Duluth, MN (OpEdNews) October 31, 2010 Abortion is a hot-button issue. As is well known, the Roman Catholic bishops in the United States have for years been inciting antiabortion anguish, based on their debatable moral reasoning about human life beginning at the moment of conception and their debatable claim that taking the life of the innocent fetus should not be permitted, even though abortion in the first trimester is legal. But the Catholics bishops are not satisfied to urge that no Catholic should have an abortion in the first trimester. No, the Catholic bishops urge that no non-Catholic should have an abortion in the first trimester, even though abortion in the first trimester is legal. But where do the Catholic bishops get off trying to urge that non-Catholics should not have abortions in the first trimester? In know, I know, it's a free country, and they should be allowed free speech, just as those who oppose them in the debate about abortion should.
Certain issues in the abortion debate were in sharp relief recently in Dallas. The conflict that emerged started when an announcement was issued at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, a private university. But about one-fifth of the undergraduate students there are Catholic. The announcement stated that the Maguire Public Scholar Lecture would be delivered on October 28, 2010, by the Reverend Charles Curran, Professor of Human Values at SMU and an ordained Roman Catholic priest whose home diocese is not the diocese of Dallas.
Before Curran joined the SMU faculty in 1991, he had been fired from the Catholic University of America because he had dissented from certain moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Curran recently wrote about those experiences in the "My Turn" column in NEWSWEEK magazine dated June 5, 2010. His one-page column titled "Banned by the Pope" shows that Curran is still unrepentant about what happened to him as the result of his dissent. Is he asking for trouble, or what?
Moreover, the announcement of his Maguire Public Scholar Lecture stated that he planned to criticize the Catholic bishops in the United States for claiming too much certitude for their position on abortion. Is he asking for trouble, or what?
The Irish-born bishop of Dallas, Kevin J. Farrell (no relation), issued a statement about the announcement. His statement in turn got the attention of the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER. As a result, NCRonline ran two stories by Tom Roberts about the conflict, one before the lecture scheduled for October 28th and the other after the lecture: "Fr. Charles Curran draws fire for SMU lecture" (Oct. 27) and "Curran: How bishops challenge abortion laws is "flawed'" (Oct. 29).
It may take a lot of interest out of this conflict to learn that Curran stopped well short of challenging Catholic teaching about abortion, as I myself would challenge it. He challenged only the certitude with which the Catholic bishops make their claims. Unfortunately, Dallas Bishop Farrell exemplified such certitude in the very statement that he issued.
Dallas Bishop Farrell's Statement
Nevertheless, the very terms in which the bishop framed his statement about the announcement are instructive to examine and show how unreasonable Dallas Bishop Farrell's position is. Here is the text of the bishop's statement as it was posted at the SMU Catholic Campus Ministry website (I've changed double quotation marks in the quoted text to single quotation marks, but I've made no other editorial changes):