Justice as a religious value 


Religious leaders encourage tolerance and support choice

In a church that has traditionally been the linchpin of anti-choice lobbying, Mary E. Hunt takes an unpopular stance. The Catholic feminist theologian is unapologetically committed to defending reproductive freedom.

Hunt is the featured speaker at Saturday’s 2007 Faith and Freedom Dinner, sponsored by the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual in Silver Spring, Md., Hunt will present an optimistic view of reproductive freedom as a justice issue.

She is heartened by the growing number of American Christians, including Catholics, who are pro-choice. In fact, less than one-quarter (22 percent) of U.S. Catholics agree with the bishops’ position that abortion should be completely illegal, according to a 2000 CBS/New York Times poll.

Hunt says, “I’m quite optimistic that Catholics, working in conjunction with people of other faith traditions, are taking very seriously issues of justice, theology and spirituality in developing their pro-choice positions.”

Her talk will emphasize the variety of points of view among Catholics about issues such as contraception and abortion, in contrast to the rigidity of church policy.

“Because one happens to disagree with the institutional church on this position does not mean one is not Catholic,” she says. “It doesn’t mean I’m a ‘lapsed’ Catholic.”

As a liberation theologian, she is particularly concerned with issues of power and authority, noting that women continue to be marginalized by the Roman Catholic Church as it sets policy for all its followers. “Who decides on the position? Who counts as Catholic? Who gets to vote? The church has been a kind of monarchy that makes its own rules and expects that people will play by them.”

According to Hunt, this style of top-down leadership is no longer working in modern society, where well-educated people the world over are questioning the church’s edicts. “In the Catholic tradition a well-informed conscience is something one has to pay attention to,” she notes.

Justice is key for Hunt, whose pastoral training informs her pro-choice stance. She says, “From a pastoral perspective, it boils down to the need to accompany women in hard choices, and not condemn out of hand one choice that hopefully won’t need to be made often.

“Making a more equitable and just society goes hand in hand with keeping abortion safe and legal.”

For more information, go to www.ircrc.org or call 877-441-5797.

Mary E. Hunt will speak at the following events this weekend

Free Public Forum
“All in the Same Boat: Justice for Reproductive Health and Same-Sex Love” (with local panelists the Rev. Richard Clough, pastor of First Congregational Church, and Dan Funk, executive director of the Indiana Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination)
4 p.m. Saturday, Holiday Inn Select, 515 South St., Lafayette

2007 Faith & Freedom Dinner
“Catholic, Pro-Choice, and Optimistic”
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Holiday Inn Select, 515 South St., Lafayette

Sunday service
10:30 a.m. Sunday, Central Christian Church, 701 N. Delaware, Indianapolis


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