Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion

Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion

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The Catholic church has always opposed abortion, but - contrary to popular belief - not always for the same reasons. This tightly argued, historically grounded study sets out to demonstrate that a "pro-choice" stance, now held by a significant minority of Catholics, is as fully justified by Catholic thought as an anti-abortion view, and may even be more compatible with Catholic tradition than the current opposition to abortion espoused by many Catholics and most Catholic leaders. "A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion" argues that the current Catholic anti-abortion stance is justified neither by modern embryology nor by ancient church teachings. Combining up-to-date information on fetal development with a thorough grasp of the works of the church's early thinkers, Daniel A. Dombrowski and Robert Deltete expose crucial contradictions between the early and the modern church's views of abortion. Returning to the writings of two pillars of early Christian thought, Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the authors show that abortion was originally condemned by the church on the grounds of perversity, since it nullified the only permissible reason for sexual relations: procreation. Only in more recent times has the view arisen of abortion as indefensible on the ontological grounds that human personhood begins at the moment of conception. The authors demonstrate that the early church's view of fetal development - delayed hominization, in which the fetus is endowed with a human soul only when it achieves a physical human body - is diametrically opposed to the current anti-abortion stance. In fact, the authors show, the insistence on immediate hominization that provides the foundation for the current "pro-life" view stems from two seventeenth-century scientific misconceptions - preformationism and the homunculus - that have since been thoroughly discredited. By considering the history of Catholic thought in its relation to the history of science, Dombrowski and Deltete bring a new level of detail and focus to the abortion debate. Their thoughtful, measured argument provides a fresh perspective that will benefit participants on all sides of the controversy.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 168 pages
  • 148.3 x 236.2 x 16.8mm | 413.05g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252025504
  • 9780252025501

Review quote

"Calmly reasoned, carefully explained, and terribly important." -- Garry Wills, Chicago Sun-Times "This well-argued and well-researched book makes an excellent contribution to the debate on abortion... [The authors] bring new light to the history of Catholic thought and a fresh perspective that will benefit participants on all sides of the abortion controversy." -- Choice "The two scholars offer [this volume] not as 'free-floating theists' but as Catholics retrieving a complex history of debate on the subject... In tracing the changing Catholic views, the scholars defend the moral permissibility of abortion in the first trimester and offer a sexual ethic that focuses on issues of respect and agapic love rather than procreation, marriage, or even heterosexuality." -- Nina C. Ayoub, Note Bene, The Chronicle of Higher Education "Helpful for the ways in which it nuances the church's response to abortion, illuminating how the grounds of its opposition have changed from perversity to ontology... A critical retrieval of Augustine and Aquinas supports their position that fetuses are not necessarily persons." -- Donna M. McKenzie, Religious Studies Review "A model of reasoned discourse about an inflammatory issue. I cannot think of a Catholic -- or any thoughtful person -- who would not benefit from it." -- Anthony Padovano, Conscience "A valuable book, which argues that a pro-choice position on early abortion is at least as consistent with the Roman Catholic tradition as the strict anti-abortion stance of contemporary Church leaders." -- Ethics ADVANCE PRAISE "Dan Dombrowski and Robert Deltete's excellent book on a liberal Catholic defense of abortion definitively shows that the current teachings of the Roman Catholic Church--that all abortion is murder from the first moment of conception--is not in accord with Catholic tradition over more than eighteen centuries. A careful study of the Catholic tradition of such major theologians as Thomas Aquinas, in the context of modern embryology, in fact, supports the pro-choice position in the first two trimesters. The authors argue that, at the very least, the morality of abortion in the early months should be an open and not a closed question for Catholics." -- Rosemary Radford Ruether, Georgia Harkness Professor of Applied Theology, Northwestern University and author of Women and Redemption: A Theological History and Sexism and God-Talk: A Theological Historyshow more

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