Biden and Pelosi Tag Team

I’m picking up some new arguments from Pelosi and Biden that abortion is immoral, but it shouldn’t be criminalized. Is this really the argument they’re making at this time? 

It is true that there are a few things, like sex outside marriage, that are immoral, but are not crimes in civil law, but do we really want to divorce morality from lawmaking? This is a life long Catholic senator and a Catholic speaker of the house and they understand so very little about the philosophy of morality and civil justice, not to mention being so ignorant (or obstinately rebellious against) the clear teaching of their own Church.
If I understand them, they think it is possible, preferable even, (at least in some cases), to separate morality from the making and enforcing of laws. If lawmaking is divorced from morality what basis remains for making laws? The only possible bases are crude utilitarianism, political expediency and sentimentality: 
Utilitarianism asks,”What works best?” or “What is likely to make the largest number of people in our society happy?”
Political expediency is cruder. It asks, “What will win me the most votes?”
Sentimentality is the subjective judgment based on individual emotions, “If my teenaged daughter gets pregnant I wouldn’t want to punish her with a child.” Uhhh. Where have I heard that before?
Utilitarianism as a basis for law is ultimately heartless and cruel. If it seems to be more efficient and economical to eliminate the bedridden, dementia-afflicted elderly, then let’s be efficient and give them an injection. If it is utilitarian to keep criminals locked up for the rest of their life just to protect the public (even if their crimes do not warrant life imprisonment) that’s okay.
The crude pandering of political expediency needs no explanation.
Subjective sentimentality is also, in the end, cruel and unjust. We are subject to the emotional whims of individual lawmakers, whims that are manipulated by media experts and swayed by shallow rhetoric of politicians.
Cut morality away from law making and you create first anarchy and then tyranny. That Catholic politicians should say such things publicly is a scandal and a shame.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13523683273450353313 Subvet

    Thanks for a very impressive post, Father. I’ll be linking back to it from my own blog. You’ve really hit the nail on the head.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Fr L:You’re simply dead wrong to imply or argue that the church teaches that the soul is imparted at conception. I recall Cardinal Sean stating that the church does not teach this and I simply do not believe he missed something that serious in the catechism.I don’t trust politicians to criminalize something until I know what the penalties will look like. It’s not murder and life in prison if there’s no assurance of a soul. At least not in my voting booth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Marcus. Do me a favor and read the paragraphs in the CCC, then tell me I’m dead wrong. It’s easy. The body and the soul are a unity. When the body is first formed, the soul is therefore present. The body is first formed at conception.If you can find any contemporary member of the Catholic hierarchy who teaches otherwise, bring on the quotation.The details of the criminalization of abortion is where there is room for flexibility. A thing may be a crime, but the punishment may vary according to the seriousness of the crime, mitigating circumstances, intention and barbarity of the act.When abortion is criminalized it may be possible that an early chemical abortion is punished less severely than something barbaric like partial birth abortion. Don’t assume that all those who wish to criminalize abortion would treat all abortions like first degree murder.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01504517769804159508 Dan

    I think that political expediency is what is driving our politicians. Very few of them have had the courage to stick to their convictions & many of them do not seem to have any permanent convictions. Luckily both McCain & Palin seem to have both convictions & the courage to stick to them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Fr. Dwight:I just read it. You’re still dead wrong on multiple levels. The Catholic church does not want you pretending that she has stated that the soul is imparted at ‘the moment’ of conception. Trust me, that ‘moment’ is ill defined. When a zygote becomes a ‘body’ is ill defined. I don’t think your para 365 argument would hold much water and I don’t think the church appreciates you putting words in her mouth that she has declared when the soul is imparted any more than she appreciated miss Pelosi putting words in her mouth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    OK Marcus, give me one quote, any quote from any Catholic member of the hierarchy or contemporary moral theologian who suggests that there is any flexibility about when the human being’s soul is enshrined in the body.It’s virtually unanimous that at conception the complete genetic personality is formed, and that from that moment the rest of the development of the human being is simply something called growth. The reason the church does not use language like ‘ensoulment’ or the ‘soul being imparted’ is because she is trying to avoid such a medieval understanding of the body-soul relationship. Instead the Church teaches that body and soul are one. The body is the ‘form’ of the soul. The ‘form’ is obviously a potentiality in the zygote, but it is a full unified relationship appropriate to that stage even then.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05810707774675254803 Peter Brown

