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traditional church process, and I presently appeal to the sacred ticularly since the method of dismissal was so much even against congregation of Rome and have the support of my community in that effort.
I would like to introduce Dr. Jane Furlong Cahill, member of Catholic for a Free Choice, she has labored in ecumenical groups and with many Catholics and other religiously concerned persons about the serious moral issues of our time. She presently lectures in the Center for Continuing Education at the University of Georgia.
Jane Furlong Cahill.
Dr. Cahill. I am here as the official representative and also a national director of Catholics for a Free Choice.
I want to thank you and Senator Talmadge who were instrumental in allowing me to testify, first of all. I find it is easier to get into the U.S. Senate than into some chancery offices in the United States where the bishops of the Catholic church preside.
I must apologize for not giving you copies of my testimony beforehand. The reason is that I have been very busy directing a conference on women and religion just completed last Sunday. It was the first southern conference, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, on the myths and realities of religious leadership. And due to the illness of my parents and my daughter I could not get the testimony to you beforehand, but I will see that you get copies of it.
I am an official representative and a national director of Catholics for a Free Choice who believe that it is an individual woman's right to make decisions regarding abortion and contraception in accordance with her conscience without fear of prosecution. We oppose any efforts to deny this right of conscience through constitutional amendment and/or Federal or State legislation. Any interference by the State we believe is a gross and unscionable invasion of personal privacy and a direct violation of the female person's human and civil rights to responsibly control her own reproductive power.
To begin, I would like to say we are also a prolife group as I believe everyone who has spoken here today is. Catholice for the right to life or other right to life groups are not alone in this. But abortion is not a black and white issue. There are many gray areas recognized in Catholicism as well as other religious communities.
I wanted to give you some background of the Catholic church's opposition to this, so if you will bear with me for a few minutes we will establish the background so we may see the church's opposition to abortion, sterilization, and contraception in its proper historical text.
“In the tradition of modern Western civilization no two spheres stand more sharply opposed than that of religion and that of sex," Robert Briffault wrote in an article on "Sex In Religion." "Yet," he goes on, "a glance at the various religions of the world outside of Christianity, and one or two closely allied systems, a survey of religious rites of lower phases of culture, shows that the antithesis does not exist. Those religions and those rites, are on the contrary, shot through and through with riotous sensuality; the manifestations of the sex instinct instead of being accounted incompatible with
the religious spirit, are associated with it in the closest manner; and religion in those phases, is almost as much concerned with sex as with ethics and theology.”_"Sex and Civilization”.
How did the fear of sex and, therefore, the fear of woman, and her subsequent and almost universal exclusion from man's work, his wars, and his religious rites come about in Christianity and especially in Roman Catholicism? We know from the evidence of comparative religion that all religions began in order to serve the human need for reassurance in a hostile world in which injury, disease, and the arch enemy death were ever presenting a threat to human life.
All primitive religions had two practical functions, neither of them the philosophical interpretations of existence, or of life, as we today think of them. The primary function was to fill the need of the individual and of the tribe for food, and to insure their continuance by fertility in the women, the crops, and the animals. Imitative magico-religious rites, including the sexual act itself were thus performed to that purpose—the gods being presumed to be sexual beings also.
In this connection, woman, due to her menstrual cycle, was almost universally linked with the periodicity of the Moon. The "Moon God” was believed to be husband of every woman, the one who first of all impregnated her. In view of woman's astonishing power to bleed once a month and live, not die; to give life—(and sometimes bring forth death in the case of a stillborn child)—to nourish that new life with food from her own breasts; woman was believed to be possessed of mana, a god-like power for good or evil, which therefore rendered her taboo or forbidden. Woman, like all things possessed of mana was simultaneously holy in so far as she was a power for good, and unclean or taboo in so far as she was regarded as a power, possibly harmful to others.
She was most dangerous especially in those times when she was most womanlike, id est, during menstruation, pregnancy, and lactation, all of which taboos are mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament-of. Rabbi Jacob Singer, Taboos in the Hebrew Scripture.
