Minister John M Swomley is an ordained United Methodist minister and, from 1960 to 1984 he was professor of Christian Ethics at St. Paul’s school of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. At the time he was active in ministry, he was president of Americans for Religious Liberty and a longtime board member and sometimes vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union and chair of its Church – State committee. So here is a Christian pastor serving on the board of a prominent pro-abortion group.
Sarah Terzo, who has a knack for documenting the history of the abortion debate and the abortion advocacy movement by posting quotes from pro-abortion activists through the years, posted the controversial quotes on her blog.
Now, Terzo has uncovered more quotes from Swomley arguing that unborn babies are not “innocent” as pro-lifers claim, but are actually guilty – guilty enough, he implies, to justify aborting them. Swomley first tries to refute the baby’s claim to innocence using theology.
“The first claim is that society should protect innocent human life that is unable to protect itself. The term “innocent,” originally used by various popes, refers to fetal life which has committed no sin. Yet the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed only one person, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as having an immaculate conception and hence free from original sin. In any event, public policy cannot be founded on theological claims to innocence.
There is another meaning of “innocence” which comes from two Latin words, in (not) and nocere (to harm), and therefore means “not harmful or dangerous.” However, it is precisely the fact that some pregnant women (and their physicians) view the fetus as harmful or threatening to their health or welfare and hence leads them to consider abortion.”
In an article at LiveAction, Terzo provides her own analysis of the comments.
It seems unusual to see a Protestant arguing from a Catholic standpoint. Although I don’t know that many Catholic theologians who would say that because a preborn baby has been conceived with Original Sin, her life should not be protected. Our society does not enforce the death penalty lightly, and condemning a preborn baby to die for having Original Sin goes against both the Christian “Golden Rule” and the physicians’ ethic “Do No Harm.”
Swomley’s argument would also justify infanticide. A baby outside the womb would still be considered to have “Original Sin” until baptism, in many faith traditions. Therefore, prior to the moment when the priest or pastor pours water on the child’s forehead (or baptizes him some other way) it would be permissible to kill the child.
Also, unless we single out Original Sin as the only type of sin that justifies murdering the sinner, no one would have a right to life because by the standards of modern Christianity, all human beings are sinners. Even by the standards of common sense, if the baby cannot be considered innocent, the rest of humanity certainly cannot be considered innocent either.
Finally, Swomley says that “public policy cannot be founded on theological claims to innocence.” Yet he has no problem justifying abortion with his own theological claim to guilt. His argument is self-refuting because he starts out by making a theological argument and then says that theological arguments should not be used in the abortion debate, at least not to condemn abortion. Perhaps he is claiming that theological arguments can only be used by the pro-choice side. This is inconsistent, arbitrary, and unfair.
Again, both quotes are from 1999, but has much changed in the United Methodist Church since then? Unfortunately, no.
In January, Bill Mefford, director of civil and human rights at the UMC’s Washington office, used the March for Life to mock the event with a sign and picture he posted on Twitter, saying, “I march for sandwiches.” Many are upset that a church leader used a solemn event to liken an unborn baby to a sandwich.
Last year, Methodist Health Care Ministries, whose logo claims they are serving humanity to honor God, gave almost half a million to the nation’s top abortion provider Planned Parenthood. In 2013, a pro-abortion article was posted on the General Board of Church and Society website and the United Methodist Church opposed the bill to ban late-term abortions.
This is why pro-life Methodists have left the denomination over the last couple of decades and continue to leave the church in droves, causing historic low membership rolls for the church.