Biology, babies and morality

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When John F. Kennedy was elected, many Catholics rightly viewed it as a milestone in America’s acceptance of the Catholic faith. But that landmark was reached only after a long journey.

We all learned in school that the Puritans came to our shores to escape religious persecution in Europe. What many of us didn’t learn is that they promptly turned around and began to persecute those of any other faith. Like the Jews. And the Catholics. In most of colonial America, Catholics could not run for office and often could not vote. You couldn’t even settle in Massachusetts, Virginia, or Georgia if you were Catholic.

Then came the birth of our nation. Many Christian religious sects vied to become the official religion of our new country. But our nation’s founding fathers said  “no.” Thomas Paine, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and others insisted that this country would be different. All religions would be welcome, and none would be favored. They were called godless and worse because they refused to put “God” or “Jesus” into the constitution. But they prevailed.

And lest the Baptists and other Protestants think they escaped persecution — it was the Baptists of Danbury, Conn., who in 1801 desperately wrote then-President Jefferson asking for his help because they were being persecuted by the Congregationalists, who controlled their local government. In a letter quoting the first amendment, Jefferson wrote back that there would always be — you’ve heard the phrase — ”a wall of separation between Church and State.”

It took years for most of the religious persecution to end, and some persists to this day. JFK’s election was certainly an important moment in the life of the Catholic Church in America. My point is that the Catholic Church, like most religions, has both persecuted others and been persecuted. And Catholics, like those of other religions, owe their freedom to worship to our diverse religious tradition and secular government.

This letter is in response to Frank Splendoria’s letter to the Optic published Oct. 18.

Mr. Splendoria, you try to explain biology as if it proves your view on abortion. It does not. Every high school biology student knows that the sperm fertilizes the egg. But abortion is a moral question. Describing how fertilization occurs doesn’t prove anything about morality. You will not find the answer to a moral question like abortion or contraception in any biology textbook. People — and religions — answer these moral questions in different ways, but they must answer them for themselves without any help from the likes of you or the government.

And for the record, as just one of many examples of biology-based organizations that disagree with you, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more than 55,000 members nationwide who know a thing or two about the biology of human reproduction. They oppose any government intervention into women’s healthcare and they support improved access to effective contraception, emergency contraception for all women and the availability of safe, legal and accessible abortion services. And they have brought untold numbers of babies into the world. They are experts when it comes to biology and babies.

You seem to be incapable of understanding how people can disagree with you on a moral issue. You seem genuinely astonished that everyone doesn’t come to their senses and believe like you do once you tell them how the sperm fertilizes the egg.

Growing numbers of your own church love their church but ignore or reject the teachings of the church about abortion and birth control. (See catholicsforchoice.org as an example.) Even your new Pope has spoken on the issue:
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. … The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. ...We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” (And please don’t try to argue that I am quoting the Pope out of context. Anyone who wishes can search the full interview on americamagazine.org, the weekly magazine published by the Jesuits, and see for themselves.)

I’m also betting that many of your Catholic friends and relatives, especially women, don’t agree with you but avoid saying so because they don’t want to deal with you and your rigid beliefs.

You say you only want to express your opinion. Nonsense. You believe you are so morally superior that you and your ilk should control everyone else. In an editorial entitled “From God to Government” in the September, 2012, issue of the Catholic Diocese of Santa Fe publication “People of God,” you wrote: “…humans are naturally selfish and … rules must exist to maintain a civil society. Those rules are to be set and enforced by government. In summary, a secular, i.e. non-religious country requires more government control for its undisciplined, self-indulgent citizens who will not control themselves.”

A bit arrogant, don’t you think? Like you are some paragon of virtue, uniquely worthy to stand in judgement over the immoral masses since you have all the right answers. The recent sweeping vote in Albuquerque against an abortion ban was a demonstration that you and much of your church leadership are out of step with American values.

You have so little regard for your fellow citizens’, and especially women’s, ability to make personal, moral decisions about abortion and contraception that, like the Puritans of old, you have nominated yourself, your church, and the government to rule over the rest of us “undisciplined, self-indulgent citizens.”

Is that what you want your church to be known for? For judging and condemning others and trying to use the government to control everyone since they are clearly incapable of acting morally on their own? Is that the Gospel of Christ? The Good News? If so, that explains why people are fleeing the church.

Marshall Poole
Las Vegas