Again almost all religions, including Judaism and Christianity, have some mythical account of the origins of human life in what Mircea Eliadem“Birth and Rebirth”—refers to as the “dream times” or the longforgotten past-or as Genesis puts it “In the beginning *** ” Through the ritual reenactment of these myths of the origin of life early religions attempted to relive communally by imitative religious rites, that thus initiate them into a life that is as Eliade points out, beyond the natural and so, what, was thought to be supernatural. The account of the creation of human beings in Genesis L-III, is such a mythical account of the origin of the first humans and of the first or original sin.
In the natural order, of course, the real human mother begets her child by natural birth from the womb. In the super natural order, however, the rebirth—and the only significant birth according to these religions—is accomplished by initiation rites, such as baptisms or washings, from this original sin, such as are found in both Judaism and Christianity. Such initiations attempt to beget the adolescent
child-(most often the male child as in Judiasm, although in Christianity, the female child as well)-or give birth anew by a kind of role reversal from death to the old natural life with its mother love, to a new and supernatural life with the gods or God. This new birth or birth, of course, is usually accomplished by a male mother called a priest or shaman, who thus by a reversal of roles attempts to become a "mother" and give "birth” again to the child.
The second function of primitive religion according to Briffault, was to avoid the anger of the gods or God, by ascetic practices of self-denial and funerary rites—(or rites of the dead)—whose spirits were sometimes, like woman, viewed as dangerous to humans. With the rise of patriarchy, or the rule of the father--which in almost all primitive religions, follows the demise of matriarchy)--the original and universally recognized right of the mother over her offspring was played down to the advantage of the father. A tighter rein was drawn on woman in civil law, and the fertility goddesses in religious law, reducing them to second-class status in the state and religion, though as an Assyriologist at the University of Pennsylvania pointed out recently Goddesses die hard.
In the creation account in Genesis, Eve, called "the mother of all the living” was depicted by the male author as being, incredibly, the offspring of Adam-human physiology notwithstanding-through the midwifery of God. As a result of the primordial transgression following upon the creation of man and woman-despite the fact that Genesis specifically blames and punished both—the Judeo-Christian traditions passed on the original sin of sexism-as Dr. Rosemary Reuther and Dr. Mary Daly have both put it-or the philosophy of the natural or divinely ordained supremacy of the male over the female.
Woman became by divine right the property of man. She existed solely for man's sexual pleasure, for procreation of man's child—as Genesis 3:16 itself takes note when it says, of the dangers of motherhood undestrainedly multiplied, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow shalt thou give birth to children; all they longing shall be for thy husband, even though he shall lord it over thee.” Fear of and not a little primitive or sophisticated, jealous of woman's maternal role led man to keep this property of his in the ghetto called the home in her case, so as to keep her dangerous powers as mother away from his work, and prevent her physical weakness believed due to menstruation, from contaminating it.
Thus the double standard of morality arose; a double standard imposed on the female which regarded her, not as the image of God and therefore a person, as Genesis insists, but as primarily the image of man, a mere reflection of his ego, and as a seducer of man, the one on whom he chose to project the myth of feminine evil. Whereas man, as seen by himself and male theologians, was a spiritual and intelligent creature, woman, being primarly for sex was viewed as a carnal and emotional creature; whereas he was active and independent, she was passive and dependent on him her Lord. Whereas ĥis value transcended sexual caste and allowed him a full range of sexual freedom, her value was entirely based on her used or unused status in the sexual realm.-Indeed the Catholic Code of Canon Law
still uses this approbrious term, "the use of woman” to describe the sexual act in marriage.
With the suppression of the legal rights and liturgical rites of woman and the female deites in the supernatural order, the second function of primitive religions, that of appeasing and averting the anger of the gods or God by asceticism and rites of the dead took precedence over magico-religious rites, including ritual sexual intercourse. By avoiding good things of which the gods might be jealous, such as food, drink, and above all, sexual relations, in short, things that were, like woman, taboo, our primitive forebears in the Semitic tradition passed on to Judaism and subsequently to Christianity, their more sophisticated heirs, a dubious heritage of which they formed an often inexplicable part.
