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Rodney Olsen

Thank you for all the work you've put into this week's carnival and thanks for the very kind words.

Martin LaBar

Thanks for doing this. You have displayed some thoughtful attention to detail in this post.

Stephen (aka Q)

There are also cases in which nuns have been raped and the church has supplied them with abortion-inducing pills. In these cases, abortion was permitted in the interest of preserving a greater good (the possibility of a priest or a nun to carry on with their vocation). Those who justify abortion often reason along similar lines, except that the vocation that is being preserved is not defined by canon law.

I'm not Roman Catholic, but I believe the Catholic Church regards abortion as intrinsically evil. Consequently, it is not possible to justify abortion on the grounds that it leads to a greater good. See the papal encyclical Veritatis splendor:

"Intrinsic evil: it is not licit to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom 3:8)." (heading preceding paragraph 79)

The people in the instances you cite appear to have acted contrary to canon law.

By the way, the Catholic Church uses the same logic with respect to torture: the end never justifies the means. Abortion and torture are both identified as intrinsically evil in paragraph 80 of the encyclical.


Hi Stephen,

well, that's not always how it works in practice. I saw it with my own eyes. Here's a brief article which, if you read between the lines a bit, will give you a sense of how things play:

Raped nuns in Bosnia raise abortion issue
Peter Hebblethwaite

OXFORD, England -- Catholic religious women in Bosnia have shared the fate of their Muslim sisters and been raped as a deliberate act of policy. The issue of what happens if they become pregnant has been raised by a Franciscan priest from Reggio Emilia, Father Aldo Bergameschi.

"How can one reconcile," he asked, "Pope John Paul's exhortation to Bosnian women not to have abortions, with the fact that in the recent past the church allowed abortions in the case of nuns who have been raped?"

Bergameschi was thinking of the precedent of the Simba revolt in the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. But perhaps he has confused abortion after rape with the right to go on the pill in anticipation of rape. This was defended at the time in the name of the principle that everyone "has the right to repel an unjust -- and unwanted -- aggressor."

A former consulter of the Holy Office, who asked not to be named, has confirmed that "those who are not faced by a genuine conjugal act, which of its nature should be open to the transmission of life, may use the pill in advance or may get rid of the semen in the hours immediately after the act of violence." That is the "liberal" view among moralists.

It was rejected by Monsignor Pietro Pennachini, the new deputy director of the Vatican press office, who observed that "there are no official Vatican documents on this question."

"Maybe not," said Father Efrem Tresoldi, editor of the missionary magazine Nigrizia, "yet there are cases of sisters who were advised to take the pill. I don't know how many there were, but it is no mystery that it happened."

In ex-Yugoslavia is one documented case of two novices being raped by Serbian irregulars in the Banja Luka diocese in Bosnia. The Vatican advice was that they could leave the convent and have their children, or hand them over for adoption.

COPYRIGHT 1993 National Catholic Reporter


Thank you for the kind words - and all the work. The tying of the posts to other outside resources was very nice.

I am not sure whether I didn't ask the hard questions - or didn't know them :-). Herrick's piece was nice because rather than bash the historical critical method - which is normal in conservative circles - he tried to make a useful tool out of it by stripping away it's some of the antisupernatural bias of some of its practitioners.

I always hope to "raise up the ire" of some folks on the various sides so they will raise, and answer, the hard questions. [scholars take note]

It's how I massage those cramps.

Jeremy Pierce

The point isn't whether Catholicism has within it cases of abortion. (It does seem to.) It also isn't whether that conflicts with canon law. (I think it clearly does.) The issue is that the justification being given (even if thoroughly inadequate) doesn't involve pretending the fetus doesn't have moral status. It involves treating some other issue as morally more important. Many cases of abortion are like that, and you don't have to look within Roman Catholicism to see that. There are lots of people who think there's a strong moral presumption against having an abortion but that sometimes other considerations win out. Most pro-lifers think so if they think abortion is ok to save the life of the mother. It's just that pro-choicers add in lots of other kinds of cases too.



Thanks for the honorable mention. Or was it dishonorable mention?


Jennifer in OR

Thank you for hosting! I'll browse about a bit. You have a very interesting site...



Ditto everything you said. Ethical thinking and the choices that follow are like that: absolute either/or's are unusual. A "strong" and even "very strong" moral presumption against doing something, abortion, torture, war, and divorce, for example, is not the same thing as saying "never ever."



that was an honorable mention. I grew up on Stephen Jay Gould and have never had an anti-evolutionist bone in my body - that doesn't mean, of course, that the theory is free from the need of revision in the light of current or as yet uncovered evidence.

Jeremy Pierce

Right, but even so it may be that in these cases the judgment of some other concern as morally more important happens to be a false judgment. That certainly happens even if sometimes other considerations might win out.


When I was in college in the stone age early 80's the chaplain of my fraternity tried to reach out to me, a secular humanist at the time, by scratching my intellectual itches. I had asked him how "born-again christians" justified their pro-war,xenophobic, homophobic,mysoginistic points of view "in the name of God" (remember, I was not convinced that God existed at that time). He said that some of their ignorance was not even their own fault. He told me that in ancient languages like Hebrew, often verbs or adjectives could be interchanged for a more or less formal usage in context. He told me that the proverb "Respect of the Lord is wise" does not ring the same to an ignorant American as much as the more visceral "Fear of the Lord is wise", but in the original language, the terms respect and fear were pretty much equal. This didn't sink in totally until I saw the movie version of John Grisham's "A Time To Kill" when one of the local ne'er-do-wells began talking about the need for some "good, God-fearing klan" to solve a racially charged murder trial. Is this possible? Could this subtle variance of a descriptive word really have led to so much hatred and heartache over the centuries? I'd really like to learn more about this. BTW, today I am a very liberal Catholic(not many of them left)trying to instill intellectual curiosity into my beautiful 7 yr old son every time he hears a new phrase. Any comment, direction to a learning resource or just good old open discussion would be quite welcome.



I think that part of the problem is that very liberal Christians have painted themselves into a corner.

Note that Obama, a convert to Christianity, a bona fide liberal, is nevertheless pro-war and homophobic in the eyes of vocal very liberal people. This despite the fact that Obama is a typical product in the best sense of the word, of a liberal American subculture.

It might be the case that *non* very liberal people have reasons for not thinking that the key issues of the day revolve around an end to the projection of US force around the world, the right of GLBT people to marry, affirmative action, and things like that.

Many of us who are not "very liberal" but not "very conservative" either, think that there are a great number of dimensions of human life very liberal and very conservative people seem hardly to notice. The balance of the Jewish and Christian traditions in this sense is appealing to us.

Down through the ages believers (in Eric Hoffer's sense) have shown themselves capable of accomplishing both great humanity and great inhumanity in the name of their beliefs. Every Christian, for example, will gain insight into Christianity's typical failures from the chapter in Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky entitled "The Grand Inquisitor."

I think it is very important to keep these things in mind. On the other hand, political ideologies which proclaim their independence from Judaism and Christianity, fascism, communism, social democracy, capitalism, have been responsible for far greater inhumanities in the couple of centuries in which they have stalked the earth than traditional religions were able to do when they dominated. This too is food for thought.

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