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Thu Nov 13, 2014, 10:35 AM

The Catholic Church Started the Culture Wars -- Now Can They End Them?


This week, the U.S. Catholic bishops are gathering in Baltimore for their semi-annual meeting. It's the first gathering of the U.S. prelates since the Catholic Church's rocky Extraordinary Synod on the Family and a chance for the bishops to demonstrate that they have heard Pope Francis' calls for a more inclusive church that's more concerned with the pastoral than with the rulebook.

Note: By "inclusive" they evidently mean "still teaching that any relationship outside a heterosexual marriage is sinful and wrong."

It was, after all, the Catholic bishops who created the "right-to-life" movement in the first place, back when most American weren't even paying attention to the abortion issue, as I detail in my book Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church. In the mid-1960s, abortion wasn't a major political issue. It was regulated by the states, most of which banned it except to save a woman's life. But public health officials, doctors and some legislators began pushing to make abortion more widely available because some 1 million illegal procedures were being performed every year. The gynecological wards of many city's hospitals were filled with women suffering from botched procedures -- some 10,000 in New York City alone in 1967 -- and only women who were rich or well-connected could get legal abortions, even in cases of rape or fetal deformity.

But the Catholic bishops, who considered sexual morality their special purview, decided to make preventing any liberalization of abortion law the main cause of their newly formed National Conference of Catholic Bishops. When California considered a bill to liberalize abortion access, the Dioceses of Los Angeles hired the same political consulting firm that got Ronald Reagan elected governor of California to beat back the bill. The bishops' consulting firm created the first grassroots "right-to-life" group to lobby against the bill.


Four years after the Moral Majority got Ronald Reagan elected, when Walter Mondale attempted to unseat him, the Catholic bishops returned to abortion politicking. New York Archbishop John O'Connor declared that a Catholic "in good conscience cannot vote for a candidate who explicitly supports abortion." When Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, hoping to draw Catholics back to the Democratic Party, O'Connor attacked her for supporting abortion rights. He accused Ferraro of misrepresenting Catholic teaching on abortion because she had signed a cover letter for a briefing by the organization Catholics for a Free Choice asserting that there was a plurality of Catholic opinion and teaching on the morality of abortion.

Really interesting article just for the information about the history of the anti-choice movement.

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