“Sexism”, as Rosemary Radford Reuther put is, “That is, the oppression relationship of the man to the woman, is essentially social projection of the self-alienation which transcends certain initial biological differences into a power relationship. This relationship in turn is totalized in social structures”—such as civil and canon laws JFC_"and cultural modes that eliminate woman's autonomous personhood, to define her solely in terms of male needs and negations." [Sexism and Theology of Liberation]
This resulted in the unfortunate and for woman, tragic, tradition of Christianity and especially Roman Catholicism in the West so that, as Briffault put it “no two spheres stand more sharply opposed than that of religion and that of sex." The natural manifestations of sex, and especially of woman-sex, are in the R. Catholic tradition, the type of sin, the head-fount of that evil and impurity, with which the religious spirit cannot be brought into touch without defilement and dissolution.
The theology of marriage as explained by male Christian theologians was really little more than a tribal view of marriage, in which the act of sexual union was viewed as the use of woman, with little or no recognition of it as an act of love until the last decade of this century with the Second Council of the Vatican. This belief in the myth of feminine evil did not, however, stem from the teaching of Jesus who was, as Leonard Swidler pointed out a feminist in his own time, but was a carryover from the sexual taboos common to all primitive religions, including the Semitic, from which Judaism and Christianity ultimately derive.
This overwhelming fear of sex and therefore of woman as a temptress, was heightened by the Roman Catholic Church's insistence on clerical celibacy.
That, coupled with the fact that theologians insisted on doing her thinking for her in view of her intellectual weakness, is most manifest to all intelligent people in the official or hierarchical church's intransigent stand against artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Such a stand is designed to leave women at the mercy, not only of her biological makeup, but also at the mercy of a merciless celibate hierarchy, who claimed the right to damn her eternally if she used such methods.
Without medical control over the bodily power of reproduction, woman is left at the mercy of an irrational fertility which even the Bible in Genesis 3:16 recognized as a curse. The time of rational en
soulment, or the time when the fetus becomes specifically human, has been and still is a matter of debate in the Catholic tradition as is evident from the attached list of authorities ranging from the first century to the present day.
In the very first book of the Bible, the two-facedness of procreation as both a blessing from God and a curse from the same God is very aptly described. Genesis 1:28 recounts the blessing of man and woman by God who told them “to increase and multiply and fill the earth and rule over it.” The same book of Genesis-3: 16—later on after the fall from God's favor indicates quite clearly that the blessing of procreation is now because of its frequency and painfulness covered with a curse for the woman to whom God said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children.” According to scripture itself then, childbearing in itself a great blessing, is also because of the possible great multiplicity of pregnancies a woman may undergo and because of the painfulness associated with pregnancy and birth in many cases, the curse of the woman. However, this text has largely been ignored by celibate theologians in the Catholic Church. [of. My article “Contraception and Eve”.]
The text of Exodus 21, 22 had a far more powerful influence on both Jewish and Christian theologians, however. This passage dealt with the abortion that is caused accidentally by a man who struck a woman who was pregnant. In "The Septuaguint"—the Greek translation of the Hebrew text—the text prescribes the penalty of “life for life" if the embryo is “formed." "Formed” here was taken to mean by Christian theologians at any rate, what Aristotle meant by "formed.” For Aristotle a fetus becomes human 40 days after conception if the fetus is male, and 80 days after conception, if the fetus is female. (“History of Animals,” 7, 3.) A similar view seems to underly the old prescription regarding purification, 40 days being required for purification if the child was a boy, 80 days if the child was a girl. ["Contraception," John T. Noonan, p. 90.)
This theory of delayed hominization, or ensoulment with a rational soul, regarding the fetus was held by some of the greatest theologians in the Catholic Church and is still held by a goodly proportion of theologians today.
I myself consider abortion to be a serious moral problem and while I am not for abortion across the board, I nonetheless believe there are many serious reasons which could justify taking the life of the fetus. Such reasons, like Dr. Daniel Callahan, I would consider, extreme poverty, mental illness, grave or crippling physical disease, rape, incest, the possibility of a deformed fetus, grave risk to the life of the mother. Another reason I did not give but would like to include now is the positive unwillingness of the woman to bear the child. I can think of nothing more detrimental to a human baby than to be born to a mother who hated its very existence.
The Supreme Court decision which interprets the law every liberally is in my opinion a wise decision. When the woman feels justified in conscience in having it, later abortions sometimes are both morally and medically justified, and should also be allowed.
I believe though that the law should have a conscience clause which would exempt medical and paramedical persons who have moral ob