American Catholic Bishops and Abortion: Gary Wills’ New York Times Op-Ed

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Pope Francis meets with bishops, priests, seminarians and catechists at the Syrian-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, Iraq on March 5, 2021. (Vatican Media / Document via Reuters)

So today we learned that no one at New York Times the opinion section cares enough about Gary Wills’ reputation to politely decline his short attack on the American Catholic bishops who took their first hesitant steps towards suggesting that it might be possible to deny pro-abortion politicians access to Holy Communion. Instead, they released it.

I have my own critiques of these bishops, more from the other side, but it’s amazing how weak the arguments Wills brings with him are.

He explicitly cites the absence of condemnation of abortion in the Gospels or the New Testament. It can impress people who cannot read the scriptures. And I guess Wills knows that’s his target audience. Wills knows – or should know – that none of the gospels, or of Paul’s letters, were written to contain a full catechesis on every moral issue. Early Christian documents that tried to provide instruction on these issues, like the Didache, prohibited abortion. While it is quite true that the early Church Fathers lacked modern knowledge of fetal development, they too condemned abortion. Even St. Thomas Aquinas – who gets derisory mention in Wills’ article – banned abortion despite having in his mind a complex and mistaken idea of ​​fetal development as involving the transition from the vegetative state to the animal state. What they all assumed and knew – what laws dealing with the murder of pregnant women in Scripture and much of the world assumed and knew – is that willfully causing the death of an unborn child was immoral and criminal. Ancient people could understand the difference between abortion, miscarriage, and onanism – but Wills claims that is beyond him.

He writes:

Religious opponents of abortion believe that the human person actually predates the Aristotelian scheme, dating them from “conception” (when the sperm fertilizes the egg). [T]Catholic theologian Bernard Häring points out that at least half of fertilized eggs do not reach “implantation” – adhesion to the womb – making nature and the God of nature guilty of a greater “holocaust” “unborn babies than abortion represents, if the ovum is a” baby. “

I don’t know what putting this fact in the mouth of a theologian does to make it better. It’s not just religious opponents, but most abortion opponents say that a unique human life is created at conception. The proof lies in the unique structure of the DNA that is present. The unique human DNA that is currently in Gary Wills’ body, shortly before he shed his deadly envelope, became present on earth the day he was conceived. As for the farewell blow to nature and the god of nature, it would be strange for Gary Wills to cite the very high infant mortality rates that existed until just a few decades before his own birth as a license to strangle children. in their cradle.

After mocking prose about cults and the like, Wills writes:

Opponents of abortion who call themselves “pro-life” sanctify all human life, even pre-implantation eggs. But my clipped fingernails or clipped hair is a human life. It is not dog hair. The cult of the fetus goes even further down the road of nonsense.

None of this is true. All that is sacred is our duty not to deliberately cause the death of any human life. When one of Wills’ nail clippings or cropped hair grows up to walk and talk, be heartbroken, or conceive a grandchild for Wills, then we should immediately start a debate on how to protect those clippings and trimmings. place. In conclusion, Wills writes that

the Catholic Church no longer claims that opposition to abortion is scriptural. It is not a religious question. This is called a matter of natural law, which should be discernible by natural reason. Yet like the Catholic judge John T. Noonan said, the most recognized experts in natural law, in universities, human rights organizations, medical and psychological bodies, do not generally oppose abortion. Neither, according to polls, make a majority of American citizens, even Catholics. Some women in my own extended family have had abortions and still consider themselves Catholics. President Biden appears to be on their side, as is Pope Francis. This, of course, does not affect American bishops. They hate this Pope and this President anyway.

Well. If only Wills were there in Galilee to inform Our Lord of the majority views of the scribes, Pharisees and other experts in society. Wills claims that the current Catholic bishops hate the current Pope. I guess if you gave him enough, Wills would be volcanic about Francis’ failure to ultimately anathematize and humiliate the conservative Catholics he despises.

Wills has long relied on his reputation as a former Catholic. Writing the above editorial shows that he is a man who no longer respects his readers or himself. Wills was a mistake. William F. Buckley Jr’s, I mean, not his poor mother’s.


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