(Article changed on June 18, 2013 at 12:23)
(Article changed on June 16, 2013 at 15:54)
Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) June 16, 2013: In the issue of Commonweal Magazine dated June 14, 2016, Peter Steinfels, a practicing Catholic, has published a thoughtful critique of the Roman Catholic anti-abortion crusade titled "Beyond the Stalemate: Forty Years after "Roe'" (pages 12-18). Commonweal Magazine is a magazine of opinion edited by lay Catholics. It features articles of opinion about a wide range of public issues. The abortion debate in the
Peter Steinfels, who grew up as a Roman Catholic in
In "Beyond the Stalemate" Dr. Steinfels writes as a practicing Catholic about the Catholic anti-abortion crusade in the
Digression: Because Rob Kall of OpEdNews.com likes to work with the imagery of top-down and bottom-up, I would say that the Roman Catholic bishops today world-wide are opposed to both top-down change and to bottom-up change. In short, they are opposed to change -- period. Evidently, the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church (1962-1965) introduced all the change that the current crop of Catholic bishops today can tolerate. However, in principle, the bishops favor a top-down organizational and command structure. From their point of view, the only possible acceptable change would have to come from the top down. Basically, this is what is meant when the Roman Catholic Church is described as a hierarchical structure. Most Americans understand this much, even if they are not Catholics. But many non-Catholics may not understand just how extensive the grassroots structure of the Roman Catholic Church in the
Digression: In general, cultural and political conservatives in the
Now, as I say, I have been trained in Catholic theological thought, including Catholic moral theology. As a result, I noticed that Dr. Steinfels does not explicitly mention the terms "theology" or "moral theology" or "Catholic moral theology."
To be sure, Dr. Steinfels explicitly mentions the papal encyclical letter known by its Latin title as "Humanae vitae." This encyclical letter was issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968. In it, he re-affirmed an earlier papal teaching against artificial birth control (also known as artificial contraception). His basic argument against artificial birth control is that it closes off sexual intercourse from the possible act of procreation that he sees as the act of God. Thus he sees the natural course of procreation as the act of God. God is the God of nature, so the natural course of procreation is the act of God.
Now, most Americans know that the Catholic bishops in the
Now, in "Beyond the Stalemate" Dr. Steinfels says that he has "concluded that the hierarchy's continuing condemnation [of artificial contraception] was a tragic and self-destructive error" (page 13). However, because his main focus in the article is on the abortion debate, he does not explain what he considers the error to be.
Digression: Starting in the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic bishops have claimed that the pope could make infallible judgments regarding matters of faith and morals. However, in the customary conventions of the
But is it significant for the abortion debate that Dr. Steinfels does not explain what he considers the error in the pope's reasoning about birth control to be? Yes, I think it is.
The Roman Catholic bishops and their priests have used the moment of conception as the key biological marker in their argument against legalized abortion in the first trimester.
But the expression "moment of conception" should alert us in to see the connection with Pope Paul VI's reasoning about not artificially blocking possible conception.
Therefore, if Dr. Steinfels and others today want to argue against the Catholic bishops' use of the biological marker of the moment of conception, they will have to also be prepared to argue against the basic reasoning of Pope Pius VI against artificial birth control.