Catholic Bishops Celebrate a Great Victory: But As They Sow, They Will Reap

In 1974, the The Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, then president of the University of Notre Dame, warned Roman Catholics against ceding the abortion debate to “rude fanatics who have neither good judgment, nor procedural sophistication, nor the minimum of civility necessary for the rational discussion of disagreements in a pluralist democracy.”

This week, the “gross fanatics” won. The U.S. Catholic bishops are taking a victory lap over the decision. Four of the five justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade were conservative Catholics. (Chief Justice John Roberts, also a conservative Catholic, voted to uphold the Mississippi abortion ban at issue in the Dobbs case, but did not support Roe’s outright reversal. .)

The bishops lobbied for Roe’s overthrow for decades, and many of them were happy to ignore Donald Trump’s moral failings because he came out as anti-abortion. In his only term (at least so far), Trump, with the help of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, kept his promise and dumped the court with three eager conservative justices. to overturn 50 years of judicial precedent.

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Now these same church leaders are calling on Americans to unite and end the divisiveness. “Now is the time to heal wounds and mend social divisions,” the bishops said. wrote in a report. “[I]This is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and the resources she needs to bring her child into this world of love.”

What planet do they live on, to suggest that such a result is remotely plausible? Conflicts will simply devolve to the states. Indeed, a 2021 investigation by the National Catholic Reporter revealed that major anti-abortion groups were funding voter suppression efforts in key states, condoning Donald Trump’s Big Lie and pushing for future Republican victories. Doesn’t sound like “get together” to me.


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Worse still, banning abortion could be the first step towards a police state for pregnant women and anyone who can help them terminate a pregnancy. As The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino predictedpregnant women could possibly be monitored to ensure they do nothing to endanger an “unborn” child – and could be charged with murder if a miscarriage or stillbirth is mistaken for an abortion.

But women who want to get pregnant may also be at risk. Catholic Church sentenced in vitro fertilization (IVF) due to its doctrine that life begins at conception, being wary that some fertilized eggs might be discarded or used in medical research. If a the state decides to adopt the same position, what about infertile women and couples?

In their statement welcoming the Roe decision, the bishops commended anti-abortion activists for all the good they have done in supporting pregnant women over the years. But they might also consider all the money that has been wasted in this decades-long struggle and the moral compromises they have made along the way. Trump’s narrow election victory in 2016 was almost certainly powered by older white Catholics in swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan who listen to what the church is saying.

The bishops could also reflect on the fact that the so-called help that pregnant women received was clearly insufficient. The United States has the The highest maternal mortality rate among rich countries and also ranks poorly on infant mortalitywith rates much higher than those of other major Western countries such as France and the United Kingdom

But the Catholic hierarchy’s obsession with abortion had other pernicious side effects. During the pandemic, the bishops picky on the extremely distant connection between abortion procedures and the development of life-saving COVID vaccines meant that the American church did not wholeheartedly endorse Pope Francis’ view of vaccination as moral obligation.

How many hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated Americans have died because of these strange misgivings about abortion? On the planet of the bishops, only the “unborn” innocents have a real right to life. The rest of us must adapt to the dictates of what increasingly looks like a doctrinaire Supreme Court dominated by ultra-conservative Catholics.

Learn more about the Supreme Court and the fall of Roe v Wade:

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