Tyranny of the Law


“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” said Jesus [Mark 2: 27].  One of the primary objectives of Jesus’ mission was to raise man above legalism to the plane of compassion.  However, the church that was founded in his name made more and more rules and imprisoned the believers in the straitjacket of those rules. 

The latest example of the Church’s inhuman legalism comes from Phoenix, USA.  Bishop Thomas Olmsted stripped St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center of its affiliation with the Roman Catholic diocese.  The reason is that the hospital had terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother.  The 27-year-old woman, a mother of four children, would almost certainly have died otherwise.  Furthermore, Sister Margaret McBride, who had been on the hospital’s ethics committee and had approved of the decision, was excommunicated by the bishop.  [The details can be read in the New York Times article, Tussling over Jesus]

The Catholic Church is stringently opposed to abortion.  Abortion is certainly an evil, unless there is no other alternative.  Abortion is murder.  The embryo [strictly speaking, the period from the end of the second week of conception to the end of the second lunar month is the embryonic period, after which it will be the foetus] is already a miniature human being.  All the essential features of the body, both internal and external, are established.  The embryo is a living ‘individual’.  Abortion is the murder of that individual. 

I agree with the Catholic Church up to that.  The problem is when the Church stands in absolute opposition to abortion.  There are occasions, like the one mentioned above, when abortion becomes unavoidable.  How can the Church penalise a hospital and its religious staff for carrying out an abortion in order to save the life of the mother?  What the Church shows here is its draconian attitude of placing the law above humanity. 

Let us recall an incident from history.  In 1858 Pope Pius IX allowed a 6-year-old Jewish child Edgaro Mortara to be snatched from his parents by the papal police because he had allegedly been given secret Catholic baptism by a maid when he was ill.  This happened in Bologna, Italy, 8 years after the Pope had the walls of the Jewish ghetto in Rome rebuilt.  There were worldwide protests against the Church’s treatment of Edgaro and his parents.  Even Napoleon III and the Emperor Franz Joseph intervened on behalf of the beleaguered Jewish parents.  Nevertheless, the Church did not budge.  It stubbornly chose to give the boy a Catholic upbringing.  Eventually he was even ordained a priest.

The ignominious lack of concern for people is the hallmark of the Catholic Church.  Nothing is more important to it than allegiance to the Law.  It is high time that the Church learnt the plain message of Jesus that the law was made for man and not vice-versa.


About matheikal

My more regular blog can be accessed at www.matheikal.blogspot.com
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3 Responses to Tyranny of the Law

  1. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    Very good.

    I would, however, take one exception. You claim that an embryo is an individual. This is a slippery slope. If it is, it comes imbued with human rights. This is how the morning-after pils were opposed by the affiliates of the Church.

    Then, it is human rights of the pregnant women vis-a-vis that of the embryo. The rights of the pregnant woman gets diluted – think of it, in business terms, that new shares are being issued without the first right of refusal for the current share holders (a loose analogy).

    The arguments against abortion that will not get you onto this slope goes something like this: abortion is against the interest of the society as unrestrained acts of aborting the fetus makes society insensitive to the potential ultimate result. No human beings. Therefore, it is concluded that there is something morally wrong, to be superseded by practical considerations at times, about abortion. Ronald Dworkin has a strong essay on this and I will try to condense it better.

    There is a lot of play in this tug-of-war. Unfortunately, as you rightly oberve, the Catholic Church is dogmatically opposed and has lost its moorings. Religion does this to people, it unhinges rather than clarifies.

    This is NOT a far fetched scenario. I am sure you have read that finding Haryanvi brides for Haryanvi grooms has become very difficult (the female to male ratio hovers around 850 of the former to 1000 of the latter; an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy dictates something like 985-990 females per 1000 males).

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      Raghuram, thanks for the detailed comment.

      I used the word ‘individual’ in inverted commas intentionally. As I used it here, it just means that the embryo is another living organism. The individuation process will come much later as one grows into adulthood. Totally dependent on the mother as the embryo is, it is still a throbbing life – that’s what I wanted to underscore.

  2. Issac says:

    The National Catholic Reporter newspaper put it best: “Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted.”

    Here is a piece by Nicholas Kristof on the same incident. It is the church that is going down a slippery slope.


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