One of the most interesting news angles in the coverage leading up to yesterday's pro-abortion-rights march in Washington, D.C., concerned the Rev. Ignacio Castuera, the United Methodist pastor who is now the official chaplain to Planned Parenthood. In a Q&A interview with the Dallas Morning News, Castuera stated openly what many oldline Protestant leaders say behind the scenes. They believe they can make a spiritual case for the "choice" options in the sexual revolution. Why is that?
In all of creation, we are the sexual and spiritual elite. We're one of the few creatures for which sex is far more than reproduction. We know that God created other beings with reproductive months or cycles. We practically go from womb to tomb with sexual interest. Only a few primates accompany us on that journey of lifelong sexuality. We should humbly accept that gift, with a word of thanks, and find out what God intended that gift to be.
Searching around with Google, it seems that Castuera didn't make it into the mainstream news coverage of the march. It was also interesting to note that there few follow-ups on other interesting religion-news angles in the big story of the day. The Chicago Tribune advance story, for example, had featured an eye-opener of a lead by "special contributor" Gail Schmoller Philbin. It noted that, "Sister Donna Quinn, a Palos Hills resident, attended the last two and is flying to this one with four other nuns."
This would appear to explain the quiet presence of a "Nuns for Choice" sign in a single story in the Hartford Courant, but there were no additional details. Personally, if I was covering a pro-abortion-rights march and saw a sign that said "Nuns for Choice," that would raise a few questions that I would want to chase. Sister Quinn and the Nuns for Choice also make a brief walk-on appearance in coverage at the Ms. Magazine blog, but we learn nothing about them.
By the way, in another God-beat related story, Sen. John "JFK" Kerry did not push the Communion envelope by marching, although journalists noticed that several members of his family did so. In addition to its steady drumbeat of anti-President Bush references, almost all coverage of the march clearly served as a major forum for Kerry campaign organizers.
The Chicago Tribune story made it clear that there were religious events linked to the march, from the Catholics for a Free Choice protest at the Vatican Embassy to a "Prayerfully Pro-Choice Interfaith Worship Service" at the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool featuring leaders from a number of progressive folks -- Episcopal, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and others. What did they have to say?
In the Chicago Tribune article, one conservative United Methodist leader noted that the media often ignore these events, perhaps to offer a "sanitized" account that overlooks the "radical element" in these religious coalitions that sees "abortion as a good." This may have been a reference to the ex-Catholic priest Daniel Maguire, author of "Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions."
Maguire is on a three-year leave of absence from teaching ethics at Marquette University in Milwaukee to combat what he sees as misinformation about how world religions view abortion and contraception. Through the Sacred Choices Initiative, a campaign of a group of international scholars called the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, he hopes to spread the word that all major religions have elements that have supported a woman's right to choose.
"There's a big lie out there -- that religions are all anti-choice," Maguire said.
Was Maguire at march? Did he speak at the interfaith service? I, for one, would like to know what he had to say. The same goes for Sister Donna Quinn and her nuns.
UPDATE: A friend out in the blogosphere let me know that veteran God-beat reporter Adelle Banks of Religion News Service did cover the interfaith prayer service held before the march. There is no direct URL for the story at the RNS site and I have not located a copy on a newspaper site anywhere. A sample from this coverage:
"I believe God stands with women as they end pregnancies, just as God stands with women who deliver babies and with women who give their babies to adoptive parents," declared the Rev. Mark Pawlowski, a member of the Clergy Advisory Board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, reading from a "pro-choice credo" at the service.
"God does not choose God's allegiances. God stands with all of us, regardless of where we stand."
He was joined by clergy and lay people of Jewish, Unitarian, Buddhist and Sikh traditions and the crowd sang "Dona Nobis Pacem" in Latin, English and Hebrew.
UPDATE II: The Catholic blogosphere is stirring on the Nuns for Choice angle. There must be a link there with group known as Chicago Women Church. That site contains few if any names, however. Sample language from the mission statement:
We are a sacred circle of loving and powerful women who create and celebrate ritual. We honor and encourage the Spirit in one another to expand and ignite. We reverence diversity and equality....
We affirm our oneness with the earth as we search for the Transcendent in ourselves and in the universe.
Meanwhile, Sister Donna Quinn is a Sinsinawa Dominican who is a leader in the National Coalition of American Nuns and the co-founder of Women-Church Convergence. To hear her speak for herself, at Harvard no less, click here.