Abortion & Prudential Judgment

by Michael Sean Winters

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One of the more common talking points employed by Catholic neo-cons is that on issues of social justice, there is room for prudential judgment and so good Catholics can disagree, while on abortion, there is no room for prudential judgment. This is how they avoid the charge of being cafeteria Catholics.

But, it doesn't fly, as an article today at the New Republic shows. The article looks at the growing divide within the pro-life community as to how they should pursue their goals. Since Casey v. Planned Parenthood, most pro-life groups have focused on restricting abortion, but there is now a renewed effort to pass a "personhood" amendment, mounting a full, frontal attack on Roe. There are some who think that simply overturning Roe would actually benefit the pro-choice movement, filling the coffers at NARAL and electing a host of aggressively pro-choice legislators nationwide. All but a handful of states would likely enact some form of legal access to abortion if Roe were overturned. But, whether you agree with that strategy or not is a matter of prudential judgment.

On social justice issues, like abortion, there can be no denying the moral imperative to fight injustice and to defend the poor and the vulnerable. The room for prudential judgment comes when we debate different methods of helping the poor or the aged or the unborn. Prudential judgment is not a conversation stopper, which is how the Catholic neo-cons use it. They hide behind it like a smokescreen to permit them to baptize a radically un-Catholic economic agenda. Prudential judgment is necessary, but it does not allow a Catholic to believe whatever they want.

Admit it, neo-cons. You like the Catholic cafeteria as much as anybody.

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