Georgetown law student Daniel Hughes, who threatened the GULC administration that he was going to go to Catholic church higher-ups if they continued to allow students to work at pro-choice organizations, is reportedly an openly gay man who sits on the board of OutLaw, the Georgetown Law LGBT organization.
One certainly does not have to be pro-choice just because one is gay. But if your reason for being anti-choice is because of religious doctrine, then it might be worth looking at what that religious doctrine says about you before you go around throwing stones. It’s relatively clear, though, that Dan isn’t as much concerned with following religion than he is with cherry-picking issues which result in the oppression of other people:
“I don’t think Georgetown needs to enact Catholic doctrine on every issue — that wouldn’t be desirable,” he said. “But the most bedrock Catholic teaching is the protection of life. No advocacy group that works against that principle should be supported by the university.”
Hughes said he doesn’t understand the complaints. Students, he said, need to realize that there are tradeoffs to coming to a Jesuit institution, such as the fact that some alumni donate because they support certain beliefs associated with the church.
Well, were Georgetown to enact Catholic doctrine on every issue, Dan would be in a spot of trouble, no? And I wonder how those alumni who support “certain beliefs associated with the church” would feel about groups like OutLaw? Or Georgetown offering funding for students who work at organizations like Lambda Legal Defense?
Hughes argues that “protection of life” is the most bedrock Catholic teaching, which may very well be true. But “protection of life” has not always had to do with fetuses and zygotes, given that the Church didn’t take a stand on contraception or abortion for much of its existence. But way, way back, Christian leaders did loudly argue that the only acceptable sex was for procreative purposes between two married people, even if the Bible doesn’t mention a whole lot about that (kind of how the Bible never prohibits abortion). While the history of abortion in Christianity is pretty mixed, even St. Augustine did not consider abortion to be murder — and for a good period of time, the sins of oral and anal sex were punished more heavily than abortion. According to one source:
Pope Stephen V (served 885-891) wrote in 887 CE: “If he who destroys what is conceived in the womb by abortion is a murderer, how much more is he unable to excuse himself of murder who kills a child even one day old.” “Epistle to Archbishop of Mainz.”
Pope Innocent III (?-1216) wrote a letter which ruled on a case of a Carthusian monk who had arranged for his female lover to obtain an abortion. The Pope decided that the monk was not guilty of homicide if the fetus was not “animated.”
Early in the 13th century, Pope Innocent III stated that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of “quickening” – when the woman first feels movement of the fetus. After ensoulment, abortion was equated with murder; before that time, it was a less serious sin, because it terminated only potential human life, not human life.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also considered only the abortion of an “animated” fetus as murder.
Pope Sixtus V issued a Papal bull “Effraenatam” in 1588 which threatened those who carried out abortions at any stage of gestation with excommunication and the death penalty. Pope Gregory XIV revoked the Papal bull shortly after taking office in 1591. He reinstated the “quickening” test, which he said happened 116 days into pregnancy (16½ weeks).
There’s no question that the Catholic church is currently opposed to abortion and birth control. But to argue that opposition to abortion has been more “foundational” to the Church than opposition to homosexuality is just factually inaccurate. I happen to disagree (strongly) with the Church on both counts. But if Georgetown law students are making attempts to de-fund their classmates under the guise of religious requirements, perhaps they should take a good hard look at all of those religious requirements, and ask themselves if they really want to study law at a place that imposes the whole range of Catholic doctrine.
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