Pro-Life Movement Honors Church
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 8, 2013 03:02
In many ways, Haylie Jacobson’s viewpoint “Pro-Choice Broader than Abortion Issue” (THE HOYA, A3, Feb. 5, 2013) offers a refreshingly honest self-critique of the pro-choice movement. It echoes Time Magazine’s recent assertion that the pro-choice movement has been losing since Roe v. Wade. But Ms. Jacobson’s analysis and discussion of the mission and identity of Georgetown vis-à-vis the pro-choice position is misguided. It evidences the need for the university to recapture the language of centered pluralism and renew an authentic understanding of the institution’s mission and identity.
Georgetown’s mission statement first identifies the institution as “Catholic and Jesuit.” This is significant in two respects. Firstly, it is the lens by which we are to read and interpret the rest of the statement. Secondly, it demonstrates that there is no separating “Catholic” from “Jesuit.” From the outset, Georgetown declares where it stands on any number of questions. It stands with the Church. Some members of the university community may well take issue with any number of the implications of Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity. This is part of the “serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures and beliefs [that] promotes intellectual, ethical and spiritual understanding.” The diversity that marks this discourse must be interpreted in light of Georgetown as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.
A rigorous discourse is to be had, but it is not conducted in a spirit of foundationless relativism. Rather, the university, as an institution, makes certain normative truth claims by virtue of its Catholic, Jesuit identity. It is precisely those normative claims that serve to anchor Georgetown. The pluralism and diversity — especially in matters theological, philosophical and moral — cannot merely be a manifestation of relativism. Rather, such pluralism must be understood as fundamentally centered and anchored by the Catholic and Jesuit nature of the university that directs it toward its ultimate end: “The glory of God and the well-being of humankind.”
Jacobson invokes cura personalis to aid the reinvigoration of pro-choice at Georgetown. This move is fundamentally a misappropriation and misunderstanding of a key hallmark of Ignatian spirituality and a key animating virtue of Georgetown. Jacobson divorces cura personalis from the intent of St. Ignatius and the context of the Church and the totality of her teachings. St. Ignatius wrote in the Spiritual Exercises, “That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which appears to our eyes to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black.” This is not an expression of fideism but rather of humble obedience to the Church precisely because within the Church resides the fullness of truth about God and man — truth that is fundamentally intelligible to man’s rationality.
Co-opted as a convenient justification for a kind of moral and intellectual relativism, cura personalis is reduced to merely a trite slogan or sentiment, devoid of any real meaning. Care for the whole person presumes a conception of care. It entails an anthropology—supplied by the Catholic tradition that animates Georgetown—that makes normative claims about what is good for man based on man’s telos, or end. Cura personalis also presumes an understanding of personhood, yet many are prepared to deny cura personalis to the most vulnerable members of the human family in the womb. The danger of the relativistic understanding of cura personalis is that it fundamentally is a claim that we cannot know the truth and order of things, nor the distinction between good and evil. We become inescapably chained within the confines of our own mind, preferences and self-created reality.
Georgetown, as a Catholic and Jesuit institution, claims to have the truth about reality, including the moral truth about abortion. The possession of truth is not a force for coercion or censorship. Rather, it frames, anchors and centers our diversity, our discussions and even our dissentions. It is the guarantee of an order and reality beyond ourselves so that our conversations, discourse and debate have some ultimate meaning and significance.
Kieran Raval is a senior in the College.