Notre Shame prof wants Pope Francis to “Rethink Abortion”

From the Cardinal Newman Society (see their RSS feed box on my sidebar):

Notre Dame Professor Wants Pope Francis to Allow Some Abortions

A philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame published an opinion piece at the New York Times arguing that Pope Francis should reconsider the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion.

“Pope Francis has raised expectations of a turn away from the dogmatic intransigence that has long cast a pall over the religious life of many Roman Catholics,” writes Gary Gutting in his column, “Should Pope Francis Rethink Abortion?”

While Gutting acknowledges that the Pope seems “unyielding” on the abortion issue, he argues why he believes the Holy Father should reconsider.

“I want to explore the possibility, however, that the pope might be open to significant revision of the absolute ban on abortion by asking what happens if we take seriously his claim that ‘reason alone is sufficient’ to adjudicate this issue,” he writes. “Revising the ban on abortion would not contradict the pope’s overall commitment to the ‘value of the human person.’” [?!?]


Read the rest there. There is a lot more.

Fr. Z is appalled, but not surprised.

Meanwhile, does anyone in academia ever pay attention to Ex corde Ecclesiae?


Fr. Fessio takes this Notre Shame prof to pieces HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Emanations from Penumbras, Francis, Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, You must be joking! and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Johnno says:

    There are not enough LOLs to compensate for this stupidity.

    But there is a serious problem here with regards to the perception not uncommon amongst the apostates.

    These people seriously believe that Christianity is an entirely man-made concept. They believe everything from Genesis to the Gospels to Revelation is fiction made up or at best embellished largely, and that therefore if men made up the ‘fiction’ of the Catholic Church (all for the good of mankind of course), then those same men’s successors can make up more things to make life easier for the poor (all for the good of mankind of course).

    Just this Sunday, we had no Gospel reading, but had to listen to the sermon of an old retired priest who was calling us to realize that we don’t need to convert people to the Catholic Faith. Because Buddhism is a lovely religion, and for the time of Christian Unity we need to pray that we one day reach a synthesis between the Catholic Faith and Buddhism and other world religions in harmony for unity. We of course condemned the SSPX in passing. And I’ve talked to him before privately about previously preaching these erronous notions, and as it turns out he told me himself that he doesn’t believe in the Eucharist and in fact he never had. So it’s no surprise that he’s looking for unity through the course of making things up as we go along, because this for him is ‘evolution’, another favorite subject of his for preaching as to why we need to adapt and change. For him, the Church, being a product of synthesized Christian evolution from no particular church or founder, can adapt with the help of current societal pressures from secularism and competing religions to absorb the DNA of others, mate with them like a harlot and evolve into something new and obviously better.

  2. BeckyCA says:

    I am a Notre Dame alum who had Gutting as a professor 20 years ago. Notre Shame, indeed!

  3. anilwang says:

    It’s not surprising. Somewhere since the “Enlightnment”, theology went astray.

    Earlier, theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas did theology on their needs. The old saying was, a theologian is one who prays….one who prays is a theologian. Theology’s role was to dig deeper into the mysteries of the personal God, being faithful to the Revelation that was handed down. As such, only faithful Christians could be Christian theologians.

    Somewhere since the “Enlightnment”, theology became secularized so that theology’s basic assumption was that it judged religions and their reliability and if there is a God, then “it” certainly didn’t “dirty his hands” in history. As such, a modern theologian can be a rabid atheist and still be respected.

    The fact that any Catholic university would hire a modern “theologian” of this ilk says a lot about the state of Catholic education.

  4. anilwang says:

    Autocorrect strikes again:-(
    I meant “Earlier, theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas did theology on their **knees***”.

  5. Pearl says:

    I hope this isn’t off topic too much, but in the Fr. Fessio article, he states that Gutting claims that because the Church isn’t doing anything about spontaneous abortions, the Church should back off of her stance on abortion. Has anyone else run into this line of thinking elsewhere? I have on other occasions seen the “Catholics don’t care about/aren’t researching/aren’t doing anything about miscarriages, therefore the Church can’t say anything about abortion” theory thrown about. There is just so much wrong with that statement it takes my breath away, but it seems to be some sort of new twist the pro-aborts are using. Anyone else noticed this? Any theory on what they are trying to gain by this weird tactic? Are they just pushing the “Catholic Church is a brutal institution that hates people” tactic a bit too far?? Thanks for any light any of you can shead on this for me.

  6. Pearl says:

    Shed, not shead. Sorry, typo!!

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    “Since the Church hasn’t managed to stop natural or accidental death, clearly it’s okey-doke to make anybody dead. Except me, because your grades depend on my continued existence.”

