Friday, April 18, 2008

Rosemary Radford Reuther vs. Bush / Benedict

Perhaps to provide "balance" to the generally positive commentary at the "Papal Discussions" blog, the New York Times felt compelled to roll out feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther:

For both Bush and Benedict XVI, sharp attacks on women’s reproductive rights, not only access to abortion, but also contraception and family planning, have been key aspects of what they regard as infusing and informing public policy by Catholic or Christian views. While America is in no immediate danger of losing its principles of freedom of religion, Americans should think carefully about how the attitudes of one religious tradition should shape public policy and inform American identity.
Must every attempt to protect the unborn be construed as the draconian imposition of religious dogma on nonbelievers? It's called the "natural law" tradition. Moral truths accessible to every human being, independent of divine revelation. Check out C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man for starters.

Or perhaps George Weigel (responding to similar arguments from self-styled "pro-choice Catholic" Senator Kerry):

"This is simply false. The Church's pro-life teaching is something that can be engaged seriously by anyone. You don't have to believe that there are seven sacraments to deal with this, you don't have to believe in the primacy of the bishop of Rome to engage this position. You don't even have to believe in God to engage this [pro-Life] position because it's a position rooted in basic embryology and in basic logic, and anybody can engage that."
A point Weigel discussed in detail in "Christian Conviction & Democratic Etiquette" First Things Issue 41, (March 1994): 28-35):
But how are we to make our case to those who do not share that prior religious commitment, or to those Christians whose churches do not provide clear moral counsel on this issue? And how do we do this in a political-cultural-legal climate in which individual autonomy has been virtually absolutized?

The answer is, we best make our case by insisting that our defense of the right to life of the unborn is a defense of civil rights and of a generous, hospitable American democracy. We best make our case by insisting that abortion-on-demand gravely damages the American democratic experiment by drastically constricting the community of the commonly protected. We best make our case by arguing that the private use of lethal violence against an innocent is an assault on the moral foundations of any just society. In short, we best make our case for maximum feasible legal protection of the unborn by deploying natural law arguments that translate our Christian moral convictions into a public idiom more powerful than the idiom of autonomy.