The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Dr. Curran failed to adequately negate Catholic teaching on abortion

You can’t be Catholic and Pro-Choice.

Catholic SMU Professor Charles Curran  would cringe at that bumper sticker, and he tried to refute it in his recent talk entitled “The U.S. Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique from within the Church.” Dr. Curran rejected that banning abortion is a doctrinal absolute under Catholic moral theology, and instead viewed abortion like adultery or lying—wrong, but not meant for legal prohibition.

Through a scattershot of arguments, Dr. Curran tried to unite the pro-choice position with Catholic teaching, but even if those arguments were valid, he still could not bridge the void between being pro-choice and Catholic.

Not all wrong acts under Catholic morality should be legally prohibited. The Church does not seek a ban on lying, contraception or even adultery. Church teaching is obviously not pro-adultery, but it is pro-choice on adultery. Legally, people have the choice to commit adultery even though the Church condemns it as a sin.  But “pro-choice” cannot be society’s entire approach; some acts require government prohibition. Dr. Curran admits this, and rejects the pro-choice stance on murder, capital punishment and torture.  Abortion, however, is on the pro-choice side, according to Dr. Curran.

Dr. Curran offered no specific argument on why abortion should be in the pro-choice category, alongside lying and adultery, as opposed to the no-choice category of murder and torture. He attempted to show uncertainty in the Church position on abortion, but his arguments were flawed and misdirected. 

He stated that the Church does not agree on when the soul enters the human, citing Aquinas and an encyclical by Pope John Paul II.

Apart from a tenuous misreading of the encyclical, which states only that the soul’s presence “cannot be ascertained by empirical data,” Dr. Curran’s argument cannot object that the Church has always opposed abortion from the moment of conception.  Dr. Curran admitted the Church’s consistent stance, and even supported it by not disputing the metaphor that killing a fetus when unsure if it yet has a soul is like a hunter shooting at a rustling bush without first checking that it is a deer and not a person.  Under Catholic morality abortion has never been a choice, because murder is not a choice.

Dr. Curran moved on to argue that voting for a pro-life candidate may not be the best way to stop abortions, as a pro-choice politician’s social programs may actually stop more abortions.  Even if that premise is valid, the argument is primarily a debate on economic policy and does not alter whether the Catholic position on abortion can be pro-choice.

Finally, Dr. Curran argued that abortion bans are not justified by abortion being intrinsically evil, for adultery is also considered intrinsically evil but is not banned.  Unfortunately, this argument says nothing about whether abortion should be in the pro-choice category or the no-choice category.  Intrinsically evil acts like murder and adultery are not equal, but rather sit on a spectrum from pro-choice to no-choice.      

The debate among pro-choice and pro-life Catholics is where to draw the line between what should be legally banned and what should be left to the confessional.  It is far more compassionate, far more careful and far more reasonable to put abortion in the no-choice category with murder. If torture and capital punishment are in the no-choice category, as Dr. Curran believes, then abortion should clearly be included. Abortion procedures are gruesome torture to the fetus, and capital punishment victims at least get a full trial to plead for life.

Abortion should remain the primary focus of the U.S. Catholic Bishops because no other act kills 3,700 people per day. Even if Dr. Curran sees only 3,700 rustling bushes, he still cannot justify shooting.

Bennett Rawicki is a candidate for juris doctor at Dedman School of Law. He can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].

 

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