My first reaction to Sarah Palin's professed views on abortion was, “My, how Catholic!” She thinks life begins at conception and that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances unless it's necessary to save the life of the mother. That's remarkably close to the Catholic position, although Rome's loophole requires that the death of the fetus be an accidental concomitant of the medical intervention, as detailed in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother's life, is applied to her organism (though the child's death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked.I haven't heard Palin express her position in such a Jesuitically nuanced way, but she and Catholicism are nearly on the same page.
Is it because she used to be Catholic?
No one has made much of a fuss about Gov. Palin's abandoned Catholicism, but she did actually start life as a baptized Roman Catholic. At age 12, however, she joined the Wasilla Assembly of God church and was baptized again, this time by full immersion in Alaska's Beaver Lake.
Did the second baptism wash away her Catholicism? Some Catholics don't think so.
If indeed she was baptized a Catholic, then she remains a Catholic. In fact, she remains a Catholic in a state of excommunication for having formally joined another denomination.But that's just Internet chatter among lay Catholics. What does a professional think? Michael Sean Winters is the author of Left at the Altar, a book about the Catholic exodus from the Democratic Party, and a contributor to America, a monthly magazine published by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Winters observes that a double baptism is not sanctioned by Rome:
[T]he Catholic Church does not recognize the ritual the Times called “re-baptism.” More importantly, it is difficult to see how submitting oneself to a “re-baptism” would not be a renunciation of your prior baptism. And the technical term for renouncing one’s baptism is apostasy.Uh, oh! Is Palin an apostate?
Perhaps not. She was a pre-teen at the time of her formal reception into her local Assembly of God church. Sarah didn't do it alone, either, since her mother and sisters got dunked at the same time. If she hadn't been a practicing Catholic anyway, it would be difficult to imagine her clinging to her neglected religion. It would be unkind—un-Christian, even—to describe Palin as an apostate, even if she may satisfy the technical definition.
No, it's more accurate to say that Sarah Palin is a heretic. All that's required for heresy is “the willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church.” I'm sure we could find quite a few. No doubt this will be fatal to the hopes of the McCain/Palin campaign to dominate the Catholic vote.