John Courtney Murray, S.J., is reputed to be the brains behind Vatican IIs Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), which essentially disavowed the Confessional State and endorsed the separation of Church and State. This is usually considered the most radical document of Vatican II, and theologians have debated whether it is a repudiation of previous Church teaching or a development of it, or something else.
Cruelly, just as the Church was endorsing freedom of conscience in society, along came the sexual (and drug) revolution pre-marital sex, extramarital sex, pornography, filthy and blasphemous speech, feminism, abortion, and homosexuality.
Fr. Murray was intent on teaching Catholics how to function in a pluralistic democratic society. Writing in America (Aug. 2-9, 2004), Fr. Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., an Assistant Professor at the Boston College Law School, draws on Murray to argue that Catholic politicians can be personally opposed to abortion while conscientiously adopting a position that does not favor restricting or outlawing legal abortion.
Kalscheur takes note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faiths Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life (Nov. 2002), quoting it as saying that Those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life.
Kalscheur responds: How a public official ought to go about doing that, however, is a more complicated question, especially given the state of American constitutional law regarding the abortion issue . In the United States abortion is a matter of constitutional right, not an action authorized by legislation. To a large extent, the Supreme Courts interpretation of the Constitution means that there is no need for legislation authorizing procured abortion; and any legislative efforts to reduce the incidence of abortion through statutory prohibition will face significant constitutional hurdles. (Of course Kalscheur doesnt mention that the Constitution can be amended and that since the Bill of Rights there have been 16 Amendments to the Constitution, including the abolition of slavery.)
You have two options:
- Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
- Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.
If you're already a subscriber log-in here.