One can almost hear, in the statement released by the U.S. bishops addressing the anguishing case out of Phoenix involving Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride, a punctuating sentiment: And that’s it! No more discussion! See story (and the bishops’ statement) here.
The bishops didn’t actually say that, but it is the essence of the conclusion by the doctrine committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What occurred in Phoenix, they determine, was a direct abortion and “Nothing … can justify a direct abortion. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church."
The statement seems to end all discussion of the matter, though one wonders if a declaration simply ends all questions, including those posed by church ethicists.
A question that won’t recede is whether the bishops are persuasive enough to convince Catholics who still may have deep questions about their conclusions. One of the ethicists interviewed recently about the Phoenix case noted that Pope Paul VI “argued that Catholic moral teachings must be made clear and persuasive to intelligent persons and cannot be imposed by mere authority.”