    Fr. Dwight: seems to me that this argument would benefit from further exploration of the points where morality and lawmaking don’t line up. The argument as you’ve got it here appears pretty binary: law = morality, on the one hand, or law has nothing to do with morality, on the other. Surely there are more choices available. Indeed, you hint at that (maybe) in the case of sex outside of marriage, but then don’t expand on it at all.Personally, I can see three ways in which Pelosi and Biden could potentially argue that, as Catholic legislators in a representative democracy, they don’t have a duty to legislate restrictions on abortion. (1) They could argue that restricting abortion is a matter specifically of Church teaching and not natural law, so it’s not the government’s job to enforce it. You pretty much shot that one down already; if killing human beings isn’t a matter of natural law, what is?(2) They could claim that, while abortion is a matter of natural law, the morality shared by society does not support legislated restrictions on it; therefore, the proper role for Catholics in a democracy is to better form the societal consensus on morality first, and legislate later. This smells like hypocrisy. First, polls consistently show that the majority of Americans support more restrictions on abortion, not fewer. Second, if this were really Pelosi and Biden’s position, where are they on record as public figures trying to better form America’s conscience?(3) They could claim that while abortion is a matter of natural law and America’s conscience is sufficiently well-formed to support restrictions on it, this is an area where the law is just too blunt an instrument to be effective. But while legislation against abortion would surely not eliminate abortion (laws against murder don’t eliminate murder, either), they could surely reduce it far below the current million-plus per year.Corrections welcome.Peace,–Peter

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14414535763420692537 Christopher Joseph

    “I don’t trust politicians to criminalize something until I know what the penalties will look like.”Quite a fig leaf there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Christopher:I agree that Fr. L has the point that the CCC leans quite heavily that life has to be protected by a just government; but I don’t want my government hanging people on hydraulic cranes either. The pro-lifers have always refused to elaborate on criminalization plans. They mutter something about ‘abortion doctors’ and run away.Peter:The CCC only seems to make this demand of life issues. Perhaps Fr. L’s post suggest that all morality must be legislated and deviance criminalized but I don’t see that the church has stated that for anything but life or death matters.course, the church might also deem an unprovoked invasion of Rwanda to stop a genocide an unjust war, so I am not sure where that logic would go.Fr. L:I recall watching a very conservative priest from Opus Dei presenting a lecture on stem cell research. He said that the church has never declared when ensoulment occurs. Neither did he say that the church assumes an instant union between body and soul. He said that because embryos have the potential to become life, they must be treated as life. the church has not contradicted her earlier positions that the embryo starts out with an animal soul that is later replaced with a human soul.Here is the wikipedia article:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensoulment

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05192369287610703425 Erick Hernandez

    Macrus:Who cares about ensoulment? As the bishops have emphasized since Pelosi’s crap-out… ensoulment did not determine the morality of abortion. Abortion was wrong whether the human flesh was ensouled or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01504517769804159508 Dan

    marcus,you say that pro-lifers have been wishy washy on criminalization plans… my thoughts on that is that pro-lifers ‘hate the sin, but love the sinner’ so that they don’t particularly WANT to legally punish people. i think that what pro-lifers wish is to raise the moral consciousness of society thereby making abortion unnecessary.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01504517769804159508 Dan

    marcus, you know it also occurs to me that all this discussion of when 'ensoulment' occurs is absolutely meaningless —- because regardless of when ensoulment occurs – God created the body to be ensouled & abortion thwarts God's plan.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    I agree. Abortion is wrong and immoral regardless of the timing of ensoulment. However, the criminal consequences probably should depend on the timing of the abortion and ensoulment. That is why popes and church fathers have been debating this for the last 2000 years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14414535763420692537 Christopher Joseph

