Conservative Christians will regret overthrowing Roe. They sacrifice religious freedom to do so

The Imminent Overthrow of Roe c. Wade is a disaster for women. It is also a disaster for the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy in America has placed opposition to abortion at the heart of its mission.

The American Catholic Church is deeply divided, and the bishops’ obsession with issues of gender and sexuality is at the root of these divisions. Most American Catholics oppose the annulment of Roe v. Wade (68%, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll). The bishops pay no heed to their voices but instead seek to silence Catholics in public service who defend women’s reproductive rights.

Ordinary Catholics feel condemned for their opinions and for the decisions they and their families make regarding abortion, same-sex marriage, and even contraception, coverage that U.S. Catholic bishops have sought to exclude from the law on affordable care. Time and again, bishops have fought against women’s control over their own bodies.

After:‘Caring no matter what’: Planned Parenthood York stands firm in the face of opposition to abortion

After:“My bodily integrity”: women reflect on their abortion stories

After:Planned Parenthood York remains a beacon in the community after SCOTUS Project leak

After:Vote as if your daughters life depended on it

It is therefore not surprising that the pews at Sunday Mass are empty. Today, most young Catholics, who are confirmed in the church as teenagers, stop attending Mass in their mid-twenties. But it’s not just young people and women who feel estranged from the church. There is a disturbing realization, crossing gender and age boundaries, that the church is not doing the right thing.

Shame: The exodus from the church, fueled by moral doubts about the bishops’ actions and teachings, will swell if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Although the American religious group most opposed to abortion rights is white evangelical Protestants, not Catholics, four of the five justices who are set to strike down abortion rights are Catholics. As the devastating effects on women’s lives become visible after the Supreme Court ruling, Catholics will feel more and more shame at what their church has done.

As members of a longtime minority, American Catholics instinctively understand from their own history what their bishops don’t: what’s at stake here is religious liberty.

American theologian John Courtney Murray was instrumental in drafting the Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Religious Liberty”, promulgated in 1965. It was a significant reversal of Church teaching that had previously resisted religious freedom when it was enshrined in the constitutions of democracies. societies, because, according to the Church, religious tolerance (of non-Catholics) would spread indifference towards religion. In contrast, American Catholics had adopted a legal basis for religious freedom because they realized it protected them in a then predominantly Protestant society.

Religious freedom is the historical foundation of all civil liberties because it allows for a political community in which those who participate may deeply disagree and hate each other, but still cooperate rather than seek to destroy each other.

Religious freedom was not born in a period of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, but in a modern world of bitter religious struggles and deadly conflicts. For those who opposed religious freedom, much more was in danger in their own eyes than the life of an unborn child. They protected people’s souls from eternal damnation caused by holding and spreading false religious beliefs. This is why, at the beginning of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Catholics were hanged; they endangered not only their souls but also those of others.

Religious freedom created a private sphere in which individuals were free to hold religious beliefs or not and to act according to their conscience. In return, they were required not to impose their religious beliefs and the conduct that flowed from their conscience on others. In contrast, the public sphere had to operate on empirically observable and rational standards, which would be obvious to any reasonable person.

Public control of women’s bodies: Certainly, our understanding of the boundary between the private and public spheres has historically evolved and been contested, but the distinction remains important. Many of these boundary shifts are due to the recognition of women’s rights. For example, domestic violence cannot be excused because it occurs in a “private sphere”. The annulment of Roe v. Wade reverses this trend: she no longer protects women’s bodies from private abuse but subjects them to public scrutiny.

Is it legitimate to transfer decisions relating to abortion from the private domain to the public domain? No. The ban on abortion is not based on established medical and scientific fact and therefore cannot impose on any reasonable person to claim that it is a matter of public law.

Precisely because the United States protects religious freedom, Catholics who oppose abortion rights do not have to justify their religious beliefs and religiously motivated conduct before me or, more importantly, in court. . Likewise, a religiously motivated decision not to abort should not be imposed on those of us who do not share religious beliefs.

Religious Freedom for All – or None: The Overthrow of Roe c. Wade would threaten religious freedom. If such a decision remains in place for any length of time, it will prevent hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of women from acting on their conscience. This will cause serious harm to women and their families – and one of the bulwarks of democratic society will be weakened.

The greatest benefit of religious freedom has been that we’ve learned to live with people we really don’t like and whose opinions we don’t share. This provided the foundation for other civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and freedom of association. If religious freedom is curtailed, then we face a world in which competing private spheres vie for dominance over the public domain.

Conservative Christians may be convinced that they can win culture wars against anyone who does not share their vision of society, but no group stays at the top forever. Eventually, they will lose their grip, and then they will miss the religious freedom protections once enshrined in American culture and law.

Roe v. Wade is part of a patchwork of laws that have protected individuals’ privacy from the religiously motivated incursions of others. Ultimately, there can be religious freedom for some but not for others. Either we all benefit or none of us will.

— Sheila Briggs is an associate professor of religious and gender and sexuality studies at USC. She is also a board member of Catholics for Choice, a non-profit organization supporting reproductive rights.

Comments are closed.