Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Bishop Rhoades.png

Bishop Rhoades discusses unwanted abortions, Catholic values in the professional realm

In two talks this week, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Archdiocese of South Bend and Fort Wayne spoke to students on campus. Earlier in the year, the bishop weighed in on Saint Mary’s transgender admissions policy and ultimately succeeded in having the rule reversed. Rhoades, who has served as bishop in the area since 2009, said he comes to Notre Dame often.

“I’ll sometimes say Bishop of Fort Wayne, South Bend and Notre Dame because I'm here a lot and I love coming here to be with you,” Rhoades said in his Monday evening talk after celebrating mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

‘Unwanted abortions’: anti-abortion policy in post-Dobbs America

Rhoades’s talk on Monday, hosted by Notre Dame Right to Life and University Faculty for Life discussed abortion and ways for the anti-abortion movement to succeed in a new reality after the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Rhoades said he was “obviously very happy” with the Dobbs decision having been involved with the cause since attending the first ever March for Life as a high school student.

“My joy over the Dobbs decision was tempered by the realization not only that abortion would continue to be legal in many states, but that the minds and hearts of many Americans are still not with us,” he said.

Rhoades argued the anti-abortion movement was ill-prepared to contest policy battles and state-level votes.

“This has become even clearer since the passage of pro-abortion legislation in many states since the Dobbs decision as well as popular referenda that have prevented restrictions on abortion,” he said. “In many ways, I don’t think the pro-life movement was ready for the heavily funded mobilization by the other side.”

Rhoades said that the pro-choice position “is totally unacceptable, since the choice being advocated for is the choice to have an unborn child killed.” In combating it, the bishop said the anti-abortion movement would be more successful with alternative framing of the issue.

“We need to do a better job and use some new strategies,” he said. “Frame the issue by focusing more on unwanted abortions.”

He mentioned a recent study he had seen, which reported that 60% of women who had abortions reported high levels of pressure, 43% said abortion was inconsistent with their values and that 60% would have preferred to give birth.

Rhoades also discussed coercion and abortion, bringing up the story of Britney Spears among other notable cases of explicit or implied coercion.

“Perhaps you read or heard about Britney Spears. Her memoir last year detailed the emotional pain of undergoing an abortion at age 19, pain that is still clearly present for her. Britney Spears wrote, ‘If it were up to me alone, I never would have done it.’”

He also discussed religious liberty in light of a recent report that he oversaw.

“We’re concerned about the threat this year of attacks on houses of worship, especially in synagogues and mosques because of the Israel-Hamas conflict,” he said. “But we're also concerned that with the 2024 election, some far-left extremists might escalate the severity of attacks on Catholic churches, and far-right extremists may view Catholic churches and Catholic charities facilities as targets for anti-immigrant sentiment or worse, violent action.”

Rhoades discussed a number of political issues around abortion and gender transitions, calling out President Biden’s support for the Women's Health Protection Act, a bill intended to create federal protections for abortion.

"By the way can you imagine calling for the passage of such an act?” Rhoades asked. "President Biden, who received the Laetare Medal here, supporting taking away the right of the Catholic Church not to perform abortions and we honored him.”

Catholic identity in the professional world

On Thursday evening in the Eck Hall of Law, Rhoades spoke on the importance for business and law students to incorporate Catholic discipleship into their professional lives.

Rhoades focused on Notre Dame’s alma mater, arguing that Catholics must stay “tender, strong and true” as professionals.

He emphasized that Mary’s tenderness “is not disconnected from strength and courage” and that both men and women should be tender.

This tenderness that both God and Mary represent is “concrete” and “not merely an abstract principle,” Rhoades argued.

“Christian, legal and business professionals are also called to take up this posture. One who is tender is disposed to reach out to love others and especially to care for those most in need like Jesus did.”

In the world of law and business, Rhoades said this would mean showing genuine care for clients, treating others with respect, organizing charitable efforts and engaging in pro-bono work.

Rhoades also emphasized the importance of strength in seeing these actions through.

“It takes increasing strength and courage and fortitude to be faithful disciples of Jesus in our culture today. And this includes in the cultural world of business and law,” he said. “You may be one of few practicing Christians in your places of work. And you may even be criticized for your faith and moral convictions. These days, we all need to call upon the Holy Spirit for his gift of fortitude.”

Rhoades stressed that being a Christian disciple in the workplace means not separating one’s professional and religious lives.

“We promise to be true, genuine and authentic disciples of the Lord all the days of our life. To be true disciples, not only with part of our lives, but with all of our lives, including in our work, or business, or profession,” he explained.

Rhoades pointed to St. Thomas Moore, who was executed by King Henry VIII for opposing the reformation in England, St. Homo Bonus, a successful cloth merchant in 12th century Italy who gave most of his money to the poor, and St. Mathew, who left his job as a tax collector to follow Jesus, as examples of how to balance Catholic discipleship and one’s professional life.

“Now, that doesn't mean you should be leaving behind your financial career,” Rhoades clarified. “Unless it's like doing something terrible and unjust like the tax collectors did during the time of Jesus. Leave your job if it's going to be like that.”

Along similar lines, Rhoades stressed Catholics in business and law must avoid greed “in all its forms” and follow Jesus' words: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Concluding his remarks, Rhoades exhorted the audience to “be disciples of Christ in the workplace by living the gospel and being good examples of the Christian virtues.”