  8. Mike says:

    What makes it painful to be Catholic is not the Church’s “intransigent” position on abortion (which the left/MSM would characterize as “principled” with respect to, say, war or the death penalty). What makes it painful is that a university that encourages this kind of diseased thinking is allowed to continue to call itself Catholic without so much as the raise of a Magisterial eyebrow.

  9. akp1 says:

    I don’t get these ‘c’atholics that don’t ‘get’ the Catholic Church – the teaching are from Almighty God, not just the Catholic Church. Thou shalt not kill – sound familiar….

  10. catholic_at_nd says:

    So Gutting is an old crank who holds heretical views in direct opposition to the Church? Tell me something I didn’t already know.

    Fr. Z, since you are so quick to (rightly) criticize Notre Dame when it fails to live up to the ideal of a Catholic university, perhaps also you might humble yourself so as to give credit when it is due. Notre Dame sent hundreds of students, faculty, and staff to the March for Life last week, in spite of the cold, in spite of the distance, and in spite of the March being on a Wednesday. Fr. Jenkins marched too, as he has done for years. Perhaps you might highlight this witness of so many of the good folks at Notre Dame who work tirelessly to promote the teaching and beauty of the Church?

    I’m not going to hold my breath.

    Gutting is a hack and a heretic. There are many at Notre Dame … Just like there are many in the Curia, diocesan chanceries, and other Carholic universities.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Yah. So natural law is simply a “ban” that can be “revised.” Yah. Lotsa luck with that.

  12. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    What is Gary gutting so intently – Church teaching, Christian doctrine, sure, but surely ‘the sufficiency of natural reason’, too? I went to university with an atheist biologist, brought up a Catholic, who could be scathing about the Church (though he would temper it to spare people’s feelings), but who also thought as an atheist and a biologist that it was the most obvious thing in the world that Church teaching on abortion, embryology, fetology, etc., was simply in keeping with ‘natural reason’ and contemporary science.

  13. kford says:

    We are out there, ever mindful of Ex Corde, and waiting as elsewhere for the biological solution. Don’t despair, Father, there is a notable contingency (and an even larger student population) who are making slow, deliberate, and prayerful change at the Catholic college level. To paraphrase the Holy Father, there is a silent forest growing, even among the loudly crashing trees. Brick by brick happens at IHE’s…Pray for us!

  14. kford says:

    IHE: Institutions of Higher Education. Sorry for the eduspeak.

  15. The Cobbler says:

    @Pearl, I imagine it’s carefully crafted so that any comparison that can be understood — e.g. “I suppose since we haven’t cured heart attacks we should let people shoot each other too?” — would allow your interlocutor to come back with, “Aha! You are talking of murder now! You’re the crazy one, not me!” One of those many ways of “thinking” taught by those who want to inoculate their students against ordinary reasoning… seen one, seen ’em all.

  16. benedetta says:

    Great reply by Fr. Fessio!

    Once again we see how the assiduously pro-death crowd is totally ignorant of what prolife Catholics are doing. I mean, he really has no clue. If he did he would know that as a matter of fact prolife Catholics, laity, quite apart from Catholic hierarchy and apparently very far from what is going on in the halls of academia are working very hard and fundraising on this very issue of miscarriage or as he so relishingly says “spontaneous abortion”. Instead of dreaming up new arguments to prevent still more babies from being born, why doesn’t he and academics like him roll up their sleeves and get to work with others in prolife.

    I would ask him, why shouldn’t the Church encourage human life? Not Enlightenment and Jesuit enough for him?

    After all, aren’t we, every one of us, Voltaire, Jesuits and Notre Dame profs included, “potential human life”?

  17. eulogos says:

    I have heard the miscarriage argument. It goes like this. X(a large number)% of embryos conceived never implant and are washed out with menstruation. (I am not sure how they think they know this number.) X # that do implant, miscarry. Argument variation 1:this happens naturally, so abortion is natural, so we can do it. Argument variation 2: This happens, so God must be making it happen, so if God does it, we can do it too. I have pointed out, to no apparent avail, that this argument applies to deaths from yellow fever, septic shock, or myocardial infarction, too. Oh, and God does have rightful dominion over life and death, which we do not. For some reason that argument makes people furious. Miscarriage argument variation #3, if you can call it that, is that if abortion at any stage were made illegal, women would be jailed for having a miscarriage. They would have to go in for hormone tests every week to prove they were still pregnant… I have never heard the one cited above, though, that if the Church is against abortion, it should be doing something about miscarriages. I suppose Catholic doctors and scientists working on that issue, as I am sure some do, doesn’t count? It would have to be some bishops or cardinals conducting the scientific work? And of course, this is the same as arguing that if the Church says shooting a man is wrong, she would have to be conducting research to prevent every natural form of death.

