Catholics For Choice Conscience VOL. XXXV – NO. 4 2014 : Page 40

BOOK REVIEW S Reviews of Good Catholics Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church Patricia Miller (University of California Press, 2014, 344 pp) 9780520276000, $34.95 How Good Catholics Fought the Vatican C religion to block access to reproductive healthcare. But t here’s a not her side to t h is story—one that’s too often overlooked. As the Catholic church was becoming increasingly defined by a far-right polit-ical agenda, Catholics for Choice and other progressive religious organiza-tions began speaking out on the same topics. Under the leadership of Frances Kissling and Jon O’Brien, Catholics for Choice has become the leading voice on this front, arguing that their faith leads them to advocate for access to reproduc-tive healthcare—whether it’s condom use to address the spread of HIV & AIDS or family planning for women around the globe. Importantly, as Catholic laity and leaders built an effective count-er-narrative to the far right, they helped to solidify support in the Democratic Party for pro-reproductive health poli-cies at a critical moment. As Miller writes, the last US presidential election demonst rated t hat protect ing and expanding reproductive health access proved to not only be good policy, but good politics as well. Good Catholics is an excellent primer on the dynamic issue of religion in reproductive health issues in the US. The importance of progressive, faith-based leadership on these matters con-tinues to grow, and this book provides a great introduction to many on the fore-front of change. N By Fred T. Sai HAPTER SEVEN IN PATRICIA A Necessary Counternarrative F By Cecile Richards OR ANYONE LOOKING AROUND in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision and asking, “How did we get here?” Patricia Miller’s Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church provides your answer—and then some. Good Catholics traces the rise of religion in public health and t he polit ical arena—f rom t he joining of conservative Protestant and Catholic groups with far-right political organizations to the essential addition of progressive religious voices to the debate. In chronicling the evolving strategy of so-called conscience objec-tions, Miller makes the case that Hobby Lobby is the outgrowth of a 20-year campaign by those who want to use CE CILE R ICH A R D S is president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, national organizations that work for a healthier world for women and teens. A frequent commentator on women’s rights, reproductive health and sex education, she is a contributor to the Huffington Post and serves on the board of the Ford Foundation. Miller’s Good Catholics covers the “Showdown in Cairo,” which happened when the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) opened in 1994 with representatives from 179 countries as well as 1,300 NGO s from 133 countries. For the first time at a UN conference, all relevant NGO s who wanted to attend had been registered as full, non-voting participants. And NGO participation made a major difference to the outcome. The NGO community had learned some painful lessons from the 1984 Con-ference on Population in Mexico City and the 1992 Conference on Environ-ment and Development in Rio. In both these conferences and at Cairo, Catholics for Free Choice worked strategically to educate NGO s and the media about the Vatican’s attempts to remove or water down references to women’s equality and sexual and reproductive health. By 1994, the Vatican had allied itself with extremist Islamic groups in opposing all references to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) , which they con-flated with extramarital sexual relations, adolescent sexual freedom, destruction of the traditional family and access to abor-tion. At Cairo, the NGO s, as well as the majority of other attendees, were very angry about the Vatican’s continued oppo-sition to sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially the statement Pope John Paul II had made to UNFPA Executive F R E D T. S A I is a Ghanaian family health physician, a former Professor of Community Health, and a sexual and reproductive health advocate. He chaired the Main Committees of both the Population Conference in Mexico and the ICPD in Cairo. 40 CONSCIENC E

Reviews of Good Catholics

Good Catholics:
The Battle Over Abortion
In The Catholic Church
Patricia Miller
(University of California Press,
2014, 344 pp)
9780520276000, $34.95

A Necessary Counternarrative

By Cecile Richards

FOR ANYONE LOOKING AROUND in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision and asking, “How did we get here?” Patricia Miller’s Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church provides your answer—and then some. Good Catholics traces the rise of religion in public health and the polit ical arena—from the joining of conservative Protestant and Catholic groups with far-right political organizations to the essential addition of progressive religious voices to the debate. In chronicling the evolving strategy of so-called conscience objections, Miller makes the case that Hobby Lobby is the outgrowth of a 20-year campaign by those who want to use religion to block access to reproductive healthcare.

But there’s another side to this story—one that’s too often overlooked. As the Catholic church was becoming increasingly defined by a far-right political agenda, Catholics for Choice and other progressive religious organizations began speaking out on the same topics. Under the leadership of Frances Kissling and Jon O’Brien, Catholics for Choice has become the leading voice on this front, arguing that their faith leads them to advocate for access to reproductive healthcare—whether it’s condom use to address the spread of HIV & AIDS or family planning for women around the globe. Importantly, as Catholic laity and leaders built an effective counter- narrative to the far right, they helped to solidify support in the Democratic Party for pro-reproductive health policies at a critical moment. As Miller writes, the last US presidential election demonstrated that protect ing and expanding reproductive health access proved to not only be good policy, but good politics as well.

Good Catholics is an excellent primer on the dynamic issue of religion in reproductive health issues in the US. The importance of progressive, faithbased leadership on these matters continues to grow, and this book provides a great introduction to many on the forefront of change.

