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Media Ask Non-Catholics to Comment on Catholic Abortion Beliefs

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Don Ryan

In an effort to understand Catholic Church teaching on abortion, the media are consulting with – wait for it – non-Catholic abortion supporters.

“‘Religious leaders should be asking for your forgiveness’ on abortion – not the other way around,” a Salon headline claimed on June 30. The description to the piece added, “Church leaders are challenging Biden's stance on abortion, but people of faith say his views jibe with religion.” But those “people of faith” Salon spoke to were largely figures without ties to Catholicism: two non-Catholic Christians, a rabbi, and the president of Catholics for Choice, who was “born and raised a Catholic.”


All vehemently supported abortion.

Staff writer Kylie Cheung turned first to CoWanda Rusk, a “person of faith” whose father was a youth pastor. Pregnant at 17, Rusk sought an abortion after praying to God.

“Rusk says she decided to have her abortion when she reflected on everything God had prepared for her, like scholarships and her bright educational future,” Cheung wrote. “Because of this she knew she had God's support.”

Cheung added that Rusk “cringed” when she “heard Pope Francis' message in 2016 that people who had abortions should be forgiven.” (Although, had Cheung looked at the piece she linked to, she might have realized that Pope Francis’ message was that priests could forgive post-abortive women – in addition to bishops. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach that abortion can’t be forgiven.)

“I absolutely do not agree with needing forgiveness from God nor other people for making a decision to take care of yourself,” said Rusk, a non-Catholic. If anything, “Religious leaders should be asking for your forgiveness for not using their powers to make sure people have access to basic needs and health care.”

Both Rusk and another woman, called Tohan, are involved with We Testify, a group dedicated to sharing positive abortion stories, Cheung reported. Tohan also identified as Christian and had a minister father, but said that her abortion was “personal” and had “nothing to do with religion.”

“The divide for me is figuring out who you are inside of God — not what your priest thinks, not the Pope telling you who you are,” said Tohan, a non-Catholic who doesn’t have a parish priest or a pope.


Cheung centered her piece around the news that “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to draft new guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, which,” she claimed, “will challenge President Biden's ability to receive communion because of his support for abortion rights.” 

According to Cheung, the move “is just the latest of near daily political efforts to shape abortion policy around the religious views of some.” But, she added, “Progressive spiritual leaders say the religious anti-abortion narrative is new — and entirely political.”

She spoke with Jamie Manson, who was “born and raised a Catholic” and now leads the group Catholics for Choice, which directly contradicts official Catholic Church teaching on abortion. To Manson, “the church believes essentially in forced motherhood.”

The “wedding of Catholic identity with anti-abortion politics” has “only happened in the last few decades,” Manson claimed, calling it a “very reductive understanding of Catholicism.”

That understanding exists, she added, because of the influence of the Christian right wing. Because of them, “people automatically equate religion with anti-choice values” and that’s “simply not true,” even “for Catholics.” 

Danya Ruttenberg, a rabbi and founder of National Council for Jewish Women’s Rabbis for Repro campaign, added that Catholic theologians St. Thomas Aquinus and St. Augustine believed “there were certain stages of fetal development where abortion should be fine, and had different standings about when a fetus got a soul.” 


In other words, the "church's teaching has changed” and the “church and hierarchy and right wing laity are not being honest about the history of this teaching."

This is a common misconception in the media. Salon might have benefited from taking a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes official Church teaching. 

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the catechism reads. “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

The catechism states that the Church’s position on abortion “has not changed and remains unchangeable.”

“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” the catechism adds, citing Didache, Ep. Barnabae, Ad Diognetum, and Tertullian.

The U.S. bishops also provide a fact sheet for “those who say this teaching has changed or is of recent origin.”

While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) admits that the “knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times,” it held that “mistaken biological theories never changed the Church's common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage.”

The sheet also clarifies the positions of St. Augustine as well as St. Thomas Aquinas, who “rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage.”


These documents tell a very different story from those in Salon.

“The conversation especially among progressive Catholics has to move to a place where abortion is not intrinsic evil,” Manson concluded, “it can be a moral good, and it's a freedom that allows women and pregnant people access to other kinds of freedoms, political power, economic power."

But as many Christians, the Catholic Church, and the pro-life movement recognize, there’s another person involved there too: the unborn baby.

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