[Ancient Faith Radio; Feb 13, 2008]
I had a recent podcast about Roe v Wade, and heard some helpful comments from a couple of alert listeners who noticed a couple of things that I said that weren’t quite accurate. I was, in some respects, talking off the top of my head. I did get confused when I was talking about a Supreme Court decision that counted African Americans as two-fifths of a person, I had mixed a couple of things together.
A person who wrote me signs himself Reader John and says I’ve confounded two things: one is that the United States Constitution has a passage, a provision, article one, section two, paragraph three, as originally written, that states that representatives and direct taxes shall be portioned to the states according to how many persons lived there. It’s representative democracy, of course, but who do you count and who do you not count? It says that American Indians are not to be counted at all, free people are counted one-for-one, but “other persons” are counted as three-fifths of a person, “other persons” probably referring to slaves, or to people who are not Caucasian.
The thing that I had confused that with was the Dred Scott decision in 1856, the decision of the Supreme Court that ruled scandalously—sorry, 1857—that “the people of African descent, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in the federal territories.” And that’s a quote from Wikipedia, so thank you, Reader John, for pointing that out.
And thanks to Mary Ward, who wrote from Fordham University to correct the statement I had made about the Catholic Church’s attitude toward abortion and whether it’s permissible before 40 days or 80 days. She says, yes, Aquinas did say that an unborn baby receives a soul at 40 for a male, 80 days for a female, but he never said that abortion was permissible. That was not a conclusion that he drew or indeed the Catholic Church has ever upheld. They have always said that life needs to be protected from the moment of conception.
So even though Aquinas had picked up on this idea in Aristotle that it is not really a living human being until it is formed, even though that scientifically erroneous conclusion was one that he adopted from Aristotle, not he nor anyone else said that it made abortion okay.
So thank you Mary, and thank you Reader John, for those corrections.