Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Abortion in Jewish and Catholic Law -- a plug for my column

Posted By Sherry F. Colb

Because I already have a post up for today (about the "slaughter" of plants and veganism), I will just take this opportunity to encourage people to read my column on FindLaw, which appears here, addressing some differences between Jewish and Catholic law on abortion and how those differences might help inform our thinking about reproductive rights.


Bob Hockett said...

Very nice column, Sherry,

Many thanks. It's very good to be reminded that there is no monolithic 'religious' position on abortion. One thing perhaps worth adding here as a footnote is that even within traditions and denominations there is often far from anything monolithic. The Catholic tradition, for example (though this is sometimes regrettably forgotten by many self-styled 'conservatives' and members of the hierarchy) recognizes emergent shared views within the laity as sources of authoritative Catholic insight (a sort of 'commonlaw of the spirit, perhaps). Combine that fact with the fact that an overwhelming majority of lay Catholics appear to hold a more nuanced view of the morality of abortion rather like that which you identify in Jewish tradition, and you get a rather nice zone of convergence between those who to my thinking at least are the more sane and humane adherents to the traditions.

Thanks again,

Sam Rickless said...

Yes, a very nice column. I completely agree. It might be added that the Catholic doctrine that human "life" begins at conception is of relatively recent vintage. I believe that this doctrine originates in the mid-19th century. Before that point, the Catholic view was that the point of ensoulment occurs sometime during the pregnancy (but not at conception). I believe that, for Aquinas, for example, a *male* fetus acquires a soul at 40 days, while a *female* fetus acquires a soul at 70 (or so) days.

Bob Hockett said...

Sam's nice observation reminds me of another interesting development in Catholic doctrine during the 19th Century -- namely, the promulgation of the 'papal infallibility' doctrine during the First Vatican Council. That event led to separation from Rome on the part of a number of what now are called 'Old Catholic' (from the Swiss-German 'altkatholisch') churches. Many of these sub-denominations maintain what to my mind are beautifully humble, loving, gentle, and understanding orientations toward the world and its inhabitants -- human and non. In the view of many, the 19th Century wasn't an altogether salutary one in the hierarchy's history, though in fairness there was a nice encyclical on labor rights toward its end.

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