25 February, 2010

Religion and the Millennials: Abortion (Part II)

Abortion (Part II) and homosexuality (Part III) are the most contentious issues in the nation's "culture wars" at this time. Here we will take a look at the Millennials'  attitudes toward abortion as found in the Pew Study.

Not quite half of all American adults (47%) agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. By age Millennials (18-29), are the most accepting of abortion. No other age group comes closer to them than the 30-49 and 50-64 year old age groups and this is because the older age groups have moved closer to the Millennials.

Affiliated and Unaffiliated
It is no surprise that those unaffiliated with any religion would be more tolerant or accepting of abortion. In fact this is the case as 68% of the unaffiliated but only 42% of those affiliated with a religion are supportive of abortion in all or most cases.

Very interesting is the fact that religiously affiliated young people, 18-29, are more accepting (45%)of abortion than those over 30 (42%) although the difference is marginal. Even more interesting, however, is that the unaffiliated the young (18-29) are less accepting (67%)  of abortion than is its older age group (30+) at (69%). Again, the difference is marginal. If this is not merely a statistical fluke or a one-time event, it will be very interesting to see where the unaffiliated track.

Protestants and Catholics.
This section presents data only on white Protestants and Catholics.

White Mainline Protestants are the most accepting (55%) of legal abortion in all or most cases. And there is no meaningful difference between the young (55%) and older (56%) older Mainliners.

White Evangelical Protestants are by far the least accepting (23%) of legalized abortion in most or all cases. This finding is somewhat anomalous since many conservative denominations traditionally accept or at least tolerate abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

The data do not allow a younger-older comparison for White Evangelicals. It should be noted that other research indicates that the majority of young Evangelical adults oppose abortion but that there is a slight trend toward greater acceptance and, thus, the potential for a greater gap between generations.

Catholics' strict position on abortion holds that all abortion for any reason is always a "mortally sinful." True, The Catholic hierarchy has not emphasized its opposition to abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger of  death of the mother in order to cement relationships with other conservative groups to marshal forces to put forth a political coalition to get some anti-abortion/pro-life legislation passed. This does not mean that the Catholic Church has actually changed its moral position.

Less than half (45%) of Catholics accept legalizing abortion in all or most cases. They are only 10% less likely than Mainline Protestants at accept abortion and are almost twice as willing to accept legalization of abortion as Evangelicals (45% versus 23%). Of course, as mentioned above, the unaffiliated are much more accepting of abortion in most or all cases.

Young Catholics (18-29) are really no more accepting (45%) than older Catholics (44%) of abortion in all or more cases. Other research shows that a majority of Catholics are willing to support abortion in cases of danger to the life of the mother, incest and rape. With the recent enthrallment with Catholic Identity and a "reform of the reform" of Vatican II, a number of young Catholics are taking a more conservative position on many issues. See: "Young activists adding furl to anti-abortion side"

There is more to abortion than statistics.
Last year Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of  Olinda and Recife, Brazil  publicly announced an excommunication against the mother and doctors who performed an abortion, saying the abortion was "a crime in the eyes of the church."

The abortion was performed  on the woman's nine year old daughter who had been raped by her stepfather and who was pregnant with twins. The incident caused a national and international sensation.

Later last year, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of The Pontifical Academy for Life (appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008), wrote an article about the "Brazilian abortion excommunication" issue in which he did not condemn or argue against the excummnication itself. However, he claimed that the Church's credibility was harmed by a "hasty" excommunication.

Fisichella also said the girl,  "should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we are on her side." In other words the Archbishop was expressing the compassion of a pastor for a victim of horrible abuse. (Personally, I believe he should be praised and honored for his courageous stance).

Before and during the February 11-13, 2010 meeting of the Academy in Rome, there were internal political issues and dissension on the part of conservative members of the Academy. Some members of the Academy, unhappy over Fisichella's original article and a statement he made during the meeting, pressed that he be replaced as president. On February 16th five conservative members of the Academy (One priest and four laypersons) published a letter asking that Archbishop Fisichella be removed as president of the Academy. Although they were not permitted to reveal Academy business, they published the letter in Rome, and on Feb. 18th an American member sent an email copy to the Catholic News Service here in the U.S.

One of the five signatories, Msgr. Michel Schooyans, wrote an article shortly before the Academy's February' meeting. Quoting Fisichella's article, he called the Archbishop's statement, "bogus compassion."

At this moment my concern is less with the morality of abortion and more with the almost vicious attack on a leader who had the courage to call for personal, direct, pastoral compassion by a cleric. Much too often bishops and priests live in a world of "objective realities," the "letter of the law" and rules. What the People of God need and desire from the hierarchy is a compassionate, pastoral concern.

See: "Move to oust head of Pontifical Academy for Life"  and the five additional links at the end of that article.

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