Matter of Anatomy
John F. Devanny Jr. rebuts, or tries to, the case that Prof. Charles Bobertz set forth in his July 3 letter for the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood.
Christianity grew out of Judaism, and the Catholic Church and its hierarchy evolved out of the Roman civil service and Roman law.
Women had a very subordinate position among the ancient Jews and women had no legal rights whatsoever under Roman law. Women, for example, could not testify or give testimony because they had no testicles.
The words "testify," "testimony" and "testicle" all have the same Latin root, testis, for testicles. When a man give testimony in Roman times, he held his testicles in his hand, for they were considered the source of life and therefore sacred. A woman could just have well put her hand over her womb, also the source of life and equally sacred I would think, but this was not allowed.
The ancient Israelites also had the same tradition. The Old Testament (King James Version) states that Abraham "'placed his hand under his thigh"' when he swore an oath.
The crisis in theology that confronts the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations goes back at least partially to a difference in anatomy.
What Pro-Choice Is
The Cal Thomas fantasy "How Bush Can Win" (Opinion * Commentary July 23) contains so many distortions and absurdities that pointing out all of them would be too tedious for this letter. However, one section of his homily cries out for rebuttal.
Mr. Thomas cities two anecdotes regarding children who were almost aborted but survived to become cherished children. He also refers generally to women who "had their babies under difficult circumstances and are glad they did." These are cases about which we all can rejoice -- not just the "anti-choice" supporters.
Mr. Thomas talks as though "pro-choice" people want to force pregnant women to have abortions. Not so! "Pro-choice" means exactly what it says -- give the women who face problem pregnancies the facts about all their alternatives (including adoption and public or private help for poor mothers) and then allow them to make the decision that seems right in their particular circumstances. "Pro-choice" means, "This is a private matter -- not a government matter."
"Pro-choice" means, "Don't treat as criminals the women and the doctors who choose that solution to a difficult problem."
No pro-choice person that I know would ever take abortion lightly or would ever want to see a troubled woman take such a step without consulting her minister (if she has one) or anyone else who can give her understanding and informed advice.
We believe that, in our American system, any church has the right to teach their own adherents that abortion is a sin, if that is their doctrine. We don't believe they have the right to make it a crime -- not just for their own followers, but for all Americans.
This controversy is not about what churches and other organizations can teach and what their adherents can believe. It is about whether our government should criminalize a decision taken by women who face a pregnancy that is unwanted for reasons of varying degrees of urgency.
Often only the affected parties are capable of understanding a particular case. Examples could be given of happiness or heartache which have resulted from decisions to terminate pregnancies or to carry them to term.
What Mr. Thomas talks about proves nothing at all. He talks about only the outcomes that turned out happy. He doesn't talk about the 12- and 13-year-olds who suddenly find themselves mothers, nor the poor mother, unassisted by a brutish husband, who must add a seventh infant to the already overwhelming six for whom her capabilities are inadequate. The examples producing joy or despair could be multiplied a thousandfold.
Pro-choice wisely advocates that the government leave this matter to the people it concerns.
Edward T. Heise
U.S. Can't Afford Unrestricted Immigration
Jonathan Power (Opinion * Commentary, July 24) correctly noted that free immigration had benefited this country and increased its economic growth in past generations. Unfortunately, he still seems to be living in the past. He entitled his column "Pull Down the Barriers" and said "common sense suggests that the richest countries should pull all their immigration barriers down and let people wander where they want."
We no longer have open frontiers and job-hungry industries. We already have our own migratory underclass searching for jobs and opportunities. Adding to it would only decrease their chances and add to the burdens of the rest of our society.