    I know there is such a thing as natural reason, but somehow many of those who believe only in the natural world are unable to exercise it.
    Susan Peterson

  18. robtbrown says:


    In the past I had similar experiences and subsequent confrontations with priests. What he told you about his lack of belief in the Eucharist isn’t a surprise. The Novus Ordo was designed to be acceptable to those who also didn’t believe.

    Did you contact the pastor who brought in the priest? If you weren’t satisfied with what he said, did you contact the chancery and/or bishop? If still no satisfaction, did you send a letter to the diocesan newspaper? Or the apostolic nuncio?

  19. robtbrown says:

    Catholic at ND says,

    Notre Dame sent hundreds of students, faculty, and staff to the March for Life last week, in spite of the cold, in spite of the distance, and in spite of the March being on a Wednesday. Fr. Jenkins marched too, as he has done for years. Perhaps you might highlight this witness of so many of the good folks at Notre Dame who work tirelessly to promote the teaching and beauty of the Church?

    I know there are some good people at ND, faculty and students.

    On the other hand, the univ did honor the very pro abortion Obama and has given Fr McBrien a forum for years.

    BTW, in so far as Fr Jenkins was heavily involved in honoring the very pro abortion Obama, perhaps it would be appropriate that he walk from S Bend to DC and back again as penance.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    As an alum, I am not shocked, nor surprised, but very, very sad………so the great have fallen.

  21. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    When Pope Benedict made his visit to England several years ago, the atheist-led “Protest the Pope” campaign help up signs, among others, that read: “POPE BENEDICT, ORDAIN WOMEN NOW!” (If you’re a true atheist, why does it matter if a religion admits female clergy? The topic should be pointless to them.)

    My response to the sign, “The pope doesn’t have the power.” He can’t go against Church teaching even though it would win him the temporary worthless approval of people who hate the Church.

    Why should the Church have to “rethink” abortion, contraception, the morality of homosexual acts and heterosexual sex outside of marriage, etc.?

    Maybe the professor can rethink the death penalty. If we should be open to killing babies produced by the evils of rape and incest, then why shouldn’t the rapist be executed? Wouldn’t that prove that one “cares,” “is tough,” etc on violence against women?

    “24”–a show that I as a conservative despised, is returning to air later this spring. Should torture and “enhanced interrogation techniques” be rethought for the “hard” (i.e. ticking time-bomb) cases that may arise?

    Can anyone imagine Sr. Simone Campbell rethinking the idea that the welfare state, which is a relatively recent development in the history of both civilization and the Church, is the only and best way to help the poor?

  22. Ichabod says:

    Great reply. Thanks for the needed perspective. Gutting is also in the philosophy department, and not a theologian. His selling out does not mean ND has changed its institutional commitment to Life, as the HHS mandate lawsuit and the march for life attendance demonstrate.

  23. Miscarriage argument, eh?

    1) People die all the time
    2) We can make that happen
    3) Let’s do it!

    What a wonderful recipe. It’s brought so much peace and harmony to the world over the last few millennia.

  24. NoraLee9 says:

    I was driving in the car last weekend. The Newsradio88 announcer said that Pope Francis had not YET given his go-ahead for women priests. It was reported as if the approval was imminent. What planet do these people live on. I am appalled by so much I have read here. I had 6 miscarriages before modern science was able to identify and address antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. I asked my parish priest in 1989 (8 years before I gave birth to my only living child) what to do about preventing more miscarriages. They were breaking my heart. Of course birth control was out of the question. He recommended NFP, but couldn’t tell me where to learn it. Shocking as it may seem now, there was no internet.
    That these fools think that Church Laws are reversible is a slap in the face to everyone who DID hold the faith. I have a friend who was raped, and I mean brutally, gang rapped. Yet she refused to submit to an abortion. When the baby came, she knew she couldn’t give the boy a family, and put him up for a adoption.
    There are many such warrior-ettes for Faith and for Life. What concerns me is that our Holy Father has left us open to scandal by his ambiguous statements.

  25. Um, yep. The Pope needs to relax the ban on abortions, no different from the City Council relaxing a ban on parking on the south side of 33 St or relaxing the ban on bicycles on the 5th Street Bridge. It’s just an arbitrary rule. Yep.

