Religion no justice guarantee

Rev’d Fr. Sean Major-Campbell.
Photo by George Alleyne

The church must find ways to “facilitate a respectful and protected space for all members of the society in so far as they do not breach the rights of others in terms of liberty and justice,” and this includes women’s rights to abortion.

“It seems most appropriate for the woman to be the final decision-maker in the matter since she is the greater burden bearer; since she really bears the challenge alone; since her physical, psychological, and emotional investments would far outweigh that of the father, doctor, pastor, and so on.”

These are not the views and words of a pro-abortion placard-waving left wing radical, but of The Rev’d Fr. Sean Major-Campbell, dean of Kingston and rector of Christ Church, Vineyard Town, Jamaica, expressed while addressing Barbados’ annual Anglican Dean’s Lecture, Tuesday, Feb. 11.

He told the audience of devotees, “the concerns facing women and their reproductive health rights transcend religious and cultural boundaries.”

As much as his presentation rocked his audience, Major-Campbell appeared to convince them on the need for change.

At the end of his presentation, one church goer rose to thank him and comment on the matter of abortion, “I cannot believe what I heard tonight. I still am in shock that an Anglican priest spoke the way you did. It’s quite amazing with what you came out with… I agree that women should have choice about sexual freedom.”

As Major-Campbell whipped the Barbados church into the 21st Century on abortions, he asked, “is the foetus’ integrity compromised by a genetic illness? Is the foetus deformed? Is the mother’s life at risk? Is an underage mom ill-equipped to care for a baby? Is a pregnancy the result of rape? Is a pregnancy the result of incest?”

“Who would best determine the choice of a woman whose health, life, safety, human dignity, and autonomy are honored when it comes to making a decision regarding the mother, concerning abortion? Should the life of the foetus ever take precedence over that of the mother?”

For the conservatives bent on turning back the clock, he not only blasted their hypocrisy, but warned they could lose the younger educated membership.

“We are seeing a generation of young people who are reading and researching and they know that the church with all its pompous preaching, has walked through the history of the transatlantic slave trade and the attendant crimes against humanity during the holocaust of slavery, while holding the bible piously and feasting on holy communion, and still oppressing and hating and abusing and disregarding fellow humanity.”

He said, “to deny a woman access to safe and legal abortion is clearly an affront to ethical health practices; respect for self-determination; and most of all, the woman’s right to life.”

Throwing another punch at church conservatism, he said, “there are people who have weaponized religion and the bible. They feel that if they can wave around a big bible and hit you over the head, then they have secured their ticket into heaven … There is enough evidence to prove that having religion is not a guarantee against the practice of injustice.”

He made clear that the church has no place in deciding on the reproductive practices of women.

“There is no Caribbean territory that is a theocracy, and as such, laws ought to be determined by the state and not by any religious group. … The place and voice of the woman’s conscience ought to be respected.”

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