Ruling prompts reflections on women, men and love

The recent decision by five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart, upholding a statute passed by Congress to ban partial birth abortions, provoked a furious dissent by the four other members of the court, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Justice Ginsberg was upset that the majority opinion, issued by Justice Anthony Kennedy, not only upheld the ban, but also had the temerity to use such terms as “mother,” “unborn child,” and “baby.”

Particularly galling to Justice Ginsberg was the majority’s reference to the “bond of love the mother has for her child.” This characterization was rooted, Justice Ginsberg argued, in “notions of women’s place in the family” that supposedly have been “long since discredited.” Women should not be “regarded as the center of the home and family life” because that would preclude their “full and independent legal status under the Constitution,” as if motherhood and full citizenship were mutually exclusive.

For women to “control [their own] destiny,” wrote Justice Ginsburg, the state must give them the same freedom as men to disregard their parental bonds. During pregnancy, this freedom can only be actualized through the destruction of life in the womb by means that even Justice Ginsburg admitted were “brutal” and “gruesome.”

A woman’s “full potential” lies in her equal participation in the “economic and social life of the nation,” Justice Ginsberg asserted. Thus, according to this perspective, a woman’s unique ability to become a mother and, more significantly, any motherly feelings of moral anguish she might have about abortion, must be counted as impediments to and not attributes of her full humanity.

As a logical conclusion from this line of thinking, these maternal characteristics serve only to inhibit a woman from accepting the price needed to pursue the really important socioeconomic work found outside the home, and thus they make her unequal to men. Abortion is being sold, then, as the great equalizer between men and women.

For Justice Ginsburg, at stake here is “a woman’s autonomy to control her life’s course, and thus enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Let me share a story that I heard a while back that provides a different account of what is at stake.

Fifty years ago this coming October, just a day before the Russians launched into orbit a beeping metal ball with spindles, a doctor delivered a baby and discovered some serious problems. The infant had a cleft palate and other facial malformations, caused by a deficiency of folic acid in the mother’s system.

The doctor took aside the child’s father and warned him. The doctor recommended putting the child in an institution. The doctor believed that the facial disfigurements indicated an underlying mental disability. The child probably would experience abnormal development.

The father asked that the mother and he see the baby. The doctor demurred, saying that the emotional trauma would be too great. Besides, it would be more difficult to send the child away if a bond developed between mother and child.

The father spoke with the mother and she insisted that the child be brought in. The doctor relented and the baby was placed in the mother’s arms. She looked down at the infant and started to cry. The doctor turned to a nurse and said something like “See, I knew it would be too devastating for her to see the child.”

The mother explained later that she did not start crying because of any trauma on her part from witnessing the child’s disfigurement. No, she cried because she thought of the pain that the infant would experience in life as a result of the disabilities.

That very day the infant heard for the first time the Gospel of Life, communicated in the quiet sobs of a mother and echoed in a father’s commitment, both bonded in love to a child with a claim on their autonomy.

Both father and mother knew that the infant’s place was with them, and brought the child home. She had to give up her job as a nurse, a job she loved, to care for this child along with the five other children already at home. The infant required several hospitalizations but grew into an adulthood quite different from the one predicted by the doctor.

The teller of this story was one of my sisters, the father and mother were my own, and the child was me. The story was shared a year or so after my mother’s death, when I was in my 20s. I had not heard it before.

Women are equal to men but they are not identical. The essential difference, according to John Paul II, has something to do with men having the gift of being able to give of themselves in a receiving way and women receiving in a giving way. As Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized, human fulfillment lies ultimately not in the “economic and social life of the nation” but in love, shaped by the very form of the male or female soul.

At stake in the battle over abortion is the meaning of humanity itself. Can we learn to live in a way faithful to the dignity of every human being and open to the two different ways of being and loving as human? A mother loves as only a mother can--a father loves as only a father can. From the complementary nature of my parents’ sacrifice, I as their child continue to learn where my true fulfillment rests.

Daniel Avila is the Associate Director of Policy & Research of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...