  26. Pearl says:

    This whole issue of miscarriage not being important to pro-life people is so puzzling to me. In Gutting’s article he states, “The fact that pro-life advocates do not support an all-out effort to prevent spontaneous abortions indicates that they themselves recognize a morally relevant difference between embryos and human beings with full moral standing.” He cites this article as proof of his “facts”. Obviously, neither of these two men have ever lost a baby to miscarriage, nor have they ever talked to parents (and especially women) who have lost babies. The three children who I lost are just as human as the two who are still with me. Maybe I am making this too personal, but what the heck?? Also, in a different blog I was looking over the comments and the idea bandied about there was that God was a horrible, blood-thirsty god because he killed babies xx% of the time a conception takes place. Therefore, pro-lifers worship a horrid, baby-killing being. That is, if an unborn baby is really human. So, either unborn babies are NOT human, or God is a blood-thirsty baby killer. Can’t have it both ways. That is how the logic went. I guess I only wanted to bring this up because I was so surprised by the new twist in logic that is out there and I wanted to see if others had come across this and if this is a trend that should be watched or ignored. Thanks for your insights!!

  27. Giuseppe says:

    You join the club, you follow the rules.

    I’m puzzled why any Roman Catholic thinks there can be debate about when life can begin according to the church: when sperm meets egg, a soul is placed into that cell by God. This is a largely consistent teaching of theologians (even before people understood what a sperm and egg was until the last 100-200 years, we understand that this is what was meant.)

    [When life ends if far more complicated, and I do not claim to understand it.]

    But when life begins, according to Roman Catholicism, is not complicated. Transubstantiation is complicated. Sperm+egg= human with soul. Not complicated.

    One can argue in a theology class (at a non-Catholic college) about when a soul is placed into a human, but if you do so, you join another religion. I see the elegance of an argument that a soul is embodied in a functioning neurologic system, but this is not Roman Catholicism. This is heresy. Elegant, sophisticated thinking is sophistry and seductive. It is heresy. The neurologic connection to a soul might have some applicability to thinking about brain death, but I doubt it, as it will likely lead to heretical ideas. I long for a clear Roman Catholic explanation of death that parallels the sudden onset of life with a zygote.

    Roman Catholic belief is not always obvious. Bread is body. Wine is blood. Zygote now has a soul where is did not exist from its constituent parts (sperm and egg). It requires leaps of faith. But if you join the club, you follow the rules, which have been carefully thought out for you.

    No room for speculation, intellectualization, argument. Creative theologians can be seductive. They tempt with the lure of fruit from the tree of knowledge. But they tempt with poison. One does not need to be sophisticated in matters of morality. The major decisions have been made for you.

    You join the club, you follow the rules. If not, there are other clubs. And you better hope God is merciful at your death.

  28. JonPatrick says:

    One of the things that bothers me about the pro-life campaign as it is now waged, and perhaps somewhat explains the dichotomy in places like ND that can be at the same time participating in the March for Life yet support such divergent views as Prof. Gutting’s, is that abortion is isolated from the general Catholic understanding of the Natural Law and how it pertains to the larger context of human sexuality. It seems (to borrow a term from the “other side”) that we need a “seamless garment” when it comes to the life/sexuality issues which includes the whole spectrum of the sanctity of marriage, openness to life and the rejection of artificial contraception and so on.

    This was brought out recently in Michael Voris’ interviews with marchers at the March for Life where as many as one third of the people interviewed had no problems with use of artificial contraception, and a significant number (I forget the amount) who supported same sex marriage. It seems that we have focused on one aspect, an important aspect, and one that for pragmatic reasons finds support amongst non-Catholic Christians and even atheists. However by ignoring the big picture we miss the root causes of the abortion mentality and the lack of respect for human life in general.

  29. Kerry says:

    Rethink slavery, Prof.

  30. Mike says:

    “Gutting is also in the philosophy department, and not a theologian. His selling out does not mean ND has changed its institutional commitment to Life, as the HHS mandate lawsuit and the march for life attendance demonstrate.”

    Why am I hearing echoes of 1970s politicians who claimed to be “personally opposed to abortion, but . . .” With practice, one can voice such nonsense without smirking, although few in these “enlightened” 2010s bother to turn on the smirk suppressor.

    I’ll believe in Notre Dame’s [it seems crude even to type the title of Our Lady in this context] “institutional commitment to life” when they fire Gutting and his enablers and take back Obama’s honorary degree. The minute they make any motion in such a consistently principled direction, of course, all Hell will break loose. Thus I expect little more than continued fence-riding while the students for whose formation they are responsible are left to sort out the contradictions for themselves, as I was at a similarly “Catholic” institution a generation ago.

