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O Father Reese, Ye of Little Faith

Why is it the Washington Post always turns to dissidents to give the Catholic viewpoint? Today’s edition offers this essay by Fr. Thomas J. Reese, SJ. You may remember Fr. Reese was pressured to resign as editor of America magazine because of concerns about his faithfulness to Catholic teaching. In any case, Fr. Reese’s current comments about Roe v Wade just made me sick:

Support for keeping abortion legal in all or most cases has fluctuated between 49% and 61% while support for making abortion illegal in all or most cases has fluctuated between 36% and 48%. Currently the numbers are 54% for keeping it legal; 41% for making it illegal. Neither side is convincing the other.

Opponents of abortion argue that morality is not based on public opinion. That is true, but law is often based on public opinion. Certainly laws cannot be enforced without the support of public opinion. The inability of the United States successfully to enforce laws against illegal immigration, drugs, prostitution and gambling shows how difficult it is to enforce laws that significant numbers of citizens, even a significant minority, do not support.

In many countries where abortion is illegal, the laws are simply ignored. For example, in Argentina abortion is against the law but state hospitals perform abortions and the state pays for them. They have a much more flexible attitude toward law than Americans do. We believe laws should be enforced.

For years, Republicans have been courting the pro-life public by arguing that the Supreme Court is only one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade. Vote for a Republican president, they say, and he will appoint pro-life justices. In fact, Republican presidents have appointed a majority of the justices since 1973 and the decision is still in place. The reluctance of justices to reverse earlier decisions (stare decisis) makes the hurdle very high even for a conservative justice.

Let me be clear. I think Roe v. Wade was a bad decision. It was bad law. It was a classic case of judicial activism. At the same time, to think that reversing Roe v. Wade will solve the abortion problem is naive. It will simply return the issue to the states and most states will keep abortion legal. And in states where abortion is made illegal, those seeking abortions will simply drive to another state.

What Fr. Reese seems to forget is that we have a moral obligation to be a voice for the unborn and all those who are vulnerable. It is not just a matter of reducing the number of abortions. It is taking a stand that abortion is an intrinsic evil and cannot be supported in any way, shape or form. To say that not enough people agree with us to make our stand efficacious is cowardly. With God, all things are possible. I am glad the Apostles did not have such a defeatist attitude.

UPDATE: Please see this post for more thought on this.


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