The inconvenience of personhood

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Constitutional Issue, Healthcare, Religion, Women's Issues
Tags: , , , , , ,

The Catholic Church has been a major pro-life player in U.S. politics and one of their explicitly stated goals is to overturn Roe V. Wade. Although they opposed the failed push for fetal personhood in Mississippi in 2010, they did so not based on any moral grounds but because they felt, legally, it was smarter to push for a Federal Constitutional Amendment. Their reasoning, why waste time on a state level? They felt it smarter to pool their resources and put maximum pressure on Congressional members. After all, they get much bigger bang for the buck in Washington, D.C. than Jackson, MS. Amiright?

Now, here comes the heart wrenching tale of a 31-year-old mother who was seven months pregnant with twins who died while sitting in an ER–a Catholic hospital’s ER. The mother and both babies died. The father sued, of course. Unfortunately for the father, he will not receive compensation for three lives lost–only the one, his wife. Why? Because the Catholic Church argued that babies were not, legally speaking, “persons”.

Some are crowing that it’s hypocritical (ht to JM Ashby at for alerting me to this story). Yes, it is and you can put me in that “crowing” category. While the tragedy is indeed horrible, this case just goes to show you how incredibly opportunistic and dare I say venal the Catholic Church truly is. They are clearly taking this stance because it will save them money. And make no mistake about it, it is about the money. If it was about the principle of the thing, they’d simply pay the poor grieving man for the lives of three people and not one.

There are two reasons that this irks me so. First is the Church’s refusal to acknowledge other equally ugly scandals in order to avoid moral responsibility but also to avoid having to pay out enormous sums of money. The most obvious one being the hundreds of if not thousands of years of pedophilia that they knowingly protected and ultimately institutionalized. Sure they made private settlements but those were nothing compared to what they would have paid out in terms of money and reputation had they been taken to civil court for each and every case. That’s why settlements are made in the first place–to save the accused money and embarrassment. They are never, ever about the accused conceding that they were truly wrong in any way. The Church saved money by making settlements and it avoided admitting fault. Where’s the principle in that?

The other reason it irks me so is that I have seen with my own eyes the tip of the Vatican iceberg of treasure. I don’t mean the struggling parishes throughout the U.S. or the destitute missions in third world countries. No, that’s not how it works. See for the most part parishes and missions support themselves and if the hierarchy wants to spread that wealth downward they do. That allows the Bishoprics and the Vatican to keep a death grip on their own treasure. What I mean is that I have seen the Vatican itself. The actual buildings, the stolen treasures from Ancient Civilizations (yes, stolen, you don’t think Egypt willingly gave up those mummies and all their afterlife treasure did you?), the vestments, the artwork, etc, etc, etc. And that is only what you can see. They have investments in the hundreds of millions in the largest and most profitable companies in the U.S. alone. They have billions in solid gold. They have stuff in storage that will never see the light of day that is worth just as much. The Vatican alone is worth more than most countries in the world to say nothing of the worth of the Bishopric of some of the larger U.S. cities like Boston. In spite of their vast riches, they will not payout a measly sum to acknowledge their own principle that the life of a fetus is equal to that of the mother. Hell no!

And as much as their penny-pinching irks me, there is something else equally annoying. Some on the left are arguing that the Catholic Church is following the law and that’s a good thing. Their point being that, by making such an argument, the Church is establishing a legal precedence that a fetus is indeed not a person and they are also showing signs of being reasonable. And if you’re pro-Choice, then you should be all for that, right? Except this presumes two things. First it assumes that the Catholic Church will continue to act in this way. Only a naive fool would believe such a thing. They have been and will continue to be one of the most powerful forces behind a national personhood amendment in the U.S. (and elsewhere). The second is that this legal precedence will actually matter. And if we were only considering a strictly legal case that worked its way up through our system to the Supreme Court, this MIGHT be true. But we’re not talking about a single case making the long trek to SCOTUS where legal precedence is SUPPOSED to matter*. We’re talking about either a law passed by Congress or a federal Constitutional amendment. Neither of those processes, nor the actors in those processes, really give a tinker’s damn about legal precedence.

So the fact that the Catholic Church is being a hypocrite about their very own morality for the sole purpose of protecting their pocketbook should be loudly exposed. Shout it from the rooftops and don’t give them any credit for being reasonable. Their intention is to save money, not to do what is right. Silly me, expecting a church supposedly representing Christ on Earth to actually do the right thing for the right reasons! The left is often so incredibly naive and willing to believe that others will be on their best behavior, even when it has been proven otherwise. Since there is nothing in the Church’s character nor their past behavior to indicate they will in any way continue to be reasonable in future nor care that they have taken the opposite stance in the past, I refuse to be so sanguine.


*There are so many SCOTUS bad cases that were decided without a lack of precedence like Citizens United–that I have no faith that the precedence in this one case or even a dozen similar cases would amount to a hill of beans in the end.

  1. Laura says:

    I know that you’re interested in women’s rights, so you probably already know this but there are 31 states that allow rapists to sue for custody and visitation rights. Would you be interested in starting a We the People petition with me to stop this? If it gets 100,000 signatures fast enough, the White House would have to respond.

    • drangedinaz says:

      Yes, I would! Let’s coordinate so we start campaigning together on the same date. Do you want me to solicit other bloggers on this before we create it? In order to get that number of signatures we will need a lot of exposure very quickly.

      • Laura says:

        Thanks so much! It would be great if you could solicit other bloggers. I was thinking we could post on a bunch of feminist, liberal, and human rights blogs and discussion boards as well as facebook and other social media 🙂

        My first draft of the petition is short and simple. You can add whatever you would like to it. Thanks for your feedback!:

        “Title: Make It Illegal for Rapists to Sue for Custody or Visitation Rights for a Child They Conceived Through Rape

        Currently, 31 states have no laws in place that prevent rapists from suing for custody or visitation rights for a child they conceived by raping someone. Please pass a federal law making it illegal for a rapist to sue for custody or visitation rights for a child the rapist conceived through rape.

        No rape victim should have to watch their child be raised by their attacker.”

        My email is, if you want to contact me. Thanks agan!

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