Where abortion and national identity collide Apr 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 28 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Wide-eyed, heavily lipsticked, with a delicate jeweled bindi between her eyebrows and an almost joyous expression on her face, Savita Halappanavar has been staring out from the front pages of Irish newspapers, week after week, for almost half a year now. The 31-year-old Indian dentist, four months pregnant, was rushed to University Hospital in Galway in the middle of a miscarriage last October. She begged for an abortion, reportedly, and was haughtily informed by a doctor that she couldn’t have one. “This is a Catholic country!” he allegedly said. She died of septicemia a few days later.
People who tell the story of Savita Halappanavar often don’t agree on much. Her doctors have been accused of dogmatism by those who favor legalized abortion and of incompetence by those who do not. That Ireland is among the very safest countries in which to have a baby—6 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, versus 21 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization—argues against both explanations. In February, excerpts from a government inquiry were leaked to the press. They made no mention at all of that “Catholic country” taunt. But by then, the Savita case, as it is always called, had unleashed a battle over abortion laws that was tearing the country, and its coalition government, to pieces.
Abortion is forbidden under the constitution of traditionally Catholic Ireland. Aside from tiny Malta, it is the last country in the European Union with such a ban. Certain of Ireland’s leaders are embarrassed by that. Top lawyers, many of them trained in American law schools, have kept Irish and EU courts under a barrage of litigation for two decades, in hopes of shaking loose a liberal regime of abortion rights. Over the same period, the EU has claimed an ever-larger share of what used to be the sovereignty of the Irish Republic, in exchange for generous-looking subsidies. Almost all the leaders of the major parties are pushing to bring Ireland’s laws into line with those of “our European partners,” in the face of resistance from the Irish public.
There is now an American-style pro-choice establishment (with its litigation, its keep-your-hands-off-my-body agitation, and its coalitions-of-convenience built out of trade unions, antiracists, and others you wouldn’t suspect of caring about abortion rights) facing off against an American-style pro-life establishment (with its marches, its robocalls, and its ultrasound posters). Those who want abortion have the zeitgeist on their side, those who don’t want it have the law. By the time the Savita case happened, the battle lines between two camps were sharply drawn. And at that point, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, whose Fine Gael party had made an election promise just a year before that it would not legislate for broader abortion rights, switched sides.
Campaigners for abortion rights like to describe Ireland’s restrictive abortion regime as dating from an 1861 law, the Offences Against the Person Act. That law is indeed still on the books. To invoke it makes opponents of abortion sound like fusty, obscurantist, retrograde lackeys of colonialism. But Ireland’s abortion regime is just as much a product of the country’s modernization—of a series of decisions made with broad democratic legitimacy between the 1930s and the 1980s.
At the end of the revolt against Britain almost a century ago, the church was the only major national institution free (or freeable) from the taint of colonialism. To compare it to the Polish church under communism in the 1980s would not be out of place. The Irish made the church the bedrock of their new state. They invoked the Trinity in the preamble to the constitution of 1937. They granted the church a partnership—or a stranglehold, according to your view—on education and health care, along with a voice in censoring books and public entertainments. This ancient and ill-fated people, nearly exterminated in the previous century and scattered by migration, a people that seemed to provoke admiration of its lyricism and fear of its criminality wherever it traveled, created a state suited to the needs of an underdog citizenry. With its resurrected ancient language made compulsory in schools and a “law of return” permitting the grandchildren of the Irish diaspora to claim citizenship with no questions asked, the political culture of the early Irish Republic bore a striking resemblance to Zionism. It was not a theocracy, exactly, but Irish Catholicism—as both an identity and a belief system—became a large part of what the state was about.
This was not a country where new, feminist understandings of family life could easily take root. According to Article 41.2 of the constitution:
The fundamental challenge(s) of Catholic renewal.
Mar 11, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 25 • By RYAN T. ANDERSON
But who do you say that I am?
This question, from an obscure Nazarene carpenter to an even more obscure Galilean fisherman, has proved to be the world’s most important query. How you answer it has profound implications for how you will lead your life. And, as C. S. Lewis pointed out some 50-plus years ago, Jesus left us with only three options: He was either a pathological liar, a deranged lunatic, or the Lord of the universe.
