A Canonized Choice

The defeat of “the eighth” was not a victory over Cathol­icism­. No way! It was a genuinely Catholic victory, a triumph of prochoice Catholicism. It was also the product of a distinctly Irish feminism, as Ella Whelan wrote about in the last issue of Conscience. Prochoice Catholicism? You bet! Like other world religions, Catholicism has a sturdy prochoice tradition alongside the recently better known no-choice position. The prochoice tradition even boasts a canonized saint, St. Antoninus. This distinguished Dominican theologian and archbishop of Florence defended early abortions when necessary to save the life of the woman— a large category given the medical conditions of his day. Was he condemned for this? No way! Pope Pius II praised him in his eulogy as “a brilliant theologian and popular preacher.” To top this off, Antoninus, this prochoice archbishop and theologian, was formally canonized a saint in 1523. An important sixteenth-century theologian from Corduba said that, in a conflictual pregnancy situation, the woman had the jus prius, the prior right. The great seventeenth-century Jesuit theologian Tomas Sanchez said that all of his contemporary Catholic theologians approved of early abortion to save the life of the woman. As Catholic theologian Christian Gudorf wrote: “The best evidence is that the Catholic position is not set in stone and is rather in development.” That “development” took a noble leap forward on May 25 in “holy Ireland.” Bishops and “No” voters in Ireland should pause and say a prayer to St. Antoninus before they set out to trash the distinguished Catholic prochoice tradition. Irish feminism? Show me your gods and I will know what you really think. In spite of the cavils and quibbles of orthodoxy-keepers, Mary (and women) touched on divine status in Irish piety and we have the statuary to prove it. The masculinizing of deity did not dominate in Irish faith. My Donegal mother Cassie never knew the world “feminism,” but I recall her often saying: “No man will ever make a dishcloth out of me!” On May 25, 2018, in a resounding chorus, the women of Ireland sent Cassie’s message to the male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church.

Professor Emeritus, Marquette University
Milwaukee, WI

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