  31. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Modern theology: a science ignoring both logic and theos.

  32. Patrick-K says:

    “dogmatic intransigence” … a.k.a. having principles. I wonder if the math department is attacked for its dogmatic intransigence in insisting that 1+1=2. Why can’t it accept a diversity of perspectives on arithmetic? Isn’t that what makes our country great?

    As usual with these sort of things, the Church is attacked not so much for actually being wrong, but for having principles and refusing to bend to the fashions of the day.

  33. Patrick-K: common core will take care of the dogma…don’t you know that 1+1=3 (aproximately). or 2+2=5 for sufficiently large values of 2?

  34. OrthodoxChick says:

    Bryan D. Boyle,

    It’s crazy when not only morality, but now, even mathematics are relative!!

    Sometimes it feels like a perpetual Twilight Zone down here on planet earth.

  35. SpesUnica says:

    Umm, maybe I’m going crazy, but I had Dr. Gutting for freshman Philo and I thought he told us he was an atheist (maybe raised Catholic, maybe?). Not everyone in the Philosophy Dept is Catholic, and while I might surely pray that he convert and see the beauty of the Church’s teaching on life issues, I can’t say that I think he should be canned for not believing in Catholic teaching. He’s wrong, of course. I remember him as being a good teacher, and always very respectful of student’s faith and opinions. You know what you’re gonna get when you sign up for class with an atheist professor, and the ones I had (philosophy major) were almost ALWAYS respectful of the Catholic position. They, also, know what they are signing up for when they take a job at Notre Dame. I had much more problems with Catholic professors who openly disparaged the “institutional church” than with atheist or Protestant professors attacking my faith. These are smart kids; the partying and hedonism that is present at (nearly) every college, to some degree, is a much larger threat to their faith than academic arguments with professors. After the latter they might actually look up and read what the church teaches. Fr. Fessio, SJ, took more of the right approach (if, in my opinion, sort of uncharitably). He’s a philosophy prof, write your argument that proves him wrong. In logic symbols, if that floats your boat.

  36. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Must we not go further and say, you find yourself in the ‘clubhouse’ the builder and maker of which has made it the way it is (Hebrews 11:10), whether you realize that or not, and whether you join the club – or ‘any other club’ – or not?

    I think you well say, ” Zygote now has a soul where it did not exist from its constituent parts (sperm and egg). It requires leaps of faith.” But, ” Not complicated”?

    I once heard Elizabeth Anscombe give a talk entitled, “Were you a zygote?” Part of its subject was identical twins. But I think I recall that it also addressed the sorts of things people can try doing – and are trying doing – to poor human zygotes, like taking them apart, recombining them, making human – and even only partly-human – chimeras, perhaps aspiring to something like ‘Bokanovsky’s Process’ as imagined by Huxley in Brave New World, etc., etc.

    Not faith-destroying, or leap of faith scuttling, but surely deserving the description ‘complicated’

  37. dans0622 says:

    Interestingly, the Pope addressed some Notre Dame higher-ups today:

    One passage of the speech: “This commitment to “missionary discipleship” ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 132-134), which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life. Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors. It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!”

  38. Gail F says:

    “The fact that pro-life advocates do not support an all-out effort to prevent spontaneous abortions indicates that they themselves recognize a morally relevant difference between embryos and human beings with full moral standing.”

    ??? How could anyone prevent spontaneous abortions? Is there a magic way I’m not aware of to prevent a surprise miscarriage from happening — one that we could make an “all out effort” to carry out? And when women have conditions, or fetal problems, that put them at risk for miscarriage, who in the world doesn’t try to prevent them? That is the second weirdest argument for abortion I’ve ever heard. (The first is, I’m not kidding, “It might be murder but it might not, so since it might not be murder, we should allow it.”)

  39. Giuseppe says:

    @Venerator Sti Lot
    My comment that “zygote now has a soul where it did not exist from its constituent parts (sperm and egg)” is not complicated refers to the fact that this belief is an act of faith, not reason. You just believe it. There is no way to prove that a soul exists where it did not exist milliseconds before. Especially when that zygote divides and goes the route of twins instead of one person. So did that zygote have one or two souls? If one, then which one of the two? This is beyond human capacity to reason. It simply requires belief. Pure belief is not complicated. It doesn’t require reason. It just is. It is what the church teaches.

    We are lured by Satan to eat from the tree of knowledge when we try to second-guess God with human reason and knowledge. Don’t try to reason that bread is Body, that wine is Blood. Just believe it. The reasoning is ‘complicated’. The belief is actually pretty straightforward.

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