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October 5, 2012


Response to Gerry Catapang, "Catholic Lesson: abortion is murder" Springfield News-Leader, Wednesday 9/19/2012. A shorter version of this response appeared in the Springfield News-Leader on November 5, 2012 under the title "Our Nation is Secular; get over it."

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Mr. Catapang, thank you for your opinion, which mirrors the official view of the Roman Catholic Church. You must understand, however, that America is not a state governed by religious dogma--a matter which no doubt must irritate the heirachy of the Catholic Church in America. America is not even a Christian nation, a matter that also irritates conservative Christians of all stripes. Life would be more tolerable for all Christian ideologues if America were a Christian nation, though all the various Christian groups would then argue for their own particular brand of Christianity, and we would, no doubt, eventually descend into the religious wars that plagued Europe for many years.

     America is a secular nation--yes, that's right, SECULAR. And therefore the rule of law must accommodate the views of all religions and non-religions in the country as much as possible. This means that we live in a country of conflicting ideologies, many of which rankle Catholics and others. Not every partisan religious idea can become the law of the land without impacting negatively on other religions. In our American past some laws have been religiously partisan, but we have gradually been growing out of our tendency to establish a theocracy in America--at least most of us have. Today, all of us must learn to live with the ambiguity of wanting to live in the Kingdom of God, while living in a secular state. Our laws are "man's laws,'" imperfect and flawed, sometimes even unconscionable, unjust, and unfair. Given a little time and a little enlightenment, however, we sometimes manage to correct the most egregious laws. Abolishing slavery and getting rid of Jim crow laws come to mind.

     Neither your version of religion, nor mine, nor the many other competing versions of religion, Christian and non-Christian alike, in our nation should control the state, or even influence the state to adopt our partisan views. To do so would make a secular state into a religious state, something the framers of the constitution clearly wished to avoid. Human welfare of the broadest segment of the population must be the basis for law in a secular state--not partisan perception of God's laws.

     There is not one single verse in Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish Bibles that specifically addresses the issue of abortion. The Didache is not in anyone's Bible! All the other verses you cite must be made to apply to abortion by how the argument is framed in the modern debate. You too easily dismiss the issues of rape, and a woman's control over her own body (both of which should be of vital interest in a secular state) with a specious argument about the homeless. Of course you may not kill the homeless! Why raise the question? It is a ridiculous parallel. A fetus that is dependent on the mother for survival is quite different from a human being living independently. I should have expected that you would know that. Fortunately the Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision is a fair law that considers the rights of both the fetus and the mother, which your view does not do. Relying on the Roe vs. Wade decision as the law of the land does not bring in the kingdom of God, but let's be honest, neither would your view.

     Since you insist on name-calling, let me say: If abortion is murder, then your view is misogyny (hatred of women!).

     See Hedrick (October 20, 2008): "(Mis) using the Bible in Anti-Abortionist Arguments":

Charles W. Hedrick
On my ipad, from Karpathos Greece

Posted by Charles Hedrick at 8:35am

Thanks so much for saying this, Prof. Hedrick!
Gloria Doan
Posted by Gloria Doan on 10/8/2012 at 2:29pm

Excellent, Charlie. You and I were reared with a strong belief in separation of church and state, which at that time was not a conservative vs. liberal issue but a fundamental tenet of religious and political freedom.
Posted by Martha on 10/8/2012 at 11:09am