prevailing consensus of both state law and recent public referenda, Noonan concluded: "By virtue of its opinions, human life has less protection in the United States today than at any time since the inception of the country...
...This pursuit, however, moves the abortion debate from the moral and legal levels to the political...
...The style should be persuasive, not preachy...
...I do not pretend to know in every circumstance which tactics such a figure should use, but moral consistency requires that personal conviction be translated into some public actions in order to validate the personal view...
...we need to show convincingly that we are for life-life for women and children...
...Within the church, teaching on moral and social policy is addressed to the community as believers and as citizens...
...It was also designed to draw upon the systematic resources of the Catholic moral tradition...
...Within the community, some citizens will carry specific professional or vocational responsibilities on certain issues...
...citizens considered abortion morally wrong...
...But we should resist the sectarian tendency to retreat into a closed circle, convinced of our truth and the impossibility of sharing it with others...
...Without forsaking our moral principles, we should seek to address this constituency in a way that invites them to join us in setting significant limits on abortion...
...I am convinced that a potential exists which has not yet been grasped...
...I believe that the work of the Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and the many other initiatives we sponsor around the country give us a start, an opportunity to project this vision persuasively...
...In a debate as complex and emotional as abortion, statistics can be used and abused...
...The substance of the issue must be argued at the moral, legal, and political levels...
...I have been disappointed in the public dialogue since Webster because so much attention has been focused on protest and power, and so little on what is at stake substantively for our society...
...Catholic teaching has always seen in the abortion decision a personal and a social choice...
...Noonan and Glendon have illustrated how we failed in the 1970s to understand the humanity of life at its inception...
...The future of the consistent ethic I return now-all too briefly because of the length of my presentation-to the consistent ethic...
...A second approach has been to seek limits on abortions, even with Roe in place...
...2. Its basic purpose is to state clearly the church's objective moral teaching...
...A moral vision which does not have room in the circle of the human community for unborn children will inevitably draw the circle of life too narrowly in other decisions of social and economic policy...
...While public views on abortion are often described as ambiguous, the ambiguity does not diminish the dissatisfaction with 1.5 million abortions a year...
...But we should offer a different moral response for individuals and society at large...
...I find myself responding here as I have when the threat posed by the nuclear arms race is discussed solely in terms of the technical characteristics of missiles and warheads, with the human reality suppressed and ignored...
...These two distinct efforts seemed to share a common goal...
...We must also support public programs which provide an alternative to the hard and narrow choices pregnant women often face...
...Because all directly intended abortions are judged immoral in Catholic teaching, a prochoice public policy-which, in effect, is pro-abortion- collides directly with this moral teaching...
...The consistent ethic of the 1990s will be tested by how the orphans and widows fare...
...A prolife, consistent ethic acknowledges the human and moral significance of these questions...
...We should join others-believers and humanists, Christians and Jews-who share the view that 1.5 million abortions a year is unacceptable for even one more year...
...The credibility of civil law has always been tested by the range of rights it defends, and the scope of the community it protects...
...At the level of strategy and tactics, we bishops should express views as we did in the pastoral letters...
...There is the temptation simply to proclaim positions, forgetting that, in a pluralistic society, we must persuade, build coalitions, and reach out to shape public opinion to support human life...
...61 percent favored prohibitions on public funding of abortions except in life-threatening circumstances...
...This general conviction, that the substance of the consistent ethic complements both the signs of our times and the strength of the Catholic tradition, is reinforced by the topic I have addressed at length this evening...
...CARDINAL JOSEPH L. BERNARDIN is the archbishop of Chicago...
...In this specific judgment of moral and legal precepts, the bishops could hardly have stated their principles any differently...
...This fundamental question must be addressed morally, legally, and politically...
...Those who espouse a prolife, consistent ethic-whether they be bishops or laity, authors or activists-need to address this critique very carefully...
...The church influences this intersection of opinion and policy through its access to the conscience of citizens...
...What happens to the vulnerable along the full spectrum of life, if the right to life is denied to inherently vulnerable and dependent unborn life...
...Even though the Catholic tradition, in principle, allows states to resort to capital punishment, and in spite of the public consensus which presently exists, I am convinced that a consistent ethic cannot change on this question...
...Indeed, there are times when criticism is called for...
...Both concerns, protecting life and protecting the society from the consequences of destroying lives, require attention...
...society...
...But I also want to face directly the critique which contends that, in our emphasis on the forgotten factor of Roe, we have ignored the problems faced by women...
...Such a vision and posture inevitably will meet resistance...
...I only want to point toward a troubling attitude which seems to hold that killing-whether done in an official act or even from a humanitarian motive-only affects the victim...
...I wish only to make a basic point: The status quo of permissive abortion does not fit the moral or legal convictions of a large majority of U.S...
...There are still fifty thousand nuclear weapons to be reduced, and a consistent ethic should contribute to the changing political and strategic drama we are experiencing...
...7. While public consensus is needed to support law, consensus must be created by many voices, including public officials who can try to move the public toward a better moral consensus...
...It is precisely in light of this larger perspective that I find unacceptable the contention that our society has given a responsible answer to the tragedy of abortion in the constitutional regime established by Roe and Doe...
...for life, in support of the very old and the very young...
...Finally, there is the position of Catholics holding public office...
...There are two reasons why the church-keeping within proper theological and constitutional bounds-should engage the issues of the consistent ethic in the political process...
...Precisely in a pluralistic society, where moral views differ, protection of fundamental rights is directly dependent upon the content of the civil law...
...However, the last two years have produced anything but modest change...
...But at the very heart of public order is the protection of human life and basic human rights...
...The challenge for the consistent ethic in the post-Webster period is to make an effective case in our society for Pope John Paul IPs assertion that the right to life is the fundamental human right...