    Marcus,How about we start with a $50 fine for any doctor participating in a late term abortion?And the answer to that would be a resounding “no” because doing anything to potentially reduce access to abortion is unacceptable to its supporters, including the Senator from Illinois. There are few things worse than an “unwanted pregnancy” in their minds. And the extent to which some Christians are complicit in this gravest of injustices is repugnant. By not supporting reasonable measures designed to curtail abortions and protect unborn children, they support, through their silence, this extreme point of view – that the life of an unborn child is worth less than another human life.So, for those politicians (pro-choice Democrats and Republicans alike) who believe that the number of abortions should be greatly reduced, for the love of Christ, support laws that would do just that, e.g. late term, born alive, partial birth, parental notification, interstate procurement, etc.Make a sign. Attend a rally. Join the fight. And yes, if you must, recommend a $50 fine.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Hi Christopher;I would go a few steps farther than that. If I were king for a day it would be:Third Trimester: Life in PrisonSecond Trimester: 5 years FelonyFirst Trimester after quickening: $1000 fine misdemeanorBefore 7 weeks: Legal but requiring parental notifications, viewing of films/ultrasound, strongly discouraged with required reading. 50$ fine.That’s not to say I think it is OK before 7 weeks, I just don’t think it should demand jail time.I see no distinction between the person asking for the service and the doctor offering it.Anyway, it doesn’t matter what we think as individuals. A think tank that represents the pro-life movement should put some really, really smart people on this and tell the American people what it is that we want along the lines of criminalization.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14414535763420692537 Christopher Joseph

    “Anyway, it doesn’t matter what we think as individuals.”Actually, Marcus, all that matters is what we think, and do, as individuals. And individual followers of our Lord Jesus Christ should stop making excuses for politicians who support abortion on demand and publicly admonish them for their tacit acceptance of such a barbaric practice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Christopher, You’re being a bit melodramatic. I was saying that politically the pro-life movement needs to declare what they want to do with criminalization in order to reassure voters and gain their trust and support. In that political context, what I think as an individual does not really matter and will not reassure voters.Surely you don’t want to see a return of back-alley, illegal abortions where women bled to death in the streets? Surely some measured approach is needed just as the popes and church fathers, generally, argued for over the last 2000 years?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14414535763420692537 Christopher Joseph

    Marcus,It is difficult to be melodramatic regarding matters of life and death. However, in such matters, it is not difficult to be irresponsible.I think the pro-life movement knows well what it needs to do. Fervent prayer and appeals to moral reason, conscience, and accountability.This army of the faithful, working in the trenches, is changing hearts and minds, one individual at a time. And with every encouraging statement from the bishops and every excuse made by Catholics politicians in poor standing, that army grows more committed to His cause.”He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’”Melodramatic He is.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14414535763420692537 Christopher Joseph

    By the way, Marcus, my recommendation for a $50 fine was sarcasm.However, I do appreciate your list of proposed abortion penalties. Please forward those to Senator Biden and Speaker Pelosi at once. We’re looking forward to them joining the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion on-demand and their eventual return to the communion line (after receiving absolution, of course).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Christopher,Let’s put jibes about melodrama aside for one minute. What is your criminalization proposal for abortions procured or obtained before 7 weeks? Until the pro-life movement can answer that question I don’t think anyone will buy into this. Why? Because everyone knows someone who had or procured an abortion. Cousins, nephews, whomever. And while they may nothave wanted it to happen, they don’t want to see that person in jail for life. Lay the cards on the table. Does Jesus, in his supposed melodrama send centurions with guns to stone the harlot or doesn’t he? Does he imprison her for life? Does he imprison her for 5 years? Does he fine her? It is a complicated question, this criminalization, and it is at the center of the issue.Even if McCain can nominate a Roe v. Wade overturner the chances of confirmation are slim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14414535763420692537 Christopher Joseph

    That the pro-life movement in this country supports punishment for abortion providers, not pregnant women, is news only to those who have their heads buried in the sand. They can yell from the mountaintops, but they cannot make those, who do not wish to hear, listen.Now that we have the punishment issue settled (I accept your proposal, wholeheartedly), glad to have you aboard. We’re looking forward to your posts denouncing abortion on-demand as “wrong and immoral” and for your fraternal correction of Senators Obama and Biden.God bless.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    Well I disagree with that. If hiring a hitman is illegal, seeking an abortion should also be illegal. Is the shock of an unexpected pregnancy so great that we presume women might seek an abortion in an emotional frenzy? It seems illogical and difficult to believe that seeking an abortion could be legal. It would reflect poorly on the rest of our justice system where seeking an illegal service or harboring or carrying an illegal item is punished.I am surprised you believe the common man to be out of touch for being incredulous to this claim. Who would even take it seriously that it would be legal to seek an illegal act? I don’t buy it.


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