The race is close, and turnout promises to be high.
Mar 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 24 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
The next pope will be Christoph Schönborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna. The principal editor of the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, Schönborn was among Benedict’s favorite students back when the current pope was a theology professor, and he stands as one of the few high clerics to act heroically during the sexual-abuse scandal.
1:14 PM, Sep 1, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
On his nightly television show recently, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said that Texas governor Rick Perry is not suitable to be president of the United States because of his connection to one man — Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas.
Notre Dame drops trespassing charges against pro-lifers.May 30, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 35 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
Early this month came the news that Notre Dame has agreed, at last, to drop the trespassing charges it had been pressing against the protesters who marched on its campus two years ago. The pro-life protesters. At a Catholic school.
Why won't American Catholic bishops defend public figures who believe in the Catechism?11:00 PM, Dec 3, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
CATHOLIC BISHOPS have been making noises about disciplining Catholic politicians who advocate for policies opposed to Church teaching. If you are an observant Catholic, don't get your hopes up.
A pair of bestsellers roll their own religion.Sep 22, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 02 • By CYNTHIA GRENIER
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
Doubleday, 454 pp., $24.95
The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
The Democratic governor starts bragging on his faith and saying a few Hail Diannes to get him out of trouble.1:20 AM, Sep 4, 2003 • By BILL WHALEN
INTERSTATE 5 is not the road to Damascus. But don't tell that to Gray Davis. He wants Californians to believe he's their St. Paul--a convert who shouldn't be recalled because he's seen the light.
The biblical analogy is irresistible.
No matter how bad it looks for him, no matter how many political flesh wounds he suffers, Gray Davis isn't dead yet.12:00 AM, Aug 22, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
THIS IS LARRY MILLER, your Special Man On The Street, Self-Appointed Hollywood Recall Election Correspondent, reporting live from the rooftops of Universal City. Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea. I can see the lights of the explosions below me in Encino. Oh, the humanity! No, wait, that's just the premiere of "T3." Where was I? Ah, yes, the state is ablaze on the left and the right, and I feel like Raymond Burr leaning out a window in Tokyo narrating the carnage before being knocked through the uprights by Godzilla.
Or someone with a better build.
From the August 25, 2003 issue: The controversy over Mel Gibson's forthcoming movie on the death of Jesus Christ.Aug 25, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 47 • By MICHAEL NOVAK
THE NICENE CREED, recited by the world's more than two billion Christians every Sunday, declares that Jesus Christ "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried."
More than anything else, these ten words are the theme of "The Passion," Mel Gibson's new movie.
Big media has been avoiding the new Democratic religion test, but the blogosphere has answered the bell.12:00 AM, Aug 7, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
CHARLES CHAPUT, the Archbishop of Denver, issued a stinging rebuke to Catholic senator Richard Durbin and concluded that "a new kind of religious discrimination is very welcome at the Capitol, even among elected officials who claim to be Catholic," and the national news media barely took note. A single Washington Times story cited Chaput's column on the William Pryor nomination, and the sole mention in the Washington Post was contained in a letter to the editor from C.
From the August 5, 2003 Dallas Morning News: Are Catholic judicial nominees automatically suspect now?12:00 AM, Aug 6, 2003 • By TERRY EASTLAND
WILLIAM PRYOR isn't going to become a federal judge. Not this year, not next.
Pryor is a nominee for the appeals court that encompasses his native Alabama, Florida and Georgia. But he has become the third Bush nominee to hit the hard wall of a Democratic filibuster. Under Senate rules, you need 60 votes to end debate and allow an up-or-down vote. That means a determined minority can prevail, and in Pryor's case, 44 Democrats joined to block his path last week.
Two hundred years after the Framers renounced them, Senate Democrats have reinvented the Test Act.12:00 AM, Aug 5, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
THE ARCHBISHOP OF DENVER, Charles Chaput, has rebuked the Senate Democrats who have blocked the nomination of Alabama attorney general William Pryor in stark terms: "[A] new kind of religious discrimination is very welcome at the Capitol, even among elected officials who claim to be Catholic." Chaput's entire statement on the matter deserves to be read widely and quoted alongside every ringing denial of anti-Catholic bias issued by Patrick Leahy and other bigots caught in the act of denying federa