✣ Roe v Wade plaintiff turned pro-lifer dies at 69
Norma McCorvey, the Roe of the infamous US abortion judgment Roe v Wade, has died. In 1969, aged 22, she sought an abortion after becoming pregnant with her third child. The case went to the Supreme Court, with McCorvey taking the pseudonym “Jane Roe”. McCorvey later said she was exploited by her legal team to lead the Supreme Court to effectively legalise abortion in America.
Years later, McCorvey became a pro-life activist and then a Catholic.
What the media are saying
The New York Times described the traumas of McCorvey’s early life, before the crisis pregnancy: she was an “unwanted child of a broken home, a ninth-grade dropout who was raped repeatedly by a relative, and a homeless runaway and thief consigned to reform school. She was married at 16, divorced and left pregnant three times by different men.”
But, as the Washington Post observed, she never actually had the abortion which became the centre of a landmark legal case. The baby was adopted, and McCorvey only emerged in public in the 1980s.
She was, for a time, a public supporter of legal abortion. And even after her conversion, “she remained an enigma, as difficult to know as when she shielded her identity behind the name Jane Roe”.
What Catholics are saying
Many reactions quoted from a testimony which McCorvey had written for priestsforlife.org. She said that her mother, a Catholic, used to take her to Mass. “There was something very moving about the Catholic ritual and symbolism – the procession with the priest and altar boys, the incense, cross and candles, the statues and the music,” she wrote. Her mother would tell her: “Remember, the Catholic Church was the first Church.” Decades later, McCorvey was finally received into the Church.
At the National Catholic Register, Kathy Schiffer said McCorvey “was a troubled woman whose life was characterised by missteps”. But “when God revealed Himself to her, she embraced the faith enthusiastically. May she know the love and mercy of God for all eternity.”
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, said that ordaining women as deacons is “not necessary and not possible”. He was speaking to the German magazine Rheinische Post. A Vatican commission is currently examining the issue. A previous commission was sceptical about the historical basis for women deacons.
Why was it under-reported?
The story was overshadowed by Cardinal Müller’s comment, in the same interview, that bishops’ conferences should not give “contradictory interpretations” of doctrine. In contrast with debates about Communion, the question of women deacons has fallen off the news agenda since the Pope announced the commission last August. Cardinal Müller’s remarks were quite brief: his point was that, if becoming a deacon is part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, like being a bishop or a priest, it cannot be open to women.
What will happen next?
The commission’s work is ongoing. Its 2002 predecessor – also under the aegis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Cardinal Müller now leads – said that texts from the early Church referring to women “deacons” could not be equated with the diaconate today.
But the new commission could suggest a separate order of non-ordained women deacons. One campaign group for women’s ordination to the priesthood hopes the commission will “begin to restore our Gospel values of equality and justice”.
✣The week ahead
In 1617, St Vincent de Paul began to focus his efforts on helping the poor in France. From his work would come the Daughters of Charity, the Vincentians, and, many years after his death, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP). Tomorrow, Archbishop Peter Smith will celebrate Mass in Southwark Cathedral to mark the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism.
Next week, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. It is a day of fasting and abstinence, meaning that Catholics should abstain from meat, and eat no more than one full meal, plus two small meals which together are not equal to a full meal.
A Vatican conference with the title “Biological Extinction” begins on Monday. It is controversial because the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has invited Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich, a renowned critic of Church teaching on abortion and contraception. The chancellor of the academy defended the invitation, saying these were Ehrlich’s “private opinions”.
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