11.16.2008

Politics: The Catholic Church, Abortion & Voters

by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

“Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.”

This sounds a little too scatological for comfort, which might not be particularly surprising given the source, a Roman Catholic priest in Greenville, S.C., or the context of contemporary Catholicism in which all things down there seem irrevocably tainted. (Is “contemporary” a misnomer?) Nonetheless, this is how the Rev. Jay Scott Newman counseled the supporters of President-elect Barack Obama at St. Mary’s Catholic Church against taking a seat at the Lord’s table until they atone for the sin of voting for a candidate who lacks awareness that abortion “is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good.”

Hmmm, the greatest threat: abortion or, say, terrorists? Poignant decisions, stirrups, speculum, dilation and curettage, and suction, resulting in dead fetuses, versus religious schools nurturing new generations with a theology of superiority and hate, improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, rapes, suicide bombers, crippled economies and beheadings, resulting in dead non-combatants and military personnel.

Oops: Scratch that religious schools thing. It seems non-terrorists do that, too — check out some of your local Sunday schools and Bible camps. It makes one wonder at what point hate mongering oozes into terrorism.

Anyway, Newman’s homily suggests Obama, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, President George W. Bush, our national security and military leadership and, oh, every head of every developed nation on Earth are all wrong about the threat of terrorism. Seems we might have been misled lo these last seven years.

Perhaps, had the $864 billion budgeted since September 2001 for the U.S. military to fight a war on terror, been spent on family planning and education and birth control instead, we might have rid the United States of abortion, the “murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance.” (Odd, the good reverend sounds rather like one of those terrorist fellows, doesn’t he?)

Oh, oops again: The Catholic Church has a thing about birth control, and given the failure of the Bush administration’s abstinence only sex education, those billions might not have been an effective abortion deterrent. I suppose we could have bought mass quantities of chastity belts, but from the looks of them, most are not intended to forestall fornication. (Please, find your own link to that one.)

Despite his prayer for vengeance, Newman might have been correct when he declared the abortion debate a 30-year-old culture war, although he was off on the math.

Perhaps he’s too busy counting the expenses of dispensations to accurately subtract 1973 from 2008. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case established women’s rights to privacy and unlimited access to abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. The issue has indeed been a battle ever since, occasionally deadly, always bitter. Just this past election, voters in South Dakota defeated for the second time an effort to ban most abortions and create a case to overturn Roe v. Wade, and anti-abortion rights advocates must be mourning the McCain-Palin defeat as a lost opportunity to stack the Supreme Court even higher against Roe than Bush did. But the combatants in this conflict, for all their dedicated passion and prayer, could be blown away — literally — by the tangible commitment of a terrorist. So there’s a certain arrogance to Newman’s claim that abortion is the greatest threat to the United States and a danger to the common good.

I might be obnoxious — and arrogant — but I’m not a threat or a danger to anyone except the rodents that got to my heirloom tomatoes before I did. I have had an abortion and although it was frightening and sorrowful, it was my decision, my loss, my fear, my sorrow — not the government’s, not any organized religion’s, not those who constitute the common good. The thought of any such entity inserting itself in my most intimate quandaries makes me, well, gag — and I don’t expect anti-abortion advocates to understand that.

All of which is a long winded way of declaring my hope that Obama and the 111th Congress overturn Bush’s executive order extending the Global Gag Rule on abortion and appoint wise hearts and minds to our Supreme Court, minds and hearts who do not believe they belong in women’s bloomers.

We’re having enough trouble keeping the likes of Father Newman out of them, speaking figuratively, of course.

(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

(The photo is by Alexandra Lee of Cambridge, MA via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see the Catholic Diocese of Charleston's response and clarification to Father Newman's statements, please click here.)
















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