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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Dialoguing on a Divisive Issue
Legionary priest Fr Joseph Tham advocates preparedness and dialogue on the abortion issue.

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A total of 41 speakers and moderators voiced their views at the conference.

October 27, 2010. A top-flight array of speakers, scholars, bioethicists, lawyers, and policy advocates gathered at Princeton University this past October 15 – 16 to participate in a conference entitled “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Fair Minded Words.” The conference was an effort to bring about more substantive dialogue between pro-choice and pro-life advocates.

A total of 41 speakers and moderators voiced their views at the conference, including pro-choicers Peter Singer of Princeton University and Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. One of the most outstanding pro-life advocates present was Helen Alvaré, formerly the spokeswoman for the US bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities and currently a law professor at George Mason University. Jennifer Miller, president of Bioethics International (and a graduate of the Regina Apostolorum in Rome) was also one of the speakers, as was Legionary priest Fr Joseph Tham, a bioethics professor at the Regina Apostolorum.

Debates and panel discussions at the conference ranged from issues such as the moral status of a fetus, when a fetus might feel pain and what ought to be done about it, how far the right of conscientious refusal to practice abortions may extend, whether abortion in America ought to be a constitutional question, and more.

The importance of intelligent dialogue

In an interview with Our Sunday Visitor, Fr Tham commented that such efforts at reasoned and courteous dialogue are significant steps forward.

“It is a great challenge because the differences are really extreme,” he acknowledged. “But for us to really have charity in truth, true charity means going out of your comfort zone and trying to engage those who have different opinions.”

Following the conference, Fr Tham also published a short blog advocating an in-depth, rigorous intellectual preparation for those who will carry on the pro-life cause in the future. Too
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Fr Joseph Tham, second from the right, participates in a panel on preventing unintended pregnancies.
often, he said, pro-choice scholars regard pro-lifers as “fundamentalists, extremists, and uneducated.” The burden is on the pro-life side to prove otherwise.

“The paucity of pro-life intellectuals is a great weakness of the pro-life cause because ideas make the world turn, and wrong ideas can have devastating results in culture. Universities have considerable influence in educating the future generations, and it will be a great loss if the pro-life position is portrayed as incoherent or naïve from an intellectual point of view,” he observed.

“I believe that there is a calling for those who are more gifted to enter into the intellectual battlefield to defend the pro-life cause. It is interesting to see that among the four organizers of the recent abortion conference at Princeton, the two pro-life academics were in their 30s, whereas the two pro-choice counterparts were in their 60s. This is a sign that young academic pro-lifers can engage culture and make a difference,” he said.

To find out more about the Princeton conference on abortion, visit the “Open Hearts, Open Minds and Fair Minded Words” web site. To learn more about how the Regina Apostolorum’s bioethics department is preparing the youth to engage effectively in cultural debate, visit the college’s web site at



Related links web site
New Gate Tours
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Magdala Center
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College

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