This week we were overjoyed to welcome Benjamin Isaac Edgar's, 6 lbs., 9 oz. entry into the world and into the bosom of our St Martin’s community. Congratulations to Anna and Tim.
In a world increasingly hardening between either/or options it’s crucial to maintain the possibilities of a both/and response to some difficult issues. I was reminded of this in an experience on Wednesday when I went over to the State House for the purpose of attending the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition lobbying on fair and affordable housing. However, despite the intended purpose for visiting the hallowed halls of government, in the end I could not locate where my group was meeting; thus, I inadvertently got caught up in the pro-and anti-abortion millings-about under the Rotunda.
Dressed in a clerical collar - full Anglican round, not Roman tunnel I might add, I noted that the pro-life supporters greeted me with smiles and the pro-choice supporters looked at me warily. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable I spied the Planned Parenthood table and I asked the young woman in a pink tee shirt - did she have a sticker by chance? I took the “I support Planned Parenthood” sticker and stuck it on my shirt. Both sides now looked confused, but I felt better.
On the hot button issue of abortion, like most Americans, I guess I fall into the category of pro-life and pro-choice. Consider the suggestion that it should be made a felony offence for any man to cause an unwanted pregnancy. The ludicrousness of this proposition is immediately apparent and should alert us to the corollary - if it’s ludicrous attempting to legislate the outcome of men’s sexual activity then it’s equally ludicrous to legislate away women’s reproductive rights. Recall that old adage,
what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
. We might say in this instance
what’s sauce for the gander is also sauce for the goose.
Nevertheless, the meaning of this adage is clear. Rights and protections cut both ways. I will make two further points and then beat a hasty exit.
The stability of our social fabric rests on balancing the tensions between competing interests. The law’s ancient responsibility to arbitrate as fairly as possible in the balancing of competing and conflicting interests is a bedrock principle of our rule of law.
In the area of moral theology, a distinction has always been maintained between the moral ideal or absolute and its pastoral application. It’s a very recent notion that the priest’s role is to apply the ideal regardless of the pastoral context and circumstances. Traditionally, the clergy (Catholic as well as Anglican) were trained to manage the distinction between the moral ideal and its pastoral application to real life situations. Two things always modify the direct application of the moral ideal. The first is pastoral need. The second is respect for the primacy of individual conscience. In moral theology the primacy of conscience -rooted in God’s gift of free will - cannot be lightly overridden by a decision of church authority. If you doubt me, then read a little
who was perhaps the most distinguished Catholic moral theologian of the 20
-century, and who at one time taught at Brown.
This coming Sunday is Memorial Sunday. For those still in town I hope you will be able to join us at 9:30 for a service of Solemn Remembrance of those who have given their lives in the service of a grateful nation. On Thursday, May 30, I hope many of you will be present for St Martin’s, St Stephen’s, and Church of the Redeemer’s joint celebration of the Ascension of Our Lord, this year at 7 pm at St Stephen’s, George St.
Looking forward to seeing you in Church.