How Good Catholics Fought the Vatican

By Fred T. Sai

CHAPTER SEVEN IN PATRICIA Miller’s Good Catholics covers the “Showdown in Cairo,” which happened when the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) opened in 1994 with representatives from 179 countries as well as 1,300 NGOs from 133 countries. For the first time at a UN conference, all relevant NGOs who wanted to attend had been registered as full, non-voting participants. And NGO participation made a major difference to the outcome.

The NGO community had learned some painful lessons from the 1984 Conference on Population in Mexico City and the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio. In both these conferences and at Cairo, Catholics for Free Choice worked strategically to educate NGOs and the media about the Vatican’s attempts to remove or water down references to women’s equality and sexual and reproductive health.

By 1994, the Vatican had allied itself with extremist Islamic groups in opposing all references to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which they conflated with extramarital sexual relations, adolescent sexual freedom, destruction of the traditional family and access to abortion. At Cairo, the NGOs, as well as the majority of other attendees, were very angry about the Vatican’s continued opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially the statement Pope John Paul II had made to UNFPA Executive.

Director Nafis Sadik to the effect that “women caused men to sin.” The Vatican had also tried to use its diplomats to canvass the whole world to unite against the Cairo document, alleging that it had no ethical basis. But CFC’s prochoice Catholic perspective challenged the Vatican’s authority and ultimately helped break decades of gridlock on population and development. In the end, the Vatican realized it had overplayed its hand and finally signed the document with just a reservation on the section related to modern forms of contraception.

In Cairo, the world’s nations created a groundbreaking plan to ensure holistic people-oriented development, including access to family planning and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. More than that, the Cairo programme of action recognized that women’s equal status in society should be central to all development activities.

In 2014 a new 20-year Programme of Action was released with goals related to the improvement in women’s rights, particularly their needs for reproductive and sexual healthcare, the health of children and the full participation of youth in all development. These were similar to the values reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established in 2000. Unfortunately, universal access to reproductive health was excluded from the MDGs, which led to a decrease in attention to family planning. The error was corrected a few years later when universal access to reproductive health was made a target under goal 5, improving maternal health.

The continuation of the Cairo Programme of Action in the MDGs has helped promote great changes in the status of women; in maternal, infant and child health; and in the attention paid to youth in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, the poorer and less developed countries, particularly those in sub- Saharan Africa and South Asia, have seen less progress. It is to be hoped that they will do better with the post-2015 Development Agenda with which the UN will try to accelerate progress on the MDGs. Cairo proved that NGOs could have a real impact in moving forward on reproductive health, and since then, many of the improvements in women’s rights can also be traced to the impetus of NGOs carrying the momentum from Cairo to national level involvement.

Shedding Light on the Good Fight

By Lousewies van der Laan

GOOD CATHOLICS PROMISES to relate “the battle over abortion in the Catholic church,” and it does this very well. The book begins with the early theology that laid the foundation for centuries of institutionalized misogyny, and then the narrative travels up through the latest political battles to give women control over their reproductive health. Author Patricia Miller presents these historical details in a page-turning thriller filled with courageous individuals fighting to end the horrible loss of life that comes from illegal back-alley abortions and to oppose The injustice of abortion being available for the rich, but not the poor.

Any student of politics will enjoy learning how the Catholic bishops helped make abortion a wedge issue in presidential and state campaigns. But the bishops accomplished this by making alliances with politicians who were diametrically opposed to other policies espoused by the bishops, such as nuclear disarmament, fighting poverty, strong trade unions and care for the environment. Despite the efforts of the more progressive bishops to push for a more balanced focus in its politics, the church hierarchy relegated all these issues to second tier by placing abortion above all else. Its strategy to silence internal dissent is a chilling lesson in autocracy.

As a passionate transatlantic European who grew up in the US, I have long been concerned about the growing cultural divide between our two continents. For all the values that unite us—from democracy to free trade—there are a number of trends in the US that many Europeans find alienating: the widespread availability of firearms to the public, the adulation of the military, the role of money in politics, increasing puritanism and the acceptance of a strong role for religion in public life. In this regard, Good Catholics is a great re-balancer, shedding light on the thinking and the actions of those who are working to limit the influence of the hierarchy, fighting for real religious freedom and trying to bring it back to the progressive politics that, to many, were the trademark of its founder, Jesus.

I found myself rooting for the brave individuals taking on the powerful establishment. This story needs a wider audience and many chapters have Hollywood written all over them. One of my favorites is Catholics for a Free Choice founder Patricia McQuillan crowning herself prochoice feminist pope on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, thereby stealing crucial media attention away from the first 6,000-strong antiabortion rally in Washington, DC. A good screenwriter could make a captivating “West Wing”- style series or film out of Good Catholics.

McQuillan’s words will continue to galvanize progressive forces everywhere: “I am an activist, thoroughly involved in the most revolutionary of all revolutions in history—the women’s struggle to emancipate themselves religiously, spiritually and politically from sinful patriarchal oppression.” Amen and inspired reading.

Read the full article at http://digital.graphcompubs.com/article/Reviews+of+Good+Catholics/1912518/243321/article.html.

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