...In such a situation, they must ultimately decide which is the better course of action...
...Today, women and children remain the most vulnerable members of U.S...
...If we cannot answer that question accurately, with clarity, compassion, and conviction, how can we hope to keep our moral integrity as a people and a nation...
...Their lives reflect the persistent social problems of our society: health care, housing, and hunger...
...When we wrote the letter on the economy, we held special meetings with labor and business leaders...
...It must respond to them at the levels of both moral analysis and social support...
...To grasp the opportunity of a post- Webster period, we need to join firm convictions about what is right and wrong at the moral level with a capacity to build a consensus at the legal level that will significantly reduce the number of abortions...
...However, many Catholics, politicians and ordinary citizens, will disagree on strategies of implementation to lessen and prevent abortions...
...It is important, however, that we continue to engage them and not cut them off...
...The substance of the consistent ethic yields a style of teaching it and witnessing to it...
...In assessing its future role, I will speak to questions of both substance and style...
...8. The position of a public figure who is personally opposed to abortion, but not publicly opposed in terms of any specific choices, is an unacceptable fulfillment of a public role...
...The relevant text from the bishops reads: "At this particular time, abortion has become the fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good will...
...Precisely because of this forgotten factor in Roe's definition of the abortion issue, a consistent ethic must assert with moral creativity and courage Vatican H's statement that "from the moment of conception life must be guarded with the greatest care...
...The basic question is the kind of society we want to be-one that destroys its unborn children, or one that commits itself to a decent life for the most vulnerable in our midst, especially women and children...
...Since civil law does not incorporate the moral law in toto, to build such a consensus, a convincing case must be made that abortion is a public order issue...
...A consistent ethic points out how killing can erode our societal reverence for human life, our bonds of trust, and our respect for one another...
...The word "prophetic" should be used sparingly and carefully, but a truly consistent ethic of word and deed, which protects life and promotes it, is truly a work of God, hence a prophetic word in our time...
...law in the position of providing no effective protection to unborn life...
...1. Note that the bishops' text is addressed to all Catholics, not only to political leaders...
...Almost two millennia later, the prophetic message about the widows and orphans sounds starkly contemporary in our society...
...Neither the prolife nor the prochoice position has moved this middle toward a viable political and civil consensus...
...How does the experience look after seven years...
...In polling data, it is clear that the regime of permissive abortion established by Roe and expanded by later Court decisions does not reflect a consensus in the public...
...Also emergent in the 1970s was a prochoice/pro-abortion constituency committed to maintaining U.S...
...It is hard to conceive of a more fundamental challenge to the moral vision and character of a society: deciding who fits in the circle of the legally protected human community...
...We have had a decade of remarkable economic growth, but the prophets would show us where to look, lest we be mesmerized by the illusion that everyone has shared equally in that growth...
...I have argued earlier that Catholic teaching sees in abortion a double moral failure: a human life is taken, and a society allows or supports the killing...
...Moreover, all public officials should be held accountable for their positions...
...Euthanasia may well be the abortion debate of the 1990s, dividing us again as a people over how life in its vulnerability is to be cared for...
...The post-Webster period gives our society the opportunity to do precisely this...
...Today, the possibility exists to reshape the U.S.-Soviet relationship in a fashion which would dramatically transform the nuclear relationship...
...these were captured well by two legal scholars, John Noonan in 1973 and Mary Ann Glendon in 1989...
...The response has taken shape in the emergence of a national grassroots prolife/anti-abortion movement, committed to reversing Roe and Doe...
...In the words of McGeorge Bundy 's recent history, the cold war has been played out between "danger and survival...
...Two characteristics stand out: the radical nature of the original decisions, and their divisive impact on our national life...
...in the twentieth century, on unborn life of every color and nationality...
...Social and economic justice The consistent ethic joined the task of protecting life to that of promoting life...
...bishops' pastoral letters showed that it is possible to gain a hearing beyond the confines of the church...
...His judgment, that the results of the Roe and Doe decisions would isolate the United States in the way it addresses abortion, has now been confirmed in the detailed study of Professor Glendon, Abortion and Divorce in Western Law (Harvard...
...The radical character of the decision assured a profound and powerful social response...
...No Catholic can responsibly take a 'prochoice' stand when the 'choice' in question involves the taking of innocent human life...
...We can fail to consider the circumstances of conception-that it can be the result of coercion, ignorance, or abuse...
...Capital punishment The consistent ethic "s opposition to capital punishment is rooted in the conviction that an atmosphere of respect for life must pervade a society, and resort to capital punishment does not enhance this attitude...
...First, using the abortion question, the democratic process is the arena where we may be able to close the gap between the consequences of the Roe decision and the consistently expressed views of U.S...
...Another key post-Webster question is: By what civil law shall our society be guided...
...The consistent ethic must stand morally and socially against such a response...
...It allows the public debate to focus on what is being decided in an atmosphere dominated by the question, who decides...
...But the hope of the pastoral letter, radical reduction in the danger we have known and the possibility of a different political order in world affairs, is closer at hand than I would have ever guessed in 1983...
...The extent or kind of legal protection that can be achieved for unborn children is partly dependent on the degree of public consensus which can be built to sustain a legal norm...
...Sometimes public officials may be faced with a dilemma, for example, when they must decide whether to support a law which may not be in total accord with their moral convictions, but would nonetheless decrease the number of abortions...
...Abortion since 'Webster' Having looked at a number of questions which the consistent ethic addressed, I turn now to the abortion issue as it stands after the Supreme Court decision Webster v. Reproductive Health Services in July 1989...

Vol. 117 • April 1990 • No. 8


 
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