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Good Catholics

Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church

Patricia Miller
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Good Catholics
    Book Description:

    Good Catholicstells the story of the remarkable individuals who have engaged in a nearly fifty-year struggle to assert the moral legitimacy of a pro-choice position in the Catholic Church, as well as the concurrent efforts of the Catholic hierarchy to suppress abortion dissent and to translate Catholic doctrine on sexuality into law. Miller recounts a dramatic but largely untold history of protest and persecution, which demonstrates the profound and surprising influence that the conflict over abortion in the Catholic Church has had not only on the church but also on the very fabric of U.S. politics.Good Catholicsaddresses many of today's hot-button questions about the separation of church and state, including what concessions society should make in public policy to matters of religious doctrine, such as the Catholic ban on contraception.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95827-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Everything you need to know about the Catholic Church and women can be ascertained from the front doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. There, six notable American Catholics are immortalized in statues set in the massive bronze doors of the entryway. St. Joseph and St. Patrick occupy the uppermost niches; the martyred Jesuit Isaac Jogues resides in the middle left panel. The three remaining statues occupying the middle right panel and the lowermost reaches of the door are of women. There is Kateri Tekakwiyha, a Mohawk-Algonquian convert to Catholicism who is best known for taking a vow...


    • 1 The Four Wise Women
      (pp. 11-32)

      Years later, when the remembrance of so many other things had faded, the memory still remained crisp in her mind. She saw herself lying in the hospital bed, bleeding, writhing in agony. She remembered clawing at the curtain surrounding the bed, trying get help, certain she was going to die. Finally she managed to cry out, “God dammit, I can’t die. I have five children.”

      Her cries roused her roommate, who summoned a doctor. The doctor managed to staunch the bleeding from the hematoma that had resulted from the birth of her fifth child. It was not an unexpected complication....

    • 2 The Dread Secret
      (pp. 33-57)

      By the time Pope Paul VI announced his decision in 1968 to continue the church’s ban on contraceptives, contraception was on its way to becoming a non-issue for most Catholics. “I don’t care what the pope says. . . . I have made my decision,” one Catholic housewife told theNew York Times. Apparently many Catholic women agreed, because their use of “artificial” methods of contraception continued to increase throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the mid-1970s, some 60 percent of Catholic women would be using methods of birth control not sanctioned by the church. But there was...

    • 3 Pope Patricia
      (pp. 58-82)

      Patricia Fogarty McQuillan was born in 1924, four years after the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. She came of age at the start of the Second World War. She was one of the first women to be employed by United Aircraft Laboratories as a chemist. When the call went out for women to join the armed forces to “free a man to fight,” she joined the Marines, where she repaired aircraft engines for the duration. After the war, she got an economics degree from Columbia University, worked for the IRS, and eventually became a stockbroker—one of...

    • 4 Coming of Age
      (pp. 83-103)

      At the same time that the board of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) was casting about for a new executive director to replace Virginia Andary, Patricia McMahon was visiting Ireland on a monthlong vacation that mixed a search for her heritage with some soul-searching about the next steps of her career. But the much-anticipated trip quickly turned into a personal political odyssey as she experienced what it was like to live in a country that was essentially a theocracy, with the moral tenets of the Catholic Church written into the law and the patriarchy of the church woven deeply...

    • 5 The Cardinal of Choice
      (pp. 104-128)

      It was clear that the role of religion in government would be a major factor in the 1984 presidential election, largely because of a backlash against the influence of the religious right.Timemagazine noted that “the prominence and complexity of religious issues may [be] greater than in any previous election.”¹

      Democratic nominee Walter Mondale, who had been President Jimmy Carter’s vice president, squared off with President Ronald Reagan about the right’s leveraging of religion to push its policy agenda. Mondale accused Reagan of breeching the wall separating church and state, while Reagan defended policies that would increase the public...


    • 6 The Bishops’ Lobby
      (pp. 131-153)

      The election of 1984 and the Catholic Statement on Pluralism and Abortion began a new era for the Catholic abortion rights movement. It moved from the edges of the abortion debate to a very public confrontation with the Catholic hierarchy over the issue of who had the right to interpret Catholic doctrine. The stakes were high for the Vatican, which asserted that it alone held this right. With its authority challenged, the hierarchy began an unprecedented, church-wide crackdown on any deviation from its official doctrine, removing priests and theologians who dared to dissent.

      In July 1986, the National Conference of...

    • 7 Showdown at Cairo
      (pp. 154-173)

      The election of Bill Clinton as president in 1992 marked the end of Reagan-era international family planning policies. Clinton rescinded the Mexico City policy, which cheered feminists and international family planning organizations. He drew their approbation, however, when he announced the appointment of Boston mayor Raymond Flynn, an antiabortion Catholic who had been a valuable political ally to Clinton, as ambassador to the Vatican. Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) president Frances Kissling organized a letter signed by thirty pro-choice and women’s organizations protesting the appointment as sending the wrong signal to the Vatican about U.S. commitment to reproductive rights....

    • 8 Matters of Conscience
      (pp. 174-199)

      The landmark UN conferences on population and development and women’s rights in the 1990s made important strides in the international recognition of civil and reproductive rights for women. But they also served to deepen the antagonism between the Vatican and the Catholic reproductive rights movement, which was now providing a counterbalance to the Vatican at the international level as well as in the United States. The Cairo conference in particular was a stinging defeat for the pope. “No issue has affected John Paul II in a more profound way in his 15-year papacy than the Cairo conference,” observed former U.S....

    • 9 Playing Politics
      (pp. 200-232)

      The controversy over the See Change campaign in the early stages of the 2000 presidential race showed how critical the Catholic vote had become to both parties in a closely divided electorate. While there is no such thing as a homogenous “Catholic vote,” as the bishops found time and time again when they tried to get Catholics to vote for favored candidates or causes, Catholics are a significant portion of the electorate in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. In 2000, the electoral map for either candidate didn’t add up unless they won a significant number of these...

    • 10 Health Care and Politics Redux
      (pp. 233-269)

      After John Kerry’s loss in the 2004 presidential election and the implication that the Democratic Party was in serious trouble if it couldn’t attract religious voters, debate about the direction of the party raged for the next two years. Political pragmatists counseled the party to downplay its support of abortion rights. They said the party should embrace what they viewed as “moderate” restrictions on access to abortion, like parental notification laws and waiting periods for women seeking abortion. They also advised the party to distance itself from traditional allies like the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood,...

  7. Epilogue: THE PHILIPPINES
    (pp. 270-272)

    The photo that accompanied theNew York Timesarticle about the teeming public maternity hospital in the Philippines capital of Manila told the whole story. It showed dozens and dozens of postpartum women and their newborns packed two to a bed in an overcrowded, outdated hospital ward. Some women stared blankly ahead as their newborns suckled. Others were curled in fetal positions, trying to get some sleep in the din. Many already had half a dozen children at home. Most wanted to use birth control to slow the onslaught of babies but were too poor to buy commercially available contraceptives....

  8. Notes
    (pp. 273-316)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 317-320)
  10. Index
    (pp. 321-332)